We could tell you yet again about the planned excursions to such world-class sites as Pinson Mounds, the Old Stone Fort, or the Hermitage. Or we could recount the many technical highpoints of the meeting, as exemplified by the opening, plenary, and special sessions, or the forums and workshops, or the roundtables and poster sessions. We could go on about the spectacular Opryland Hotel and its many guest facilities, or the Exhibit Hall with its numerous opportunities. But you know all about these aspects of the meeting. Instead, we take this opportunity to offer some tips about meeting lore (i.e., survival skills) and some thoughts on how everything came together.
There are a number of things you can do to make the meeting go more smoothly. It's always a good idea to walk around the meeting floors soon after you arrive, to find out where the session, committee, and exhibit rooms are, as well as where practice slide projectors are set up. This task gets much harder once the hallways are mobbed with friends to talk with every 10 feet! It is also a good idea to scout out the places where you can have quiet conversations, if that is what you want (and there are many such places at Opryland). Another good trick is to find out early where the best (or fastest, or cheapest, or tastiest) food and drink is served, and take advantage of the opportunity to partake periodically. It is possible to lose appreciable weight at these meetings, but it is a rough way to do it! It's also a good idea to drop by the exhibit hall and poster sessions early, before display copies are all scarfed up, or everything is packed up! Finally, remember to pace yourselfmeetings of this size and length are a marathon, not a sprintand the events on the last day are just as exciting and important as those on the first!
There are a wide range of excellent sessions, and the most difficult aspect of the meeting will likely be deciding which papers to attend. To help with this, special effort has been directed to placing like sessions in the same or nearby rooms over the course of the meeting to facilitate movement between papers. We have also tried to anticipate and accommodate space and attendance concerns, and, fortunately, we were aided in this by having the peak attendance figures for most of the sessions for the last two yearsand you thought all the volunteers did was adjust the lights and run the slide projectors! The SAA staff will also, as always, be available on a round-the-clock basis to help see that things run smoothly. So if problems arise, remember there are plenty of folks to help you solve them!
As we write this article (in early February) the excursions are all planned, the program and abstract booklets are done, and we look forward with the rest of you to seriously enjoying these meetings! While a final report on the meetings will appear in a forthcoming Bulletin, in these pages we wanted to offer a special thanks the many people and organizations who helped us get to this point. Meetings like this do not just happen, nor are they the work of a few people. Locations are planned years in advance, and the work of many people begins in earnest a good year or more before each particular meeting, as announcements are planned, committees are formed, and tasks are laid out.
Among those deserving of thanks are the staff of the SAA business office and the members on the SAA Executive Board, who do far more work preparing for these meetings than many of us may realize and, of course, assume ultimate responsibility for their success. The members of the program and local arrangements committees, and all who assisted them, as well as the folks organizing the special sessions and events, of course, deserve our particular thanks for sharing the load, and making it much lighter. A real debt of thanks is also owed the membership itselfand we've communicated with hundreds of you since this process beganfor your unfailing patience, courtesy, and numerous words of support, thanks, and encouragement. You have made a challenging job much more enjoyable! We have come away from this process with a much greater appreciation for the breadth, diversity, and level of commitment to archaeology of the SAA membership, as well as the realization that the organization is made up of truly fine people.
The SAA meetings go beyond ourselves and our profession...they energize people in the communities, states, and regions where they occur and generate a great deal of interest in archaeology and preservation. Tennessee is also known as the "Volunteer State," and there are many local residents who are excited about and helping us with this meeting. Last but not least, our employers, the National Park Service's Southeast Archeological Center and Middle Tennessee State University, are to be thanked for their support in this venture.
For those of you who wonder about taking on one of these organizational roles some time, it is an invaluable experience, one we have learned and benefited from, offering a chance to give back something to the profession that nurtures us. And no, your hair does not get appreciably grayer, even though there will be times when you'll think it's turning!
David G. Anderson is the program chair and Kevin E. Smith is in charge of local arrangements for the annual meeting in Nashville.