A day in the life of the Conference Management Centre

27 February 2012

Conference Management Centre team(From left, front) Shandre Amroodt, Janet Sirmongpong, Deidre Raubenheimer and Belinda Chapman, (back) Fatima Saban, Rosemary Prew, Soleigha Yaghya and Bianca Allison.

The centre is staffed by manager Deidre Raubenheimer; conference co-ordinators Belinda Chapman and Fatima Saban; Janet Sirmongpong, who works as a continuous professional development co-ordinator and an assistant co-ordinator; and Bianca Allison, an assistant co-ordinator; as well as accountant Rosemary Prew and finance officer Soliegha Yaghya.

What they do

For over 33 years, the centre's core business has been to arrange conferences. Not only for the Faculty of Health Sciences, where they are based, but for other UCT and outside groups as well. And they don't just do conferences, organising everything from book launches to gala dinners. They also provide an A-to-Z service - drawing up budgets, sitting on committee meetings, sourcing venues, managing registrations, marketing and advertising the events, and managing the finances, among other things.

The challenges

The team works to tight deadlines and has to juggle a multitude of tasks every day. Team members need to be flexible and well-organised to cope with the stresses.

"You must be able to adapt to last-minute changes, requests and mistakes," Raubenheimer explains.

The highs and the lows

The satisfaction the team gets from organising a successful conference, from meeting interesting people and picking up on a range of tasks provide the highs. The downsides are that the job can be stressful, and members can burn out fast. Also, they have to work to tight budgets.

The strange and the unusual

Arranging conferences has funny moments aplenty. At one conference, everyone thought a delegate was the then-Minister of Health and made a huge fuss over her, only to find out that she wasn't, in fact, the minister. At another event, an international delegate rushed to the registration desk, saying he urgently needed to get to a pharmacy for an emergency. "I offered to take him, thinking it was a matter of life and death," Raubenheimer recalls, "only to find out he needed to take some injections, as he and his wife were trying to start a family, and he was going to see her in a week or so and did not want to upset his cycle."

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