International STOIC WEEK and the main STOICON conferences are coming up in just two months. Modern Stoicism as an organization puts on both of those for people interested in Stoic philosophy and practice worldwide. For the last several years, there have also been a number of smaller local events all over the world, organized by local Stoic groups and meetups. These have been called “Stoicon-X” events, by analogy to the larger TED and smaller, local TED-X conferences.
In past years Stoicon-X events have been put on in a variety of locations, including London, New York, San Leandro, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Newton, Toronto, Moscow, Madrid, Athens, Brisbane, and Bogota. Generally they have taken place in the weeks before and after the main Stoicon conference.
This year, Modern Stoicism and the Stoic Fellowship have devoted a lot of thought and planning to how best to promote and coordinate Stoicon-X events.
There are clear guidelines and helpful advice for how to organize and put on a “Stoicon-X” event. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it would clearly go against the Stoic virtue of prudence to plan and hold events in-person for the Fall. So the expectation is that all Stoicon-X events, like the main Stoicon, will be online, virtual events this year.
This year, Modern Stoicism will also be expecting local Stoic communities who wish to host a Stoicon-X event to sign an agreement with Modern Stoicism. This will ensure that those events will be done for the public interest rather than for profit, and that certain standards will be met. We’re finalizing that agreement, and will be posting a link to it here once it is fully ready.
The Stoicon-X committee of the Stoic Fellowship has also put together an online spreadsheet with dates for planning events, so that they won’t be overlapping with each other. You can view that spreadsheet here. For more information about scheduling, you can contact Pete Fagella (chair of the Stoicon-X committee).
In order to provide readers and potential organizers some inspiration and encouragement, I’ve solicited some short contributions from people who successfully organized Stoicon-X events last year. Here they are:
Pete Fagella and Marc Deshaies – Stoicon-X New England
Our regional Stoa was still pretty new in 2018 when we decided to take the plunge and host our first Stoicon-X event. We had ten participants that first year. It was exciting hosting an event that was a little more formal than the regular monthly meetings we had been having. We charged $10 per person to cover the costs of renting a church basement and light refreshments. The 4 hour program included four speeches, lightning talks, discussion sessions and role-playing.
In 2019 our Stoicon-X event gained momentum: 23 people attended. We charged $15 in advance or $17 after a cutoff date. The main event lasted five hours. The program included five presentations, two sets of small group exercises, a book table where people shared brief reviews for others to peruse, and we gave away four new books as door prizes. After a group shout outdoors to officially end the event, we shared a delicious informal potluck dinner. We look forward to an online event this Fall for 2020, and are happy to share more detailed planning tips with others if asked.
Sharline Mohan – Stoicon-X Brisbane
I had the pleasure of organising the Stoicon-X event for the Brisbane Stoics in 2019. It ran for a full day at a local library event space and was kicked off with a pre-recorded talk by Greg Sadler followed by a live Q & A session. The rest of the day was filled with member talks and a workshop which was then concluded by a pre-recorded interview with Donald Robertson. Being an all day event it was important to include short coffee breaks and a longer lunch which allowed guests to absorb the information throughout the day but also connect with others in our stoa and socialise.
My advice from my experience is that the Stoic community at large is very giving and eager to contribute regardless of your place in it, adhering to your own schedule is important, and finally, I found that talks that require participation should be held at the beginning of the day and then end the day with more passive content. We had just under 30 people attend and whilst it was a big undertaking for a single person it was a truly enjoyable experience and great way to give back to my Stoa.
This year I have organised a committee to help organise an Australia-wide Stoicon-X held solely online and will run over 6th/ 7th/ 8th November. Within the month I should have the schedule for the Australian Stoicon-X outlining guests and topics.
Stanislav Naranovich – Stoicon-X Moscow
It was my first experience of organizing such an event, so it was quite disturbing. I sent requests to several major scholars, and as a result after lengthy correspondence the philosopher, Kirill Martynov and the historian of Stoicism, Polina Gadjikurbanova agreed to participate. The space was kindly provided by the bookstore Falanster.
The speakers made exciting presentations (one about modern Stoicism, the other about ancient), after which ensued lively debates with the audience. More than 50 people came — it was extremely unexpected to see such a large public! Mostly young people who are very interested in Stoic theory and practice and asked a lot of smart questions. It was a great pleasure to share experience with them, the sense of community is essential. The event lasted almost three hours, after which a group of participants went to the nearest pub. Here some photos.
Massimo Pigliucci – Stoicon-X New York
I organized Stoicon-X New York in 2019, and have a second edition planned for this year. Last year I was lucky enough to have both Don Robertson and Bill Irvine coming to town, so the three of us provided an evening featuring three talks and q&a with a live audience. (You can check them out here: https://youtu.be/LBMbv2SM4w8 // https://youtu.be/H9v1pCEQznM // https://youtu.be/x5ndjzaddsY).
This year Don will be back, and we will feature Brian Johnson, the author of The Role Ethics of Epictetus: Stoicism in Ordinary Life. But the event will, of course, be online. I plan on hosting it on the Zoom platform and recording the sessions for later publishing on Vimeo, here.
This is a highly rewarding experience, which does not need to be thought of as a major conference, with all the logistical nightmares that that implies. Even if you get a few people together for a couple of hours to talk about Stoicism you have accomplished something worthwhile. As Marcus Aurelius says, don’t wait for Plato’s Republic, do what little you can right now, because it matters. – Massimo
Andi Sciacca – Stoicon-X Milwaukee
Working to co-organize and co-facilitate the Stoicon-X MKE event held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2019 was simple, rewarding, and efficient. I am happy to share some of the things we did to keep the preparation process organized – and enjoyable. First, since space (and cost of space rental) can pose an issue for any event host, we opted to work with our central library branch to utilize one of their conference rooms. Not only was the large-capacity room we reserved free of charge, it was also located in a place of learning, easily accessible by public transportation, and well suited for a conference of our kind. Next, thanks to the generous support of a donor from within the Modern Stoic community, we were able to offer coffee, breakfast items, and lunch to our guests.
In order to make that happen, we partnered with two organizations that truly support community values and are excellent examples of working for the common good. For the coffee, we worked with one of our favorite local roasters and coffee shops (Stone Creek Coffee) and reserved two Cambros of coffee. The shop provided cups, creamer, sweetener, and napkins with the order – as most shops (including the national chains) will. We added a few trays of mini-muffins and danishes from a big box store, along with a couple of flats of water, and breakfast was served. For lunch, we partnered with a local restaurant (The Tandem) that is well-known for doing incredible things within the community (they even served as a World Central Kitchen site during the pandemic) – and we ordered some easy lunch items – wraps (vegan, veg, and meat-based), along with some large tray salads, and chips.
We offered tickets to the Stoicon-X for free and used Eventbrite to manage reservations. We also posted to MeetUp (with the Eventbrite link), shared posts across social media, and sent press releases to our local news outlets and other community organizations about one month in advance. The event was completely sold out roughly two weeks prior to the date we selected. In addition, we were able to create some pretty great event posters and flyers via Canva (if you’d like to reference our template, feel free) – and had those printed at a local printing press.
We offered small honoraria to our speakers – and we were able to cover travel expenses for one speaker who came from two states away, and provide all of that content for the $1200 donation we received from that generous donor. We checked people in on the morning of the event during the event using the Eventbrite roster, provided nametags (sticker-style) – and felt that everything went seamlessly – even with a fire alarm that went off right before lunch! We recorded the sessions on our GoPro camera, and shared them to YouTube. We emailed attendees with a follow-up survey – and got some excellent feedback for next time. All in all, it was reasonably simple and well worth the time we spent on organization and set-up. We look forward to the next event – whether virtual in 2020 or (hopefully) in person in 2021.