By Lévana Eckert & Tiffany Robert (2016)
Need some help organising your conference? Here is what you need to know if you want to be a part of AMU’s Lermastériales. Have a look at the 2016 recipe and check out what our committee was able to achieve.
Ingredients (the essential): Seven committee members
Lots of patience
A strong sense of humour
Just a dash of perseverance
Preparation (you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs):
Similarly to the PhD students, each committee member volunteered to organise the annual DEMA event. The preparation included designing a poster, handling the budget, preparing a menu, getting the food, making, storing as well as transporting meals to the conference room, and trying not to panic.
The whole thing starts with accepting a large amount of unknown since you have to start organising the day without all the variables. When the committee met in February, right after being elected, they first intended to attribute clear-cut tasks to each member. In the end though, only two students were given a specific role (respectively designing the poster and handling the budget). All M2 students actually voted for the poster they preferred among the three that had been designed; but after that, it was the committee’s role to visit On’copie and get a cost estimate in order to print the posters and programs before collecting them and handing everything to Anne Page. As far as planning a menu was concerned, it was taken care of by five committee members, who faced two main difficulties: special diets and undisclosed budget. While they thought they would have a whole month to prepare the event, the most important tasks (like shopping and cooking) were carried out in one day: the day right before the Lermastériales (told you that not panicking was of the essence – and wait until you read the rest).
Before going into more details about the menu, let us underline the committee’s participation to editing the book of abstracts and standardising all the propositions. Their efforts and attention were also caught up in the very time-consuming task of finalising March 4th’s schedule. Séréna explains how never-ending the list of little corrections and adjustments was (whether on spelling, standardisation, or running order), and Geoffrey points out that more than fifty e-mails were exchanged between the committee members in twenty-four hours, on February 24th, the day before a final version was sent to Anne Page. This is just one among several examples on how easily the pressure was increasing as D-day was approaching.
Suspense on the budget finally ended on Monday, 29th January: the amount was 450€, the purchase order was officially signed and (almost) ready to be used three days before the event1. Although only 270€ were necessary for shopping (the rest was handed back to the university, if you were wondering) they nevertheless ended up with two full shopping carts containing, among other ingredients, no less than sixty eggs. The cooking event took place at Heidi’s, where hours were spent in the kitchen preparing all the meals (until ten in the evening, to be exact); all this work added to the pressure of giving an oral presentation on the next day…
Cooking for the Lermastériales then forces you to ponder over unusual questions such as: how to cook forty deviled eggs? Séréna expands on the matter: « Faire bouillir une casserole de 40 œufs ce n’est pas possible, tu ne sais pas quand il faut commencer à compter ! ». A few drowned cupcakes and a fallen quiche later, two members of the committee (Alice and Valentine) finally tried to go back home in Marseille that evening, but construction work and deviations would not let them. After two hours on the motorway, while driving past Marignane, they were even tempted to jump on a plane for a nice escape, but resisted the urge.
On March 4th, after a very short night, everyone was up and ready at 5:40, back at Heidi’s. The committee collected the food and headed to university in order to install everything and greet the caterer at the conference room; where they arrived with perfect timing at 7:30am. There wasn’t much to do about the coffee break then, except setting the tables, but all the lunch part was organised top to bottom by the committee. Although preparing the meal represented the biggest and most time-consuming challenge, all members agreed to say that, however tedious and demanding, it was the funniest and most unifying part of their job.
As a final word, let us remind you that, if cooking was perhaps the most colourful and memorable part of the committee’s job, culinary science and cooking skills were by no means the only required elements. Committee member is a multitasking job where, sometimes, you have to take care of unexpected tasks, show presence of mind, availability and adaptability. When looking at pictures of the buffet or the conference table, one might for example notice that even the little labels telling you what was on the table (as well as the ‘3min’, ‘1min’, ’30sec’ notes) were thoughtfully elaborated by our worthy committee, which thus proved their reliability and professionalism down to the smallest detail.
1the purchase order cannot be used as such to buy the groceries, but has to be presented to the reception before payment