Friday the 13th – scary or exciting?

Friday the 13th – a scary date? Not actually! But a very fun and interesting evening in Copenhagen as the 25th annual Copenhagen Culture Night once again opened the city to the people.  This one night, always the Friday before the autumn vacation, companies and public institutions invite the general public to visit sites and locations that are usually off limits.

A showcasing of technologies

Danish Society of Engineers, IDA, is no exception opening its doors to an extravaganza showcasing the many different initiatives from its member societies.  Robots, electric cars, rockets and cast your own action figure just to name a few of offerings.  Get a peek into a brand-new ambulance and compare to a 50-year-old one – what a difference!  See a spectacular show with chemistry experiments, smoke and explosions.  Or attend a lecture with world renowned physicist Holger Bech Nielsen.  Or try the food of the future – insects.  Or how about a bowl of eco-friendly CO2 neutral soup. Or….

For the second year in a row I was on the planning committee in IDA – what a challenge!  While I am no novice in designing and executing complex conferences, I felt on uncharted ground designing the Copenhagen Culture Night.  Just about everything is different on this night – we had about 40 exhibits, some requiring a car to be driven into the foyer, others to fly two hot-air balloons in the lecture hall and others requiring a lot of electricity for their gadgets.  And no pre-registration for participants as I am used to – we could only hope we would attract a lot of guests, but wouldn’t know until they were actually stepping through the door.

Different and yet so similar

While the bottom-line objective of the IDA Culture Night is comparable to the conferences, I am used to designing, there are few similarities.  The key for both types of events is to engage the participants and allow them to learn about the subject, but all my checklists are rendered invalid and I have to reimagine each part of the event.  No speakers with power point shows, no set schedule for presentations, no fixed times for breaks and catering. Instead there is an open house with 140 volunteers presenting 40 exhibits, mini-presentations and demonstrations all competing for the attention of all our visitors at once.

For our conferences, I find it truly rewarding to see how the delegates create return on my design work – but it is equally rewarding to see thousands of happy faces as they discover how engineering works in practically every part of their life.

When planning the IDA Culture Night, I am somewhat out of my comfort zone, but having many years of experience with event planning fortunately keeps me on top of the game. Nothing surprises a seasoned event specialist!

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