CHI '95 Student Volunteer

The What, Where, When, How, Who, Why and Whew! of the SV life

Compiled by Astrid Kerssens, Chantal Kerssens and Steven Pemberton, CHI '95 SV Co-chairs

Table of Contents

Being a Student Volunteer

Being a student volunteer means working around 20 hours at the CHI Conference. In return you get

and maybe a few fringe benefits, like free food every now and then.

We say 'around' 20 hours, because 20 is a guideline, not a hard and fast number. The success of the conference depends on the work of the student volunteers and we think that with the number of volunteers there are that 20 hours each will cover that work. If you have worked only 19 hours at the end of the week, no one is going to complain (though people who work few or no hours will be billed for the registration fees after the conference); on the other hand if at a given moment someone needs some help, we hope you are not going to say "sorry, I've done my 20 hours already". Nearly all the people who help run the conference are volunteers, yes even the SV Chairs, and many of them work many more than 20 hours.

What You Have to Do

An Overview of the Week

This is what our conference week looks like:
Friday: Initial setup, and 'bag stuffing': preparing the delegates' bags for registration.
Saturday: Pre-Conference set up; research symposium; SV training
Sunday: Research symposium; Tutorials; Workshops;
Monday: Tutorials; Workshops; Conference set-up
Tuesday: Conference
Wednesday: Conference; Reception
Thursday: Conference; break-down; Thank you party
Friday: Relax

About Working

When working we ask a couple of things of you:

About Responsibility

We expect every SV to take responsibility and show initiative in what they do. When you arrive at a session for instance, check that the signs are right, check that the overhead projector works. Look around and see how you can make things better, or run more smoothly. Are there more SVs on duty than are needed? Phone through to say so that some can go where they'd be more useful.

In previous years there have been so-called 'fishheads', SVs who have been SVs before, and therefore were expected to accept extra responsibility. However, we feel that just because someone has been at CHI before doesn't make them necessarily more capable, and vice versa, just because this is your first year doesn't make you less capable. So this year anyone can express their willingness to accept responsibility by wearing one of the YES badges available in the SV Lounge.

About Money

Sometimes people may ask you as SV to go and buy something for them. Never buy something for someone using your own money. Either get them to give the money to you beforehand, or go and get the money first from the conference office. There is no guarantee that if you buy something that you will get the money refunded.

The SV Lounge

The SV Lounge is where it all happens, and a place where you are always welcome to come and sit, to relax, chat, eat, drink, or whatever. Regardless of what sessions you are working, you should come into the lounge at least twice a day to see if there any developments. Here you will find:

Never hang anything on the walls in the Lounge: use the message boards if necessary.

If there is ever a problem while you are working a session, phone the SV Lounge to let them know.

Work and Scheduling

In the SV Lounge will be a large set of schedules of all jobs for the whole week. These jobs are described below; any questions you have can be covered in the SV training session. You can sign in for any job for the same day or the next day; this you do by asking the Scheduler, the person responsible for keeping the schedules up-to-date to write you in for the slot. You should never add or delete something yourself from the schedules, otherwise we risk losing track of which jobs have and haven't been filled.

Not all jobs are of equal value. For most, one hour worked is one hour credit; working tutorials is half-credit (one hour worked is a half-hour credit); working early mornings is one-and-a-half credit (one hour worked is one-and-a-half hours credit).

If you have signed up for a session and then can't work it, you should arrange for someone else to do it for you, and you should warn the scheduler. If you don't work a session without warning, you lose an hour credit!

Working Sessions

When you have to work a session you have signed in for, you should report to the SV Lounge 15 minutes before you are due to start. This is so we can see when someone doesn't turn up, and we can send someone else to replace them, or to assign you somewhere else if the job is no longer needed, and so we can credit you with your hours worked.

When you get to the location where you are working, introduce yourself to the session chair, or other person in charge, so they know who you are and that you are there. Look around to see if everything is in order. Is the signage right? Is everything in working order? Try to forsee any problems.

Once you are at the location where you are to work, don't leave your post unattended! If anything goes wrong, phone the SV Lounge. Even when you have done your session, if someone is meant to be replacing you and hasn't turned up, don't leave, but phone the SV Lounge to get them to send a replacement (if everything has worked right, they will have noticed already).

As you leave a session, check that everything is alright. Is the signage right? Is everything still working? If not, report it (to the SV Lounge of course). It may be that attendees at the session had to fill in a questionnaire at the end of the session. If so, it is your responsibility to collect them in and take them to the SV Lounge.

In any case, go back to the SV Lounge to sign off when you have completed a session.

The Jobs Themselves

Traffic Cop. Especially on the first day during the breaks there will be a lot of people wandering around feeling lost. For this job you stand at a strategic point and tell people where to go.

Session Support. This involves checking people coming in, ensuring the comfort of the attendees, and being on call to help the session chair.

Most sessions have SVs at the doors checking that only registered attendees enter the room. During the SV training you will be shown the different types of badge and what they mean, and we will stick a sign up in the SV Lounge with them on. Before starting a session refresh your memory from the sign.

Be polite when doing this job. Explain to a person without a badge or with the wrong badge that they aren't authorised to enter, and you should have no trouble. In the case of any problems contact the SV Lounge.

Introduce yourself to the session chair, so that they know who you are and that you are there. You should confirm the following signals that the session chair can use to tell you of problems: point to eye for slide focus, point to ear for sound levels, hug self and shake, or fan self for temperature. During the session itself you may be required to help in various other ways, such as fetching something, or organising someone to come and fix something.

You are responsible for the comfort of the attendees: asking people to keep their voices down if they talk too loud, identifying and getting other problems solved, like the room being too warm or cold, the door squeaking or the breaks being ignored. Be sure you know where the nearest toilets, telephone, fire-point, first-aid point, and refreshment site are: people will be asking you! Oh yes, and people are not allowed to videotape sessions; gently remind them if you see it happening, and call SV central if they won't stop.

Audio-visualist. People doing this job are responsible for the sound, lighting, computing and other equipment during a session, which you will learn all about during the SV training session. This mainly involves knowing how to switch the overhead projector on, raise and lower the lighting, raise and lower the sound level, and so on.

Introduce yourself to the session chair, so that they know who you are and that you are there. Never try to fix equipment yourself. Phone the SV Lounge, who will send an AV specialist along.

Tutorial Support. This is similar to session support. As always, introduce yourself to the session chair. Remind them of the break schedule, and the importance of keeping to it (otherwise attendees get nothing but leftovers).

As with Session Support you must check that only people with valid credentials come in. These are people with one of the following:

The last three classes get access but no seat when the tutorial is sold out. No one else gets admission, not even people who say that they haven't had time to register and will do it in the break. Refer problems to the session chair, the tutorials chair, or phone the SV Lounge; but remain polite.

You are also responsible for the audio-visuals of the tutorial, and other things mentioned under session support. In case anyone asks, tutorial rooms are not locked during breaks, so they shouldn't leave belongings behind.

Registration. This job involves helping people register. You check the registration category of attendees based on their registration acknowledgement letter, add or remove any relevant material from the conference bag, and hand it over with a big smile.

There will be people in charge there to tell you the precise details, and help out in problem cases, either professional staff or the registrations chair.

The amount of work can vary amazingly at registration. If you feel that there are too many or too few working registration, don't hesitate to ring the SV Lounge.

Information Booth. This is a central place for attendees to go to ask questions. It is a good job for local SVs who know the district, since many questions will be about that. If you don't know an answer, use the telephone to find someone who does.

Merchandising. This is next to registration, and involves selling conference T-shirts, mugs and so on. It involves people skills of course.

Accompanying Persons Lounge. This is the place where spouses, partners, chums and other hangers-on of attendees can hang out and have accompanying-persons type fun. The SV on duty here is to help them with any questions or problems they have.

Conference Office. This is the office run by the professional conference support staff. Working here involves all sort of tasks like copying, collating, answering the phone, running errands, maybe even data entry.

Speaker Prep. This is the room where speakers can prepare their talks, slides, and so on. This job involves helping them with the equipment, supplies, questions, and so on.

Interactive Experience. This job mainly involves keeping an eye on equipment, and making sure there is no videotaping or photography, though it can involve helping with installation.

Press Room. This involves helping with press briefings (setting up, escorting people), helping prepare handouts, answering the phone and being on hand for visiting journalists.

Signage. This job involves being responsible for changing the signs announcing sessions and the signs directing people to them.

Formal and Informal Videos. Working formal videos involves checking that the machines are running correctly, and knowing which video is currently playing if people ask; informal videos involves registering tapes that people want to make available, and signing them out to attendees who want to watch them, in exchange for their conference badge until they return them. You are also responsible in both cases for calling the SV Lounge if there are technical problems.

Quick Response Team. There are always unexpected jobs turning up, so we always need a pool of SVs ready to do them. This job involves sitting around in the SV Lounge drinking coffee and talking to people until someone calls on you to do something. We will give instruction in how to do this at the SV Training session. If you have signed on for this job, every hour sitting waiting is an hour's credit.

Conference Tear-down

After the last session on Thursday everyone is expected to turn up to help with disassembling the conference, so we can do it as fast as possible, and everyone gets to the party on time. As added encouragement, there is food afterwards, and a lottery for the remaining tutorial notes. Not to be missed, in other words!

Thank You Party

Finally, on Thursday evening, after it is all over, there is a great big party, where we can dance and celebrate that we all survived sane. This party is by invitation only, it is not possible to invite other people.

After the Conference

Many SVs use the SV experience to see if they like being involved with SIGCHI volunteering, and to get further involved with the organisation or the conference. Many people in SIGCHI started off as SVs.

There are plenty of ways you can stay involved with CHI and SIGCHI. For instance,

Photos from the Conference