The Confession Chair – Chapter One: Same Procedure as Last Year?

James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?

Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!

– Dinner for One // The 90th Birthday (1963)


After a good long week across the pond; I returned to Danish soil on a stormy Saturday. This naturally called for a substantially prolonged nap; so I could be ready to face the abstract tsunami head-on first thing Monday morning. I had even ensured I had extra strong coffee at the office (and those of you know that I take my coffee pretty damn strong).  All had been going to plan in the past weeks, with me, Rui, Martin, and Silvia regularly being consulted about abstract topics – and candidates have eagerly tweeted their euphoria of submissions to the masses. In all honesty, I felt really good about the situation – we could close abstract submission on time without any hiccups – and then Sunday evening the hamster powering our servers got loose – so yes, we had to extend the deadline 24 hours – and we have worked with those contacting us during the late hours of Sunday to ensure your submissions are duly noted – thank you for understanding.


Now, some of you might be wondering, why on Earth I’m quoting the iconic catchphrase of Dinner for One?  This is an old sketch shown every year on national TV in northern Europe; either around Christmas or on New Year’s Eve.


The sketch presents the 90th birthday of upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a celebration dinner every year for her friends Mr. Pomeroy, Mr. Winterbottom, Sir Toby and Admiral von Schneider. The problem is that due to Miss Sophie’s considerable age, she has outlived all of her friends, and so her equally aged manservant James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn. Miss Sophie decides on appropriate drinks to accompany the menu: Mulligatawny soup (Miss Sophie orders dry sherry), North Sea haddock (with white wine), chicken (with champagne), and fruit for dessert (with port) served by James, who finds himself raising (and emptying) his glass four times per course. That takes its toll, increasingly noticeable in James’s growing difficulty in pouring the drinks, telling wine glasses from vases of flowers, and refraining from bursting into song. Even before the alcohol begins to exert its influence, he keeps tripping up on the head of a tiger skin lying on the floor on his way from the dinner table to the buffet, although on one occasion he surprises himself by avoiding it – only to trip on it on his return from the buffet instead. A bit later, he stops in front of the head, then performs an exaggerated jump across it.


The crucial exchange of every course is:

James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!


By the end of the dinner, James has consumed 16 glasses of wine and is severely inebriated, and while delegates have been known to mimic James posture and way of speaking in the wee hours of the morning, it is not that aspect that is on my mind. Nor is it that James allegedly accompanies Miss Sophie to the bedroom for their annual ‘procedure’.  No, it is that if you stick to doing things the same way year in and year out, your guests will have withered away and only payrolled staff is sticking by you. Since we are a not-for-profit organization driven by volunteers, we really have to ensure that you, our guests, will stick around (and maybe bring a new friend or two to the party); which is why we are NOT going through the same procedure as last year when it comes to abstract reviews (now, how was that for a segway! ;-)


Now every submission is still reviewed by at least two committee members during our initial phase. Here our focus is on the topic of the class; not on the speaker or the makeup of the schedule. It is solely,  if the abstract, on its own, would be interesting. While this process is fairly unchanged, we have implemented a new review system that will make it easier for us to aggregate notes and comments; which is a big help, as we go over each abstract numerous times from different angles.  The whole committee will go over each abstract on a series of calls in the coming weeks, so we all have a good understanding of what kind of submissions we are dealing with. At this point, we have not discarded any abstracts yet. As something new, the abstracts, anonymized,  will also be shared with the next generation of BIM experts at BILT Academy. Who will have ‘one voice’ in the final scheduling; and can nudge us if we are getting old-fashioned. In about a month the whole team will meet up in Ljubliana, the gorgeous location for Octobers BILT conference, where each abstract is cross-examined – and the final programme comes together (this is where we start killing our babies). For this, we have also revised and tweaked our scoring system – and I for am excited to see how it will affect the process.


One thing is for certain, we will never stick with the same procedure year after year,  we work in an industry where #WeThatDoBIM is looked upon to drive a transformation that is desperately needed. We want to apply the same change agent mindset to the way we grow and sustain this community; enhancing the review procedure is but one step on that journey.


Let me know what you want me to cover in future entries,


Until next time,


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