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June 2006 RVC Column

(Written and posted 5/6/06)

Northwest Passages

RVC Column for June Newsletters in Region 8
by John Recht, Region 8 RVC

When I signed on as Co-Chair of the 2006 Mind Games in late November last year, I knew we were in trouble. A co-chair had just resigned for personal reasons, registrations at that point were very weak in comparison with past years, and we were saddled with a hotel contract with very high levels of required room nights and meal spending that could have exposed us to substantial financial penalties. On behalf of the region and American Mensa, I accepted the responsibility for setting things right, and we went to work.

The first thing that we did was to negotiate with the hotel for a better contract. Some months earlier we had gone to the Holiday Inn as an emergency backup, after the first hotel we had contracted with suddenly closed its doors forever, and in the rush for a replacement we had not asked for realistic numbers. Supplied with better data by our Treasurer, Stephen Darnell, we met with Holiday Inn management and asked for reduced commitments for room nights and catered meals. The hotel was sympathetic, but business is business, and they asked for a commitment for the 2007 Oregon Mensa RG in return. We made the deal on this basis, and brought the contract to a level we could live with.

Next, we went to work on publicity, to bring up our registration numbers. We sent out a string of ads and notices to elists and local group newsletters, and Co-Chair Stephanie Smith had her wonderful article published in the January issue of the Mensa Bulletin. Talk about your late arriving crowd! Whatever we did must have worked, because people began registering in droves. When the turnstiles finished clicking in April, we had the highest number of registrations of any Mind Games ever, a total of 198 Mensans and their guests.

By this time, we could finally begin to relax, as our room nights and meal spending had reached the point where we were no longer subject to penalties. (Had we not renegotiated, even with the biggest Mind Games ever, we would not have made the room night commitment.) We knew we were on track for a great event, but I don't think any of us realized how great it would turn out to be.

By all accounts, the 2006 Mind Games turned out to be fabulous. From beginning to end, every single person there, volunteers and attendees alike, pitched in to make it work. The result was a smashing success, an absolute joy, and I daresay it was Mensa at its finest.

Everyone who came deserves to be thanked, but I especially want to mention by name the folks who worked hard, mostly in the background, on the biggest event ever hosted by Oregon Mensa. Thanks once again to my Co-Chair, Stephanie Smith; to Hospitality Chairs, Ember and Dan Burg, and their son, David; to Registrar/Treasurer, Stephen Darnell; to our Gamekeeper and onsite Registrar, Bill Olson, and to his helper in registration, Ken Freeman; to hospitality helpers, Margaret Bouma, Meredith Misner, Brian Aveney, Linda Roach, and George Smyly (George flew from Alabama at his own expense and paid his own hotel bill to work for free at Mind Games...this man is a candidate for sainthood); to Scott Rainey for his photos and general assistance; to Joe Haber, who brought an enormous supply of baggies; to Jack Woodhead, Chief Judge, who brought his expertise to bear in so many ways, and made the judging as smooth as possible; and last but not least, to Catherine Barney, National Marketing Director for American Mensa, who made countless contributions to the event as well as organizing the supply side, by soliciting the games that eventually came to be judged.

Megan Goldman and her committee for the 2007 Mind Games in Pittsburgh will have a tough act to follow, and I send them my best wishes for a similar success. As for those of you who participated in the 2006 Mind Games and are reading this, my hat is off to you...thank you for one of the peak experiences in my nearly 29 years as a Mensa member. I hope to see you all again at other events, but I'll never forget the fun we had this time around in Portland. Suffice it to say, it was a moooving experience....