Episode 21 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with Vanessa Foss. Vanessa has been planning and managing conferences for twenty-five years. She’s the founder and president of Kunverj, an event planning and managing company. Vanessa and her team run one of my favorite events of the year, the Information Architecture Conference. In our conversation, we discussed what it takes to organize and manage such an event.

The bottom line? Event planning is a relationship business, one that requires tuning in to the needs and capabilities of the people you’re working with — especially the conference chairs, who are ultimately responsible for the success of the event. Vanessa used a powerful analogy to describe her role in the process:

It’s like having a dinner party, but it’s just bigger. These people, they’re coming to your home, and you want to make sure that they have… You know, that everything is just right for them.

And so with all of the conferences — and it’s not just the IA Conference — all the conferences, that’s the type of participation that I like to have, where I feel like this is my home, and I’m trying to prepare the best meal and the best experience for everyone coming into my home. And you know, with the IA Conference, the Euro IA Conference, and the RDAP conference that I do, these are all people that I’ve been working with for a long time. And so there’s a sense of family there. There’s a sense of… I’m not an IA, but I have learned so much from this community, the IA community, especially from the IA Conference. I see people that are so great, and they show so much empathy towards each other, and you know, the want to mentor and to help is always there. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding when you get to see the better side of human beings.

The IA Conference is my “home” conference — the one I go to every year, drawn both by professional interests and long friendships. Vanessa and her team are a core part of the Conference. Every time I see them, they’re working hard to make sure things are going well for everyone involved. It was a pleasure to have her on the show and to be able to highlight her work.

The Informed Life Episode 21: Vanessa Foss on Event Planning