Monday, January 25, 2010

Home, Heart, Horzon: A Public Policy Conference, Singapore Style

January 24

Today was devoted to a day-conference entitled Singapore Perspectives 2010: Home, Heart, Horizon. The event was organized by the Lee Kuan Yew School’s Institute for Policy Studies, one of five research centers under the School’s auspices and a sister to the Institute of Water Policy which is my institutional home.

This blog is about the staging of the event. In a second posting, I will write about the substance. It is hard not to be impressed by the way Singaporeans organize events - and many other things. Registration reminded me of the process we devised for Center for Teaching Excellence events at American University, but on a much larger scale.. Enough staff from the Institute and Conference Center (In Singapore’s Swiss Hotel) were on hand so that more than 300 registrants were processed with no waiting. If one stood and looked puzzled for a moment, a courteous staff member invariably appeared to either ask if you needed help or anticipate the help that you needed. For example as I stood surveying the venue of the Raffles Convention Center Grand Ballroom and wondering if there were reserved seats, a staff member came up, said “good morning” and then, “may I escort you to a seat at a table near the front of the room.” I felt totally cared for and empowered to participate in the work of the day. Coffee, tea and delicious hot snacks were served at each break and there was an excellent sit down lunch, also served with no discernible waiting time. The fact that the conference had twenty corporate sponsors, a subset of the 100 corporate sponsors who were are affiliated with the Institute, not doubt meant there were sufficient resources to stage a high quality event.

As former CTE staff members know, I am picky about the details of event planning. Today was a flawless, virtuoso performance except for brief technical problems with the power point slides of one speaker. From my experience with AV support at AU, I have no doubt this was because the speaker arrived at the last minute, having failed to check in with the technical support staff, with incompatible slides.

More about the substance of the conference, in which Singapore’s Prime Minister participated for nearly two hours, in another posting.

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