GP Warsaw Judge Conference – Organizers’ Notes

Written by Adam Cetnerowski

Written by Adam Cetnerowski

Written by Adam Kolipiński

Written by Adam Kolipiński

Earlier this year I was selected along with my friend Adam Kolipiński to organize the judge conference preceding Grand Prix Warsaw. I knew I would enjoy this challenge as I had never organized a GP conference before, but had success organizing non-event judge conferences. I could also apply my experience in organizing professional conferences in my day to day job.


The Best Laid Plans…

Much like the tournament itself, the success of the conference hinges on good preparation.

The first thing you want in your conference is participants. Fortunately they can be easily recruited through judge apps. I don’t want to delve much into this topic, which is generally well-known, but wanted to touch upon a point about registering. There is some logistics work (e.g. ordering and shipping the judge foils) that is dependent on the number of participants, so if you plan to attend, please sign up before the deadline. On the other hand, if you find out you won’t be able to make it (for example, you aren’t selected to judge at the GP), please drop from the event, so we have a clear picture.

The next item on our list is the presenters themselves. When people register for the conference, they have an opportunity to indicate if they want to run a seminar. Some judges will clearly state their idea and willingness. Others will be less enthusiastic (“I can, if you need me to”), give several proposals or actually ask for a topic. Of course, you use the resources you have. It is good to have a vision for the conference (see below), which helps you pick the presenters and nudge the undecided ones into the direction that you need.

For our conference, the initial review of topic proposals indicated that we could run two parallel tracks – the first one on rules, judge fundamentals, judging techniques skewed more towards less experienced judges; the second on more advanced topic such as team leading as well as judge program presentations. We finished the day with two combined sessions – a review of the GP format (always useful!) and a fun activity – in this case a team trivia contest.

The initial plan was sent out to presenters. The sessions needed to be juggled a bit to accommodate arrival times, but we got a commitment from everyone. When asking a group to commit to a plan, always set a deadline and specify that the plan is (silently) approved by anyone who doesn’t reply by that deadline.

Here’s the full schedule:

Block A
(Adam Cetnerowski)
Block B
(Adam Kolipiński)
10:45 Welcome
11:00 A1: Team Leading
(David de la Iglesia)
B1: Slow Play
(Christian Gawrilowicz)
12:00 A2: Arranging Tournament Space and Crowd Management
(Konrad Wieczorek)
B2: Backups
(Kenny Koornneef)
13:00 Lunch
14:30 A3: How to Certify an L1
(Matteo Callegari)

B3: Out of order sequencing
(Francois Grossi)

15:30 A4: First Aid for Judges
(Niels Viaene)
B4: Delivering a Ruling
(Emilien Wild)
16:30 A5: How to present a thrilling seminar
(Wojciech Strzyzakowski)

B5: Cooperative conflict resolution
(Aaron Hamer)

17:30 A6: How to apply to a GP
(Alexis Rassel)
B6: Would you downgrade? (Gianluca Bonacchi)
18:30 A7: Standard Review
(Dominik Olak)
19:00 Team Trivia Tournament
(Kaja Pękala)
20:30 Judge Meeting
21:00 Judge Dinner

When running a professional conference, it is typical to require that all presenters submit a synopsis of their talk and then (typically) a draft of their presentation. Due to the scheduling and effort, I decided not to go that route. I think that some oversight may have been useful (some presentations did fall flat) and is something I will consider for the future, but generally it was not too bad.

The final aspect of preparation is the logistics. We quickly got in touch with the TO (Glen White) and probed about the availability of resources:

  •  Room – we had the use of the judge room (a very nice, big room with windows and a screen), but the parallel session was scheduled to be run in the event hall
  • Projectors – no help from the venue, but we scrounged one up (thanks to Mateusz Kniżewski)
  • Paper supplies – we had some on hand, not necessarily everything we wanted. What I would recommend is pens, paper, markers, highlighters, tape, flip charts (or flip chart paper).
  •  Printed materials – the schedule (for posting and as leaflets) and surveys (see below), these we got ready ahead of time.


…Often Go Astray

It is inevitable that no matter how well you plan, you’ll need to be flexible and adjust to changing conditions as they come up. Here are some of the things that came up.

Very quickly we found that the acoustics of the event hall made listening to a presentation and participating in discussion almost impossible. Since we didn’t have a second room, we moved this part to a wide hallway not far from the judge room. While we didn’t have the luxury of chairs or tables, we had a nice quiet space, which was much closer to the judge room, where the other presentations were held.

We also lost two presentations (last minute cancellations, miscommunication). Fortunately, most judges have lots of topics for discussion and are happy to share their experiences, so finding a backup was not too difficult. I only made sure we disrupted the plan as little as we could, to be fair to the other presenters and participants.

Finally, judges like to talk and ask questions and discuss all things judge-related. On top of this, most people who don’t present professionally, don’t have a good grasp on how long their presentation will last and how to keep up the tempo. This means you need a timekeeper or your sessions will run over, which is especially inconvenient, when you have two parallel tracks and people switching between them.

To alleviate a lot of these problems (which I had for the most part foreseen), I used the role of sessions chairs – I took one track, Adam the other. (A better practice would have been to get one more person to help, so that I wasn’t tied to a room). A session chair is responsible for introducing the presenters, keeping everything on schedule and solving any issues that come up.


The Survey

What’s any endeavor without feedback? We decided to get some feedback on each of the presentations and the presenters. (As I write these words, it did occur to me that we should have also had one for the conference itself).

A survey was handed out by the session chair at the end of each session. There was room to put in the session code (or respondents could just put in the name of the presentation or presenter) and consisted of three questions graded on a scale from A (very good) to D (very poor). It is recommended that any scale has an even number of grades, so that respondents have to decide if something is good or bad (there’s no “middle” option).

The three questions were:

  1. Rate the usefulness of the topic – i.e. is it worth talking about this
  2.  Rate the knowledge of the presenter – i.e. did the presenter know what they were talking about
  3.  Rate the presentation skills of the presenter – i.e. how good are the presenters soft skills

I tried to keep these questions orthogonal (independent). Someone very knowledgeable could have a hard time explaining their point or someone could give a great talk on an irrelevant subject and so on.

Since the survey was very brief, we were able to collect the surveys a moment later and I was able to tally up the results as we went along. I didn’t use this option this time around, but based on the surveys we could’ve awarded recognition for the best presentation.

The results on the latter two questions I sent out individually to each of the presenters, but the answers to the first question got quickly shared to the L3 list to facilitate future conferences.


Looking to the Future

I found running the GP Warsaw Conference a fun and educating experience. To summarize I wanted to list of the more important improvements I’d make:

  •  Request at least an outline of each presentation (a pipe dream would be to hold short auditions on Skype or something similar)
  • A survey encompassing the conference as a whole
  • Recognition for the best presenter either during the judge meeting in the evening or at the Sunday dinner

Once again, I’d like to thank my co-chair (and article proofreader) Adam Kolipiński , all the presenters and participants, Glen White and everyone involved in helping this happen.