“Our expectations were met by the reality – and sometimes the event was even better!” Isabel Cebrián on organizing the 2nd smARTplaces conference

04.04.2019 by Hester Gersonius

Keywords: CONECTA, conference, recap

On the 14th and 15th of March Etopia Center for Art and Technology hosted the 2nd smARTplaces conference, CONECTA. Isabel Cebrián, the local project manager for the conference, shares her experience in organizing the large scale event.

How are you feeling now the conference is wrapped up?

We feel satisfied about the work we’ve done! Also, we feel like we are ready to face other big events like this one.

I imagine you had expectations before about how it would be.

Exactly, both in terms of the content of the conference, the number of attendees and profile of the attendees. Our expectations were met by the reality – and sometimes the event was even better!

Can you tell us more about the results?

As expected, we had both local and European attendees. We aimed at 80-100 attendees, but over 130 attended. We are really happy with that results. We hosted three workshops, which were completely booked. The livestream didn’t work as well as we expected, due to some digital issues, but I also feel that people are looking for the live experience or prefer to watch it afterwards online. So we are going to upload all talks on our YouTube channels.

A new edition to the conference were the Urban Safaris. Can you tell us more about that?

The idea was that the people that come from other cities would have the opportunity to visit interesting cultural sites in the city of Zaragoza. We visited the Caesaraugusta Theater Museum and Pablo Gargallo Museum, two city council museums that are now facing a great change in terms of digital and audience strategies. We also visited Harinera ZGZ, an innovative community center and some spots of Asalto urban art festival that take place on the street.

Also on the eve of the conference you hosted #TheWorkofArt.

We wanted to link this edition of #TheWorkofArt to the conference. Since the conference was about mediation, we invited Centro Huarte, a cultural center that is very innovative in the way they approach the relationship between art production and exhibition. They are close to Zaragoza and I think the conversation was very interesting. Unfortunately we had the bad luck that exactly on that evening Facebook was down, so much of the interaction took place on site and not online. But we have the recording and we will upload it to our channels as well.

Altogether it was quite a big event that you organised. Did you have experience with that before?

Etopia often hosts big events but most of them are organized by third parties. And we, as a team, had experience managing smaller events. I myself had never been involved in such a big event before! We had the support of the Zaragoza City Knowledge Foundation, who we teamed up with in October for this specific conference. It was quite the experience for the team, involving Etopia’s staff, freelancers and colleagues from the Foundation in on one big event with many different tasks and roles to be covered. As the date for the event came closer, we added more people to the team. One thing I learned was that it was very important to define the tasks that were needed in advance, so we had all the resources available.

Did you do anything special to promote the event?

We did some things that we had never done before. What we did was define groups that might be interested in our conference and build a contact list in advance. We approached them directly and included them in our mailing lists. We contacted them very early, even before the program was published, so we had their attention. In Spain people tend to enroll to event very late, but we ended up with a good number of attendees. We also paid for banners in specialised magazines and sent some press releases.

Overall, what was the biggest challenge?

I believe the biggest challenge was the conception of the idea. What we wanted to tell, what topic we wanted to talk of, and who we wanted to invite to represent those ideas. We put a lot of effort in defining this. We had a big wall with a lot of post its, which was a great tool in configuring the program. A big focus point was to have all the smARTplaces partners represented in the program. We learned a lot in the project, and have a lot to share.

And the biggest surprise?

We choose to extend the motto of smARTplaces (Connect. Interact. Discover) with ‘interact’ and ‘participate’. That is something that many colleagues in our field are interested in. We would love to continue to have this conversation and exchange knowledge with other professionals and consider to host an event like this next year. Perhaps a little bit smaller though!