Develop Yourself 2 – Main organizer’s words

During the last weekend, AEGEE-Dresden offered the training course Develop Yourself 2 for motivated AEGEEans and students from Dresden. From Thursday to Sunday, 24 people from 11 different countries could experience some AEGEE spirit right before the Christmas time and of course, develop themselves!

After the event finished and the main organizer, Nico Westerbeck, could get some sleep, he tells us how the event went and how it is to organize such an event.

Nico, this was your first event for AEGEE-Dresden as a main organizer. How and when did you get this important position?
Nico: The old board started an open call for the organizing team of this year’s Develop Yourself, and I thought that would be a great possibility. I have helped on organizing quite a few events already, but I have never been main organizer, so I decided to take the challenge.

When did you start working on the project? How many people have been involved?
Nico: Our aim was to be able to start PR in October for the Autumn Agora Kyiv, so we started in August. Before that deadline we needed to have some things fixed: the event heavily depended on a suitable location and its trainers and to advertise it we also needed a price and support from our main sponsor, the StuRa and of course some visuals to do PR with. We managed to get everything ready, at the Agora we did not yet have Flyers but a first poster and a signup form and awesome AEGEE-Tbilisi doing a lot of PR for us (absolutely voluntarily after I stole their flag). The work at this stage of the project was mainly done by Jorge, Nadja and me.
After Agora, Ingo, Max and JP joined and helped with FR, PR, food plannings and some more designs and right before the event Tarek, Melli and many others joined and did a lot of work. Even one of the participants was helping! I may use this opportunity to say thanks to all of you again for your contributions.

What was the biggest challenge during all the organization process? And how did you manage to solve it?
Nico: There were some time-critical moments in the organisational process, that grew a challenge just because they were so urgent. Mainly there was the issue of accepting the participants. Because we needed the answer of who can participate quickly, we did the voting within 1.5 days, but also some decisions were done with too little time to rethink. At this point I also want to thank caffeine for its contributions to this event!
All in all, the overall greatest challenge was keeping the overview of what happened where and what still has to happen. On an event with 35 persons, this was quite possible, but already pretty complex. If the event grew any bigger, it would soon become impossible to keep everything in mind. Thus, to make it easier, we used tools like a cloud and mails intensively, so whenever someone forgot something, he could look it up online. This required some discipline in the first place, but in the end most of the persons used the cloud and mails well. Site note: All the occurring mistakes were somewhat connected to bad usage of online tools.

Were you ever worried, that the event could fail?
Nico: Yes, when we finished the first batch of applications and could only accept 14 persons. We had quite some applications, something around 35 if I remember correctly, but a lot of them were absolutely unsuited. I was very nervous at that time about the PR and not having enough participants – which was the main problem of last year’s Develop Yourself. I even created another budget for less participants just to see how big the losses would be if only 15 persons came. But in the end, everything turned out well and a lot of great applications followed – I am very happy with every single participant in this event and though most of them may not have noticed, but they were just as critical for the quality of the event as the organisation beforehands.

Are there any suggestions you would like to share for future main organizers?
Nico: Start early, do whatever you can as soon as possible. When organizing, you always have a tradeoff between improvising the whole event and having every single step planned and precalculated far in advance, and I can definitely recommend you to stick to the latter. I know that it is more work in total, but the more you improvise, the worse the quality of the event will be. On the event itself, you will end up improvising anyway, because something always goes wrong, but if you have done good preparation, fixing the problems will need less capacities and you will have to struggle less.
Also I want to say that this was one of the greatest experiences I have made in my life, and that I can recommend everyone to take that challenge. The pay in the end will be a great loving smile on your greatly tired face, so if you are thinking about doing such a project yourself, do it! The opportunity to do so within AEGEE, among people that can’t or wouldn’t fire you if you fuck up, is unique.

Develop yourself 1 was last year in December? What have you done back then?
Nico: Participated! Develop Yourself 1 was my very first AEGEE event ever, until 3 weeks before that I have never heard anything about AEGEE. The event itself was a blast, and for me the leap into a beautiful time in this organisation. Last year, it felt like getting the information worth 2 years of university within 4 days, and I really wanted to give back this gift to other people by organizing the Develop Yourself 2. I hope it goes the same way next year, if one of the participants became main organizer for Develop Yourself 3 (apply!), I’d be really happy!

Btw, did you survive European Night? ;-)
Nico: Ehm… I may spare my comments, but what others told me is that I got very… open-minded #ifyouknowwhatimean. But I managed to dance myself sober again and have some really nice late-night conversations with some of the participants until 7am. So I’d say, I reincarnated :D

Thanks a lot Nico for answering the questions! Finally, the stage is yours: Feel free to add everything you always wanted to say here!
Nico: At first, thanks for this interview, I want to greet my parents, my brother, my grandma, my hamster, the leftover fennel from the event and everyone out there reading this. Thank you for being awesome! It’s you to shape this world, you are part of the so called elite. And it is you to be responsible for this world going down, if you mess up. But I am optimistic, you all have great ideas, open minds and a lot of energy, which, if combined, are truly inspiring. The earlier you start, the better, go out there and do something amazing. And if you think you can’t change anything anyway, there is a simple solution how to gain influence: Develop Yourself (3)!