Conference is… gathering
We arrived by plane, from Denmark. From Norway and the Baltic countries, many small groups did the same. Finns mostly opted for car trips oscillating between minutes and hours. A Swedish delegation arrived by ship from Stockholm. It may sound a rehearsal of Wacky Races, but there’s no “World’s Wackiest Racer” title to win. We were however (probably) attending the World’s Northernmost Conference: for sure it was an amazing event which took place in Helsinki, Finland for the Europe-North region last November.
At the finish line, in a school refurbished for our judgy purposes, we found new and old faces: the inevitable RC, Johanna Virtanen; several friends from past GPs, many of which I had never associated to my same region; some people I more or less remembered from the previous Spring Conference; and then the usual countless amount of judges never met before with whom we timidly integrated throughout the day.
Conference is… contextualization
Every Conference here begins with a recap of the State of the Region. Many numbers – how many we are, how we’re distributed across the levels and the various countries, if and how much we grew since last time. Johanna also highlights regional challenges: some concerns regarding PPTQs seem to be a common theme within the region and even across the rest of the world, but the Program exists to serve the events. It’s legit to have critical opinions and discuss, since it can be a path to find solutions, however the end goal is to find the best way to adapt to the situation we have to face, supporting the structure Organized Play decides to set up. Every time, goals and projects get put onto the table as well, those fulfilled and completed and those representing the next step. It’s interesting to feel a direction, to see that something is moving and getting to know how one may contribute.
Conference is… learning
One of the most interesting seminars was about Reviews. “Reviews? Reviews are SOOO BORING! They’re useless, the last one I got was terrible”. Well, actually Patrick Ericsson started echoing this sentiment and decided to demonstrate a linear, precise, structured algorithm in order to allow everyone to deliver amazing feedback even to the most flawless of the L5s. Not content with that, he showed it in action creating in three minutes a review of a judge he had never met before. And it was good! He even left this unsuspecting judge a Modern Master booster, as a little token of appreciation for his help (and to celebrate his upcoming birthday)!
Conference is… improvement
Not all Conference topics should be based on crazy new and original things. The basics are important as well, and revising is key to solidify our previous knowledge, and maybe discover that some of it was not actually that correct to start with. Kevin Moore’s seminar had a straightforward goal: summarize and present all the recent changes that the IPG Drawing Extra Cards penalty went through, coupled with some case scenarios. For each one of them, we were having a brief discussion in small groups –usually without reaching any unanimous verdict, not even among L2s!– followed by the (O)fficial Truth. After a few scenarios, Kevin shuffled us around, to be sure we had the opportunity to interact with as many different opinions as possible. Simplicity, efficiency, quality, chocolate, squared.
Conference is… discovery
One of the main one aims of Conferences is definitely allowing us to grow, to gain experience and to widen our horizons, by having this invaluable opportunity to face several points of view and personal goals which may differ vastly from ours. At this Conference I definitely had multiple moments of… enlightenment. One of them happened during my own seminar (I was in charge of “Answering to Players”). As best practices teach, I did my best to create a presentation which was highly interactive – involving the audience, having slides easy to the eye and with not too much text, including some humor to keep up a good mood and vibe. And I feel that worked as planned. However a fellow judge reached for me after my seminar to give me his feedback about it (extremely appreciated: please always do, don’t be afraid!): even though we had an high level of interaction, there hadn’t been much space for discussion, during my talk! Participants need to have an active role, not a passive one, and they want to have it at every opportunity, not only with a space for questions at the end. A seminar should never be a cold frontal lecture, doesn’t matter how engaging. I’ll be sure to keep it in mind in the future, both for a redo of this seminar and for any new one I’ll prepare!
Conference is… fun!
It isn’t Conference without Community. The end of the day saw an epic showdown between three judges, facing each other on the stage for a prime-time style quiz including scoreboards, host and special effects. This Judge Jeopardy trophy, earned answering (actually, asking!) Magic and Judge related questions, ended up taken home by Anders Thiesen, qualifying him as the leading champion for the next episode, which will obviously take place at the first available Conference next year. That said, those who were staying around for the night stayed longer and we all ordered pizza (and I have to get a copy of that menu, its choices of ingredients were a horror masterpiece for an Italian to read – and it was written in local language of course). We lost track of the time, playing draft with Modern Masters, Battle for Zendikar or home-made Cubes, some others fully focused on some board game, and the more traditionalists slinging EDH decks, until it was time for everyone to go home… unfortunately! So don’t miss your next local Conference! And see you there!