To bring ISDC back to Huntsville in 2011, we sold NSS on the
strength of our chapter, our people, and our community. Because we
were so tied into the space community--professionally, academically,
or socially--we could bring our guests into Marshall Space Flight
Center (and other space sites) and bring space experts to the
conference. This happened despite uncertainty in the space industry,
budget cuts, and massive policy changes happening at NASA at the
time. We were able to bring aerospace companies into the vendors'
hall, and a graphic designer friend and coworker of mine from the
Center designed a marvelous, vibrant logo. The great things that
happened in 2011 were made possible by the strength and depth of the
friends, colleagues, employers, and customers who gave willingly of
their time, labor, or money to make it possible. That cooperative
effort was humbling and appreciated.
So when tornadoes struck northern Alabama a month before the conference, I was convinced that the situation was under control. While cleanup efforts began, members of the team dispersed to various safe places to keep operations running remotely. Some of that involved convincing people on the other side of the world that we had not, in fact, all been blown to Oz by the tornadoes! But again, when the dust cleared and we returned home, we prepared to get things under way.
The event itself is almost a blur to me now, but I recall a lot of work being done by all concerned. Over the course of four or five days, we hosted 850 attendees, 20 vendors, and well over 100 speakers. Toward the end of the event, things ran so smoothly I didn't need to be in the room; everyone else had things well in hand. The wild finish at the end encapsulated the experience. We had a tornado warning at the end of the last luncheon on the last day. As we were herded into the Von Braun Center basement, one of our volunteers discovered a grand piano and started playing Broadway show tunes. I was accused later of arranging that (I assure you, if I had, I would have had the bar set up down there to begin with). I've been pleased to see people who were thrown together for that one crazy experience become long-time friends. We sold NSS on Huntsville on the strength of our chapter, our people, and our community, and HAL5 delivered. Thank you again to everyone who helped.