Alright, I guess this conference was a week ago, and I may or may not have been hording a summary post about it for Blogathon, but…hey, can you blame me? 49 posts is a lot!

Anyway, the Secular Student Alliance conference in Columbus, OH was a blast. Well, minus Hemant’s car falling apart. Hemant has already shared some of his thoughts about the conference, but I wanted to chip in my 2 cents as well.

  • The conference started at 10:30am. I cannot stress how brilliant of an idea this was. The vast majority of people at this conference were college students, and we’re not exactly known for being very functional in the morning. Not only that, but it allowed us to socialize at night without dreading the morning. People were actually at the morning sessions. This doesn’t even happen at academic conferences! For example, this allowed us to play poker without the guilt of staying up late. “Aw, I just have a high King.” “…Jen, you have a flush.” “…Yay!” Yes, I’m that annoying person. Yes, we were gambling with Red Hots. Do not rub your eyes after touching Red Hots. Mark learned this the hard way.
  • The talks were all excellent. And I’m not just saying that, really. I’ve been to biology conferences where I microsleep through the whole thing, or want to scream at the horrible PowerPoint presentation. Not at the SSA conference. Even though the vast majority of talks were by students, they were professional, entertaining, and informative. And thankfully the SSA will be putting videos online soon, so I can share some of my favorites with you!
  • The Society of Non-Theists at Purdue won an award for Best Service Project! Hooray! We got a spiffy plaque for our new office space, and a giant check! Wooooo giant checks!
  • Like always, the best part was meeting fellow students in the freethought movement. Hello everyone! I know some of them were kind of shy saying hi to me because of my blog/boobquake, but I’m just as much in awe of some of the stuff they’ve done. I love networking with new people! And of course it was wonderful seeing familiar faces again, some of which I only get to see at this conference. Speaking of familiar faces:
  • Eating dinner with Greta and Hemant at our tongue-in-cheek “VIP Blogger Table” was fun. There’s a certain level of geekery achieved when you sit around talking about blogging for an hour.
  • I think my talk went over really well! At least, people said they liked it afterward and were laughing at the appropriate moments. I can’t understand why they thought some parts were so funny… Don’t worry, you’ll get a video soon enough.

Some suggestions:

  • Unless the field trip is something special like the Creation Museum, just hold it somewhere we can hang out. The zoo was nice, but most of the fun was due to hanging out with people, not because we were actually in a zoo. No need to spend the extra money and extra travel time when all we want to do is sit and chat.
  • Vary up the talk length a bit more. 20 minutes was great, but I’d also like to see some even shorter talks. Maybe throw in a bunch of 10 minute talks where students can talk about specific events that worked well for their group, or a particular learning experience they had.
  • Now that the conference is getting large enough, I’d like to see two separate tracks going at the same time: think “Beginners” and “Advanced” sessions. As someone who ran a club for three years, most of the information on gaining members or advertising was stuff I already knew. But to someone who’s just starting a group or about to be an officer, it’s invaluable. Maybe have some more sessions for the veterans.
  • One more day! I seriously think the conference could easily last all day Sunday. Heck, the students were chanting for it! I didn’t feel at all burnt out by the end.

Oh, and here’s a snapshot of the back of our club t-shirt. Apparently people liked it, since there are 249782 images of my back tagged on Facebook now.If you were there, what did you like or dislike about the conference?

This is post 4 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.