The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 217, titled:
Organizing Astrology Conferences, with Ray Merriman
With Chris Brennan and astrologer Ray Merriman
Episode originally released on August 4, 2019
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released June 17, 2021
Copyright © 2021 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today, I’m going to be talking with Ray Merriman, who’s the former president of the International Society for Astrological Research. And we’re going to be talking about the process of organizing astrology conferences and what sort of things go into that and a lot of the details surrounding that, since he’s one of the main organizers for the major conference that ISAR is hosting next year in Denver. Hey Ray, thanks for joining me.
RAY MERRIMAN: Thanks for having me Chris, pleasure to be with you.
CB: Yeah. I’m excited to have you here. So we’re doing this episode partially because you have a long history of organizing astrology conferences, and you’re right in the middle of organizing the one for ISAR next year right now, right?
CB: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about that. Maybe let’s move the mic a little bit closer just so you hear what I’m saying. There we go. All right. All right. So you’re the former president of ISAR, do you remember in terms of astrology conferences… Actually, before we get to your history, let’s start with ISAR. So you’re hosting a conference, and when is it taking place?
RM: September 9th to 14th 2020.
CB: Okay, and that’s taking place here in Denver? And how many people are you expecting for this conference?
RM: We’re estimating somewhere between 500 and 750. It all depends on our marketing, and it depends on the economy. You know, as long as the economy is strong, people come. If we go through a recession, they cancel. So we think 500 minimum, 750 is our top target.
CB: Okay, so it could be upwards of like 700 to 800 people attending this conference, astrologers flying in from all around the world?
RM: If you look at what’s happened in the last two years in astrology conferences, you’ll see that they have exceeded records. UAC had a record, NORWAC had a record, ISAR 2016 had a record. So it’s quite possible we’ll exceed our expectations.
CB: Yeah, I mean, NORWAC just happened in Seattle, the Northwest Astrological Conference happened in May. And for the first time in their 35-year history, first time ever, they sold out the conference and had to stop selling tickets for it.
RM: Yeah, that’s really good news for anybody who’s putting on a conference like us.
CB: I mean, I think that’s a good demonstration that astrology really has, there’s a resurgence of popularity in astrology that’s happening at this time. Do you think that’s true or is that a good indicator for that?
RM: I think so. I think there is a resurgence of astrology. And I also think the whole social media that’s developed since 2008 has been, you know, a very strong booster for people to become interested in astrology. And on top of that, you know, the people who are involved in social media, they have a desire, I think, to physically connect with everybody. You know, they may meet them online, they may meet them through their Facebook and Instagram accounts, but it’s only at the conference when you can get that magic of all these people gathering together and seeing who they really are and how they interact with their colleagues. So I think there’s a lot of social things going on that have increased the interest in astrology, and of course, the internet and the social media and that has all created a resurgence in astrology.
CB: Sure. But that was interesting what you said in terms of the economy really affecting things. And sometimes if the economy tanks, like people have less, you know, resources to spend on things like conferences. And I’ve seen, I know, there was one guy I knew maybe 10 years ago who organized a conference at the time of the 2008 recession. And that didn’t end up… Like the recession happened right before the conference occurred. And I think that did end up being problematic in terms of attendance for that conference.
RM: It affected the ISAR 2009 Conference, too. I think that’s the only conference I’ve been associated with that actually had a pretty substantial loss. And we were on target going into the conference until about a month or two beforehand. And then all those people who had pre registered, you know, some got laid off some, you know, who were astrologers weren’t doing as well in business, and so there was an awful lot of fallout, and that did affect the bottom line economically the conference. So recessions do have a… Recessions in the economy do have a big impact on your turnout.
CB: Okay, but it’s like you still have to do it, you still schedule and sort of plan it to whatever extent you can, it’s just there’s some things that are outside of your control. Is that the main lesson or take away from that?
RM: I should say that one thing that happened with the ISAR 2009 Conference that was most interesting. When I was planning it, I had a sense there was going to be a recession. Because every year since 1994, I would indicate that when we get to 2008, there is going to be an economic thing, something similar to the Great Depression. So I worked with the hotel chain to put a clause in there that if there is a recession, they will not assess us any attrition charges. And it turned out there was a recession. So we had all those attrition charges removed. It still was a loss, but it would have been a lot deeper loss had I not put that clause in the contract.
CB: And is the attrition charge like the blocks of hotel rooms that you have to agree to fill?
RM: You have to get a certain number of hotel rooms filled. If you don’t get 80-85%, whatever you work out with the hotel, if you don’t accomplish that, then they’re going to charge you X hundred or thousands of dollars for each room that you use for each day that you use it. So it becomes quite… I mean, we’re talking twenty five to seventy five thousand dollars attrition fees if you don’t meet the minimum standards that you agreed to.
CB: Yeah, so that’s one that falls in the category of like one of the risks of organizing an astrology conference. Usually they take place at a large hotel of some sort that has not just places for hundreds of astrologers to sleep, but also has conference rooms for where the lectures can take place. But in order to rent out and have access to those facilities, you have to make an agreement. And typically part of the main part of the agreement is just agreeing that you will fill up a certain number of rooms.
RM: That’s part of it, that’s the most important part. You need to fill up a certain number of rooms because that’s when severe penalties start kicking in when you don’t. The other part is food and beverage. Nowadays, when you go to a hotel, they want you to guarantee a certain amount of food and beverage. And that has gone up quite a bit in the last 20, 30 years since I began.
CB: So that’s one of the ways that the hotels make money is by so food and beverage is things like the banquet dinners that happen at night or even the lunches sometimes in the middle of the day.
RM: The main things are the banquet you have near the end of the conference, you try to have planning meetings where you bring in local astrology groups and you have them give us a buffet that goes toward food and beverage. We have our board meetings prior to the conference just to renew our make sure we’re all on the same page, and for that you order food and beverage. We have luncheons, we have luncheons, COD luncheons that calls for it. So we have a lot of things that we do that attempt to generate food and beverage. Because the more you can promise them in food and beverage, the more leverage you have for other things you want from them, that’s important. It’s all give and take, you know. They have what they want to achieve, we have budgets that we want to fulfill, so we find a middle ground there that we can both live with and then we both got to live up to it.
CB: Right, because your primary budget and income for this entire endeavor is based on conference attendees and how many people actually show up in the end and pay or buy a ticket, which gives you entrance into the conference.
RM: That’s the primary income, it’s through the attendance, the workshops, the main conference, we also have a trade show. And so we sell booth, and we hope to make a few bucks on that too to help generate the bottom line successfully. We also have advertisements in the program book. We also sell recordings into the conference, during the conference, and after the conference. So all these things do add up to make the conference financially successful. We wouldn’t… We probably wouldn’t break even in many cases if we just relied upon the conference attendance, you know. If it was just that, we’d probably have to have a minimum of 500 people to break even. But the other things, the revenues that come from trade shows, revenues come from the bookstore, the revenues that come from recording sales, all that helps to break even or maybe a little better.
CB: Right, and then there’s a bunch of expenses. And the primary one, I would guess, one of the primary expenses has to be paying the speakers. Because typically speakers get paid some amount for however many lectures they’re giving or if they’re giving a workshop. And then sometimes conferences will also give you like they’ll pay for part of your hotel stay there, something like that.
RM: Those are our fixed expenses as much as we can fix it. We know how many people are going to come under faculty, we know what the faculty size is. And you do have to guarantee them a certain amount of room or what we call travel expenses, but for us it’s just room expenses. And then you pay them a fee. And you know, just to be sure that the world out there the public listening doesn’t get the wrong idea, the speakers who come to conferences never make enough for these large conferences to cover their expenses, they do it because they support ISAR, they support the organization, they support the work they’re doing to promote professional astrology across the world. So ISAR and so does NCGR and other organizations, they need money to fund the activities they do on behalf of astrology. And the people that ISAR invites, they understand that. Those speakers understand, they’re willing to make that sacrifice. One, because they believe in ISAR, they believe in the future of astrology we’re working toward. Second of all, they love each other. I’ve got to say, the astrology community is very colorful, but there’s a core community that really looks forward every you know, two or three years and they can get together and just reconnect and catch up with each other. It’s something special that I don’t think you see that in other professions like you see it in astrology.
CB: Sure, yeah, it’s like an actual community and there’s a definite community vibe that comes out the most strongly at conferences compared to anywhere else.
RM: Yeah, there is a community vibe that comes out there at the conference. And in addition to that, you meet a lot of new people. I mean, half the people come to the conference have probably been to conference before. So that’s like a reunion. That’s a good feeling to see your old friends that you’ve been with for in my case, 50 years in astrology.
CB: You’ve been going into conferences that long. So every time you go to these conferences, it means you’re catching up with people.
RM: I’m catching up with people. But there’s also the new people. And there’s a lot of, I think, you saw that in Chicago at UAC, we had probably more new people attend the UAC conference than ever before. And they were exciting. And they were excited by the veterans that they met, and the veterans excited by all the younger astrologers coming in, it was very dynamic, it was very energetic as we tried to achieve. We try to always get a certain number of people who have never spoken before but who are developing the reputation. We try to market to different venues where young people are connecting with other astrologers who learn about the conference. So we always, you know, we try to keep it close as we can to 50/50 new people versus older people. Older people meaning Pluto and Leo generations, I suppose, Pluto and Cancer versus those who are after Pluto and Leo. So we got a good balance with this faculty, and we hope to have the same thing with the attendees.
CB: Yeah, and that’s always one of the tensions is, you know, speaker selection in terms of the… There’s always I’m sure more speakers who want to speak compared to the fixed number of spaces that you just have available in terms of how many lecture slots there are, right?
RM: Oh, you wouldn’t believe it. We start out with a field of over 400 people, 400 speakers who want to come. We think they want to come. And we ended up inviting, in this case, 100. And the amount of declines is probably less than 5%. And there’s always people, you know, we just know that 95% of the people that are on our list would like to attend because this is a special occasion to meet your colleagues, to meet new people, to make contacts, it’s going to develop your future business, to get ideas to collaborate with other people. There’s so many things that occur when you’re meeting face to face with each other,
CB: Right, and presenting your research and the things that you’ve been doing like privately in your research or your consulting practice, but being able to if you’re a speaker, share that with your colleagues.
RM: That’s what brings people in, okay? The research, the new material. I mean, if you’re doing research, you want to present it, and the people want to hear it because they haven’t heard it before. That’s what brings them in. But what makes the experience more special’s what happens outside the classroom, you know. The networks that develop, the contacts are developed to give speeches in other parts of the country, in our case, other parts of the world because ISAR’s international, right? So we have a very high percentage of people coming from overseas. And that’s that’s exciting too because they have a different, you know, a different quality, a different aspect that they bring to the table.
CB: Right. Yeah, ISAR, that’s one of the things I always appreciate, is that has a much more international focus. Because you guys have what used to be called like regional vice presidents, but now it’s called something else, right?
RM: Yeah, we call them global directors. Was international VPs, but that was confusing because people thought they were board of directors and they weren’t. So now we call them global directors. And they’re the people in… Oh, I think we got 40 countries now around the world. And their job is to connect with the astrology communities, the grass roots local astrology groups and any schools that are developing, and bring them you know, to our attention so we can start nurturing them in the sense of what we think is credible, high quality astrology. We’re all about raising the bar, if you will, on the quality of astrology that’s practiced. So we have four major parts of our program now. We have the ethics, we introduce ethics awareness to astrology, that’s all over the world now. We develop consulting skills, you know, how do you relate to a client face to face? You don’t just sit there and read the chart, you need to draw the information out to find out what that client wants, so we develop consulting skills conferences workshops. We have a testing of course, because people want to know that their astrologer is competent, that he or she knows the subject matter, so they got to pass an exam. And finally, we’re now getting into research because we’re the International Society of Astrological Research. And so David Cochrane, from Kepler, not Kepler University, but Kepler Software in Gainesville, Florida, has come on the board, and he’s developing the research part of the certification program so that if you’re going to get a certification via ISAR, you have to learn the methods of research, whether it’s qualitative or quantitative. So this is a new thing we’re developing now.
CB: Sure. Yeah. I mean, it seems like ISAR has been growing and developing in a lot of different ways. And I had David Railey on the show a couple of months ago to talk about his work in China, and he’s been bringing some of that ethics and consulting skills training there through his school and some of his work.
RM: Not only that, but he has taken over the competency exam. So that has all been upgraded, and he’s done a fabulous job with that in that he has what? 1000 students now in Beijing? I mean, it’s big, and they keep growing. So I think right now, probably 15% of ISAR’s membership is from China through his school.
CB: Wow. And then the current president of ISAR is Aleksandar Imsiragic, who’s from Serbia, right?
RM: That’s correct. And he also has a fabulous school. I think he has around 250 to 300 current students, but he has over 1000 people who have graduated through his program. This is the thing that excites us at ISAR, is what’s going on around the world. You know, there’s a lot more education going on outside of the United States than there is in the United States. But the nice thing is we’ve seen in the last year some new schools develop in the United States, and they look very promising. And I think the United States has kind of been behind with education. It’s like, you know, you learn your astrology, you practice it, you go to conferences, you write the books, but they’re really not many schools that developed diplomas, if you will, for two to four-year programs. That was going on all over the world but not in the United States. And now it’s starting in the United States. Yes, you had Kepler and you had a couple others, but you know, they were more historical I would say, more than developing the tools and skills of astrology. And now they’re moving into the tools and skills of astrology, too. So we’re really seeing the movement that’s been going on around the world is coming to the United States. And it’s training, it’s education, and it’s getting off the ground. And that’s the part that’s exciting right now to us.
CB: Sure. So let’s back up a little bit cuz I wanted to ask you a little bit about your history with conferences. Because I’ve heard some stories from some of the like the Pluto and Leo generation about when they came into the field and what conferences were like when they were just starting to enter the astrological community in the 1960s and 1970s. What timeframe did you enter the field or when did you attend your first astrology conference?
RM: The first astrology conference that I attended was the one that I organized.
CB: Oh really?
RM: It was 1971. In 1971, I was called upon through an organization called astrology metaphysics and psychic sciences in Ohio, and they wanted to put on a conference with several speakers, and they asked me to organize. They had their speakers, but they wanted somebody who had some background for organizing events, which I did. Because I was working at the time with the state of Michigan in a program that I had to do, I had to organize training sessions for them.
CB: For like psychology or something like that?
RM: Yeah, psychology. My background was psychology, it is psychology. So in 1971 I put on the first conference in Michigan, it was about 200 people. And after that, I organized an organization called the Aquarian revelation center, and we put on conferences for 12 consecutive years every year at a Jesuit seminary in Clarkston, Michigan. And the last three years, went to University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan. And we would have [unintelligible 19:59] we had Dean Roger, we’d have Isabel Hickey, we’d have Zip Dobyns, we’d have the top of the crowd. And from that came AFAN, the seeds of AFAN were born at our conferences in 1981, ’82. So yes, I have a lot of experience organizing large conferences. The first one I ever went to was 1974 in San Francisco, the AFA conference, and I attended just as an attendee. But I’d already organized three conferences before that, but that’s where I met a lot of the astrologers and invited them to our conferences. The first conference major one I spoke at outside the ones I organized was AFA 1976 in Las Vegas. And I’ll tell you an interesting story about that with Rob Hand. I had a book coming out called Evolutionary Astrology: The Journey of the Soul Through the Horoscope.
CB: Right. You stole the title from Jeffrey Wolf Green 10 years before he wrote his book.
RM: Yes, that’s right. I wrote the book first. I introduced the subject. And so Rob Hand wasn’t really a known [unintelligible 21:07] that point.
CB: In 1974?
CB: ’76, two years before Planets in Transit or maybe?
RM: Just before. Yeah, my book came out in 1977, I think his book came out in ’78. So we’re both at the conference, and we’re at the gaming tables, the card tables.
CB: Oh, it’s in Vegas?
RM: In Vegas. In Vegas, the MGM Grand.
CB: That’s a funny picture of like Rob Hand.
RM: I know it. And there’s Rob Hand at the table. He’s playing blackjack, I think, and he’s winning. And I said, “Who is that guy?” And somebody said, “That’s Robert Hand, he’s an astrologer. And says, “Really, I’m an astrologer, too.” And he would play for about 15 minutes or so, and then he’d fold. He wouldn’t play anymore. And then he’d come back and play for another 10 or 15 minutes, and he always won. And I said, “Well, that guy must be a very good astrologer. I wonder what he’s doing.” So that was my first experience in astrology conference where I was speaking, and I happened to meet Rob Hand and Noel Tyl and a few other well known astrologers then.
CB: And I think like Rob Hand’s father was into financial astrology or something like that. So that might have been part of his background with that.
RM: Yeah, Rob and I, and also Neil Michelson, and Bill Meridian in Orange Crawford, kind of shared that in common. I didn’t get into it till 1978, into financial astrology. Rob had some background and he was interested… I forget what he was interested in, I think stocks. He was interested in it, but that wasn’t his primary interest. His primary interest at that time was transits. He was working on transits, he was working on… Was it composites?
RM: Yeah, I think composites. But he’s really grown since then too as you know, he’s really gotten very involved in history. And I think Rob is probably the greatest astrologer of our generation, meaning my generation of Pluto and Leo generation. He really set the tone, the standard for what an exceptional astrologer can be and should be through his research, through his writings, through his lectures, through his workshops. He’s served astrology extremely well.
CB: Yeah, definitely. I heard that he just finished his new revised edition of Planets in Transit. I’m looking forward to seeing that soon.
RM: Oh, I didn’t know that. I know he has a book coming out, is that the book?
CB: Yeah, I think that’s it’s going to be a big tome since it’s been so long since he wrote the first one, you know, I’m sure he’s learned a lot since that time.
CB: Yeah. All right. So yeah, you’re… So 1970s, you’re starting to organize conferences and attend conferences. I heard that in the 70s like initially, that the AFA was kind of like the only game in town in terms of organizing conferences, and that there was sometimes some tensions with like the younger astrologers who were probably the Pluto and Leos who were coming into the field at that time and things that they wanted to see happen or wanted to have at conferences, and sometimes they’re creating like tension or conflict with however things were being done at that point. And sometimes that’s how some of the other organizations like AFAN were formed initially, right? Is that an accurate like way to describe that carefully?
RM: Yeah, that’s pretty accurate and pretty diplomatic.
CB: Okay. I mean, is there any way to articulate that? Like how were conferences done up to that point and how did your generation change the way that conferences were done? Like, I think, payment for example is one of them, right?
RM: Yeah. So that’s a very, very important point. From 19s… Well, the whole history of AFA at that point, they were the only game in town and we, the professional community that was growing because it started in late 60s and 70s. Many young astrologers at that time like myself…
CB: Just an explosion of interest in astrology.
RM: I mean, it was a Renaissance. To me, that’s the real heart of modern day astrology is what took place in the late 60s and 70s, even into the 80s. And we were developing quite a network throughout the country, was speaking at various local groups. So people knew us, and we were the ones bringing people in to the conferences. And yet, we were a little bit disturbed because we had to pay to attend the conference, even though we were speaking at the conference. So not only do we not get paid, we had to pay to be part of that and to bring in all these people. And we thought, “This isn’t right because this is our profession, and this is the organization represents us and it’s not really representing what our needs are.” So at an ARC conference in 1982, several of us, I mean, Zip Dobyns, Michael Erlewine, many people, many of the well known astrologers, Angel Thompson, Buz Myers, we gather everybody together, and we raise money to rent a room in the Chicago conference of AFA in 1982. With the idea that we wanted to meet with them, and let them know that we would like to see some changes and we will continue to support them, but they got to reciprocate, want to collaborate, want to do what’s good for each other, you know. The growing astrology and the organization that puts on the conferences, we get together. And that didn’t go so well.
CB: Okay, they didn’t hear your demands or your requests or anything very, very well? They didn’t take it very well?
RM: They didn’t take it… I mean, they agreed to everything and did nothing at that time, which is unfortunate. So we decided, “Well, we’re not going to stick around and fight, we don’t want to fight. Let’s just develop something new.” And so we formed AFAN. And then that was 1984, I believe. And then from AFAN, we had [unintelligible 26:39] on the original steering committee, with Jim Lewis and Marion March and Neil Michelson, and we’re all part of the original steering committee. And we decided that we would form a United Astrology Congress UAC, and we would host it 1986. And we would pay people, we’d take whatever profits we made and we’d share it with the speakers. And so that was a new concept, we did that. And we had, I think over 800 people in our first conference. And unfortunately for AFA, which we’re doing approximately 2,000 people for each conference, that was kind of the big turning point for them. I don’t think they had too many conferences over 200 people after that. So they resurrected themselves several years later. They’re coming back now, they’re a force again, which is good, a force for good in astrology. But it was like a dark ages for AFA for a number of years until things changed for the good.
CB: Yeah, they went through like a leadership change about a decade ago and have since been sort of trying to revise and revitalize the organization. But very much like when I came into the field in the mid to early 2000s, I always got this sense talking to the older astrologers that the NCGR and AFAN and ISAR were like the younger organizations that all the Pluto and Leo astrologers were involved in, and they got together and formed their own sort of super conferences with the United Astrology Conference in 1987 and then every few years after that. And the AFA just was not as active in the community until somewhat recently, because so much of the focus shifted towards those other newer organizations.
RM: Yeah, it started the first conference actually 1986 in San Diego, and it was on a three-year sequence, ’86, ’89, ’92, ’95, ’98. And then UAC had its problems. I mean, that seems to be the history with astrology organization, it goes so far and then you get into certain struggles, crises, and then you either make it through it or your breakup. But there was such a need and a recognition of the need to keep this community active that we rebirthed it. We rebirthed it in 2002 and you know, the rest is history. UAC has been very successful.
CB: Yeah. Well, and that’s one of the things, I mean, UAC is the biggest one. Like that happened last year, the last one happened in 2018 in Chicago. And that had like what? 1,500 attendees or something.
RM: I think it was a little bit over 1,500 attendees. It had something like 1,560 I recollect. It was the biggest one for paid attendees. On top of that, we had staff. So altogether, I think there was close to 1,700 people.
CB: And that’s like the biggest conference, the United Astrology Conference because that’s when multiple organizations pool their resources to host one mega conference. And then ISAR, the one that’s happening next year is like a sort of mid-level conference because it’s about 800 people, which is a large conference. It’s not as big as you UAC, which is talking thousands of people.
RM: Right. You have UAC, the last UAC involved five organizations. There was ISAR, NCGR, AFAN, AFA and ACVA, the Vedics. So we had five organizations that were all marketing UAC to their members or alumni. And so, yeah, it was big. ISAR I would say is probably the second largest, you know. We have consistently five to seven hundred people. So we’re the second largest, of the organizations that sponsor conferences. So you’ll see a lot of the ISAR energy, if you will, at UAC. Of course, you’ll also see AFAN energy very active there, you’ll see NCGR energy, but I think the model that ISAR developed for conferences has… Many of the good ideas that come through ISAR have been applied to UAC and vice versa. We’ve worked very well together developing what we think are the different venues, the different policies, the different selection processes that are most fair and representative of the needs and the involvement of astrologers and students of astrology.
CB: Yeah. One of the things that was integrated into UAC last year and that you guys have carried through in ISAR, which is unique and seems like a new development in terms of conference models, is having a community vote or having some sort of democratic vote to choose at least some portion of the speakers.
RM: We started that in 2016 with our ISAR 2016 conference. I had the idea that we really, you know… The community’s changing, it’s getting younger, which is great. New people are coming in. And we who are the directors of ISAR don’t necessarily know who these rising stars are as much as they know themselves. So I decided, and the board supported me on this, that let’s ask our membership who they want, let them choose at least half the faculty. And so we put out a call to speakers who wanted to speak. You know, they have to give their bio, they had to give a topic they wanted to speak on. And then we presented to our membership and we let them vote. We took the top… At that time, it was the top 30. Oh, it was this time, too. We took the top 30 vote getters and said, “Okay, there’s an interest in these people.” They’ve got a following. Let’s bring them in, even though we don’t know everybody there. So we continued that with this one. This one, by the way, will be our largest conference, the 2020. We have a faculty of over a hundred. We’ve never had a faculty over 66, that’s always been our highest. So this is way larger than we’ve ever done before. And we put out the call to the astrologers, the 450 people on our list here, about that. Who wants to speak? Who wants to submit? Who wants to apply for this? Because the top 30 are going to get an automatic invitation where we close it at 120. Once we got 120 applicants, we close it. They kept on coming and we had to close it at some point. And we put the vote out on a ballot to our membership, and we took the top 30. Not only that, we then took another 28 that our membership voted on that were in the top hundred. We took… So of the a hundred people who were coming, 58 were voted on by our membership.
CB: Okay, so that’s over half.
RM: Over half.
CB: And I mean, what are some of the… Because I was looking at that and it was an interesting model and I really appreciated it. But then sometimes there’s pros and cons even with that, because then a vote obviously is partially, almost like a popularity contest in some sense, which is good and allows you to have speakers at the conference that, you know, will be a draw in terms of attendees, but then I’m sure sometimes I noticed, for example, sometimes international speakers, if ISAR, if there’s a lot of like English speaking astrologers, sometimes there might be more international or locally known international astrologers that might not get as many votes on something like that. And it seems like you guys made an effort after the vote to use some of the leftover block of individual picks that you had some leverage over to pick out specific people to bring in and make sure that the international community was represented to some extent, right?
RM: Yeah. That’s why we do that. That’s why we have that second and third and four steps of speaker selection. You know, we know what the membership wants, the top 30 get an automatic invite. After that, we want to see who we know through our own personal experience with going to conferences and listening to speakers, who do we know can address the topic, the theme of the conference effectively? Who’s doing exciting work on this? And then we went into the, like I say, the top hundred, maybe it was even the top 80, and figured out who those people are who we know already have a reputation and can speak on this. And then those who didn’t apply, we know there’s many people out there that didn’t apply who are excellent astrologers. We just know that they’ve got reputations, they’ve got books out and they’ve been to our conference before and they’ve drawn well. So yeah, it’s a combination. There’s a little bit of a popularity contest there, but there’s also a concerted effort to identify astrologers who really can add to the knowledge base and the social base, if you will, of the conference to make it a fulfilling experience on all levels, whether it’s intellectual or social.
CB: Sure. Yeah. That’s always one of the… That has to be one of the most tricky things is speaker selection I would assume at conferences,
RM: You never please everybody. That’s one always the sore spot of any conference organizing. Why wasn’t I chosen? Why didn’t I get… Stuff like that, but we do our best to be as inclusive and get our membership as involved as we can.
CB: Yeah. Because there’s always new speakers or people that apply and want to speak, but sometimes don’t make it in. So one of the questions maybe some people might have, especially for new speakers is, what are some things that you could do in order to have a better shot if you wanted to speak at conferences? Or if you are going to apply to a conference at some point in the future, not necessarily this one, obviously since speaker selection is closed, but I’m trying to think of some good things that newer astrologers that are coming into the field or haven’t gotten on the lecture circuit yet might want to know about that would be good pieces of advice.
RM: Yeah, there’s several things they can do, Chris. One, they can develop an attractive website that draws people to their website who become familiar with their work and their interests. Two, they can write articles for ISAR’s journal, for NCGR’s journal, for TMA. If they get published, that counts a lot. Three, they can write books. They can write books and get their books published. Four, they can set up their own lecture tours through local astrology groups because people go to local astrology groups, often times members of ISAR or one of the organizations that are putting on a conference.
CB: Yeah. I think speaking at local astrology groups is huge. And I sometimes see people skip that step, but that’s an important first step, is starting to get experience giving lectures, starting at the local astrology groups first, and then working your way to the conference, especially because if you give a talk for a local astrology group, you can record it. And then you could often submit that recording as a demonstration of your lecture style when you’re applying to a conference sometimes when that’s relevant.
RM: Well, that that takes place with UAC. We don’t require that at ISAR because it’s very time-consuming to have to listen to a hundred recordings as you can imagine. So the other thing they can do too is get a strong presence in social media. That’s making a difference now because if they got a presence in social media and the apply to speak at ISAR, they just let their Facebook followers or Instagram followers know that they’re applying and please support me. And then, you know, a lot of those people are members of those groups, and I think that’s how… I think that’s how probably five to ten of the top 30 got on. I never heard of these five or ten people. There’s always five to ten people I wasn’t aware of. And not many people on our board were aware of them, but they have such a strong social media presence or they’ve written articles, you know, for different journals and our membership recognize it and they voted for them.
CB: Right. Yeah. Yeah, so definitely because I’m discovering new astrologers every day on YouTube that have like huge followings that I’m just coming across or on Instagram or Twitter, things like that. And I think sometimes one of the issues is they’re not aware of the organizations or how to apply to speak or that that’s something that you can do or what steps you could take. But definitely some of the things you’re recommending like joining the organizations, being a member of an organization is usually the helpful thing. Writing an article for one of the journals like the ISAR journal, because that’s going to expose you to many of the different people that work as part of ISAR or to that whole network of sort of people in the organization.
RM: Well, a lot of it is networking, you know. I think the most important thing is what do you know and how do you present it? How do you market yourself? After that, it’s probably who you know, you know, because if you don’t have anything out there but there are people on the board of directors who are part of the selection process outside of the member voting, then those people, the board of directors, have knowledge of you. They have knowledge of your work. They have knowledge of your attractability, if you will, to draw an audience and they bring it up. I mean, the one cool thing about ISAR’s board right… I’m no longer on the board, but I know who they are. The one cool thing about it is there are several people there who are well connected with social media, so they know what’s going on. So they brought up names of people I never heard of that they say have somebody has a hundred thousand followers, another person has a million followers. I, despite my 50 years of experience in the field, have no knowledge of these people. But it’s exciting that there’s somebody out there has that many followers. And so the board says, “Yeah, let’s invite them. See if they’re interested.” And they do.
CB: You’re not a Twitter aficionado or something like that?
RM: No, no, I’m not.
CB: Okay, that’s all right.
RM: I mean, I’m into Facebook a little bit, but you know, my business has been pretty well established through my subscription services, and I have a weekly column as you know. And that’s followed by, last I estimated was 500,000 people in different languages around the world. So I have a following already built there and some of those people connect me through Facebook, I have a pretty good Facebook following, but I’m not an influencer.
CB: Yeah, that’s fine. That’s why it’s good to have people on like the ISAR board like Sam Reynolds, for example, who–
RM: Sam Reynolds, Leo Wasalla, I mean, Ken Miller, these people are well… And Alexander Imsiragic. I mean, these people have a pretty wide following through the social media. So they know who’s out there and who’s hot.
CB: Yeah. And the last thing in terms of new speakers, it seems like attending a conference, attending a conference, because sometimes attending a conference can allow you to make some of those connections with different people that can come in handy later if you want to apply to a conference. Because if you’re just somebody that’s coming into the field or is new to the field and you don’t have connections and you apply to speak but none of the people have ever met you before, that’s different than when you submit a speaker application and somebody on the board sees your name and remembers meeting you in person and having a positive connection. That’s a different thing.
RM: Absolutely, that’s a big deal. And then they might apply to begin on what we call the Rising Star Luncheon program. During lunch we have 45 minute presentations of people who’ve never spoken before and we take applications for that. And those people get a lot of times introduction there. And then if they do a good job, we get the evaluation and they’re considered for the next conference.
CB: Oh, right. Because that’s something that’s come into vogue over the past 10 years. Well, maybe it’s been going on longer than that, but you do reviews of lectures or?
RM: It is about 10 years. It’s about 10 years that started. Yeah.
CB: So either the room monitors, but also the attendees can often fill out feedback forms and you guys do pay attention to those so that it does factor into future conferences when you do speaker selection is who had really good attendance, like how many people actually showed up for lectures, and also how were the lectures rated? Was the speaker prepared and did they do an effective job or did they not necessarily, was there some issue?
RM: Absolutely. These are very important qualities that we look at outside of what the membership votes on. When it was our turn to try to fill in the program, the board of directors and the planning committee for this conference looked at the UAC evaluations, the ISAR 2016 evaluations, how many people were in the cars? What were the ratings for the very items that you just described? You know, these are all very important things in our selection process.
CB: Okay. All right. So yeah, we’re getting to some important things here in terms of just people speaking and newer speakers and older speakers, obviously just the biggest piece of advice that you gave is just develop your own following and become notable for having done good work in astrology and eventually a lot will flow just from that. But obviously there’s other little things you can do to help as well. Okay. So what are some other areas… I’m trying to think, one of the funny things that astrologers run into as an issue is timing when it comes to picking the dates of an astrology conference. And that has to be one of the most challenging things as well because I’m imagining getting five astrologers in a room together and asking them to pick a date for like a wedding or something and some of the different conclusions that they might come to. But instead in some instances like with the United Astrology Conference, you’re getting five or different organizations of astrologers together and telling them to pick the date for a major international conference that for example, like 1500 people are going to attend and the widely different answers that you might get in terms of what people think are important, or sometimes also, I remember 2008, I was still studying at Kepler College in like 2006. And I remember Dennis Harness was trying to pick it out, the date from a Vedic perspective. So you realize that some of the different astrologers are coming from different approaches in terms of their traditions and picking out what would be good from an electional standpoint, from their standpoint.
RM: Yeah, the whole… That’s one of the key questions when you put on a conference you have to ask yourself. When? Now you have a time window to work with that’s already set with ISAR, NCGR and UAC. The time window is this, we know that UAC is trying to stay on a four-year cycle.
CB: Okay, so it has to be sometime in that year.
RM: That UAC is going to take place, sometime in that year. Okay, ISAR tries to… ISAR and NCGR agreed not to have a conference within one year of UAC and also not in the same year as each other. Okay. So, you know, we’re kind of limited. I mean, if NCGR had a conference here in 2019 and UAC’s going to have one in 2022, that means ISAR’s left with 2020, 2021 to work with. And so we try to determine that at least two years ahead of time, what is the window of time we’re working with? Then we’re looking at the larger aspects, okay? What are the larger transits taking place that we can build a theme around?
CB: And how far in advance is this happening?
RM: Two years.
CB: For ISAR?
CB: So ISAR planning, the conference is happening one year from now and you guys started planning it one year ago, so two years in advance.
RM: Well, let’s see, we started planning it in March of 2018, so it’s two and a half… We gave this one, two and a half years startup time.
CB: Okay. So, and that’s just one organization doing their own conference, but something like UAC was an even longer timeframe. That’s like can sometimes be like three years it seemed like, four years.
RM: I think two and a half years is good. I mean, when they’d gone six years in between, which happens sometimes, it isn’t that they’re using that time to plan.
CB: It’s that they’re… There’s like fighting over their organizations and [unintelligible 46:31]
RM: Are we going to commit to doing a conference again? When you see six year intervals, that means not all three organizations were agreeing to do it again. And then it takes time to work out the bugs, the issues that we have with each other. But we do.
CB: I’m thinking that of the fact that last two UACs were 2012 and 2018, so.
RM: Because we didn’t try to do it in 2016, it’s just that one of the organizations, you know, they were going through such changes among themselves. They couldn’t decide if they could do it. And so by the time they decided that they could do it was 2015, which is too late, had to switch it. You need three years at least. Two and a half to three years you need. Yeah.
CB: Got it, okay. So when? Picking sort of a broad timeframe, so like a year, we know what’s going to happen in that year and then…
RM: So we had a choice. We had 2020 or 2021.
CB: Okay, for the ISAR conference?
RM: We have decided… We’ve consciously decided that we’re going to do the conference prior to the election. We did in 2016, and we’re going to do it in 2020. We do it every election until UAC changes where it’s starting to interfere with them. It’s really convenient because it’s two years before and two years after UAC. NCGR tends to do the other two years in between. If we’re doing 2020, NCGR do 2019, 2021, something like that. So we pick the period of the election and then we try to figure out what is a major thing going on in the heavens at that time. Well, the major thing going on is for us is Jupiter conjuncts Saturn.
CB: I was going to say there’s not much happening next year actually.
RM: You know, it’s the first time in at least 20 years that we’ve had the major planets… It’s the first time we had major planets in conjunction, it’s over 20 years. We’ve got a whole synodic revolution going on with astrology in 2020.
CB: So the last Jupiter Saturn conjunction was in Taurus in the year 2000. Yeah. So we’ve got Jupiter Saturn conjunction next year and that’s happening in Aquarius?
RM: Zero degrees, Aquarius. And that happens to be ISAR’s Ascendant, zero Aquarius. We thought that would be a good theme, let’s go Jupiter Saturn going into Aquarius. And so once we get the larger picture set with time, then we try to build a theme around that. And this was an easy theme because it’s Jupiter and Saturn going into an air sign finally for what? The next 140, 160 years or something.
CB: Right. There’s a great mutation where it used to be called in the medieval tradition, a great mutation or something like that, where the conjunctions tend to happen in signs of the same element for like a century or two. And then eventually it switches to a new element. And this is the first time it’s going to permanently switch from earth to air?
RM: That’s correct. So, and this is the first time it’s been an air sign since 1166 to 1226, when it went from earth to air to earth back to air. The same thing we’re doing this time. We had earth in the 1960s, early ’60s, we went to air, we had a preview of the air is going to be like in the 1980s. We went back to earth and now we’re going to go to air for the next 140 years I think it is.
CB: Right. The air was in Libra, Jupiter, Saturn conjunction Libra in like ’80, ’81.
RM: But that… Yeah, it was ’81, I think, yeah. But that was a preview. We think that’s a preview, the air element. And if you look at what happened from ’80 to 2000, the air element, that was pretty different than what’s happening when we went back to earth, you know. I mean, that was the revolution, the Renaissance of technology. It was… A whole different status developed, a whole different model of what constitutes success, what constitutes interest, what constitutes value in societies and cultures around the world. It was the internet revolution. It was mental. And then we went back to political. That’s why we see the earth from 1800 to 2020, most of that was earth, and that was pretty centralized government, you know, business, capitalism growing, if you will. And so we think that the measure of success or the goals of the collective, you know, it’s going to shift from materialistic values, if you will, more toward mental values. So we think this a very major shift. So we call this re-imagining the future. It’s very different. We haven’t lived through, except that one 20-year period of Jupiter and Saturn and air signs, it’s all been earth most of our lives.
CB: So that’s the theme of the conferences, re-imagining the future. So conferences always have… Why is that? Why do conferences always have a theme or what is the thinking behind sort of branding them in that way?
RM: Yeah. Well, you try to get a theme. I think you try to get a theme that relates to the themes of the astrology. What is the dynamics of the astrology going on? And so going to the great mutation from earth to air is big. And so the theme is it’s a different type of future. You’re not going to believe. What was real for you before, what was real for society and cultures and humankind, that is all shifting. We can already feel it. And you already saw what happened the last few years, the beginning of this deck. And really if you look at this return to the earth element in 2000, that was really the birth of terrorism or at least the maturing of terrorism, if you will. So we live in a more fearful earth world and, you know, we’re hoping, and I think as astrologers, we can see that hope. Is it going to air signs? It’s not so much fear as like exploration of mental ideas, exploring the universe of new ideas. So yeah, the Jupiter Saturn in Aquarius is the theme of our conference in this dynamics. So that gives you the idea that you, you know, you want to do something in 2020 focusing on that. Now you got to pick a date in 2020. Now it gets a little more detailed. You’ve got your theme, you’ve got your big plan, now you want to get some, you want to pick a period that’s going to highlight those aspects in a positive way.
CB: And there’s probably some… Like some of this is probably half astrological and half practical considerations in terms of the dates that you have available, right?
RM: Yeah. Yes. Because we try to do conferences between May and October.
CB: Okay. Just because that’s the… What? Due to weather or due to people taking vacations or…
RM: Yeah, both. Whether people are taking vacations, tradition, we’ve always done it then. I know that some organizations have tried to do winter conferences, and they’ve done okay with the winter conferences. But I think people are more likely to want to travel, especially overseas during the warmer months in this country.
CB: Yeah. I remember going to a NCGR conference in like Baltimore in February and it just being like blistering cold. And that was a little rough. It was a good conference, but yeah, I mean the threat, I imagine from an organizer’s perspective of the conference, getting snowed out and people having travel delays due to bad weather, I would assume that would be one reason for wanting to avoid winter months in some places.
RM: Absolutely. So then you’re trying to figure, you know, what are the harmonious aspects to Jupiter especially? Because in this case, Jupiter is… It’s a lot of Jupiter next year, Jupiter Pluto, Jupiter sextile Neptune, Jupiter conjunct Saturn, a lot of Jupiter. So we’re trying to… And Jupiter of course has a lot to do with conferences. You know, it’s education, it’s travel. So we want to highlight Jupiter. So we end up picking the date that the Sun is trine Jupiter. So that’s why we picked the early part of September. We were looking at anywhere from August to October ideally. In fact, even May to October. And as you probably know, there’s no ideal astrological setup in the summer of 2020 because Mars is in Aries stationary square Saturn for so long. So within that, we picked the Sun trine Jupiter, and we picked the Moon in Gemini. I always like the Moon in Gemini going into Cancer because you start with the… People come because they want the ideas, they want to hear what the people are saying. But then it gets, you start networking, you start developing your connections with the Moon and Cancer. So we wanted that combination to flow.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. Have you ever had any notable like major disagreements with astrologers or like arguments, especially in dealing with other organizations about one group having one electional chart and another having a completely different idea about what would be a good election and that causing like issues in terms of finalizing the date of the conference?
RM: I think we’ve experienced that a little bit with UAC. I don’t ever remember that being an issue with ISAR. Once I or somebody else comes up with a date that looks really good, we discuss it, we fine tune it, pretty much stays in that area. I don’t think we had much difficulty with the last UAC either. We were all pretty concerned that we wanted to get that Jupiter trine Neptune. And so we only had a two or three period. Now of course it depends too on the location you choose, that’s the next important thing. Not just when, but where. Because you got to find a city that meets your needs and wishes of your membership or your community, and also find a hotel that can accommodate your size of an event where they’re not booked or have other groups coming in. We don’t like to go to hotels that have other groups, we want to own the hotel at that time. So we were kind of limited to Memorial Day anyway as opposed to the week before or the week after because they were booked. We found one hotel that would do it Memorial Day weekend which happened to fall in the time we wanted anyway. And that was a Marriott in Chicago. None of the other hotels could meet it. So that worked out good.
CB: Yeah. So it has to be usually like ideally, at least a major city often like for an ISAR conference, like a major American city that has like an airport where people fly in internationally from around the world.
RM: We need that. We need to have an international airport because we do attract so many people from different countries. And then we have to decide, do we want a city experience or do we want an out nature type of experience?
CB: Right. Yeah. That’s something I noticed that you guys, that ISAR has historically done a little bit differently than some of the other organizations, as you guys do sometimes have conferences that are sometimes out there and away from the city at more like resort-type areas, whereas some of the other conferences organizations will tend to have them like downtown in like a major city.
RM: Yeah, this is an important feature with ISAR. I don’t know about the other organizations, but they seem to always want to be in the city. We try to go back and forth because when we queried our membership and asked them, “Would you rather have a resort experience or a city experience?” It’s about 50/50.
RM: So we tried to balance it from one conference to the other. Last conference in 2016 was in Costa Mesa, Los Angeles. It was in a walking area the South Coast Plaza mall which is one of the largest malls in the country and very exclusive if you will, high end. So, that attracted a certain number of people onto that city experience. This time we’re going to Westminster which is halfway between Boulder and Denver. It’s a little bit more out in the country, and you get these spectacular views of The Rocky Mountains. It’s more of a resort area.
RM: It’s a fantastic location, but you’re not gonna be able to walk outside and have a city experience. You have to drive 11 minutes to get to one–
RM: 11 miles to get to Boulder.
CB: Right, yeah. And it’s like there’s pros and cons pretty much either way you go.
CB: I know some people in terms of attendees in considering what’s gonna draw people is there’s a lot of people who this is like a vacation for them, and this might be their one vacation a year. So coming out to a conference and being able to see some other things or do some other things while they’re out there or at least like relax, is a like a component for them in terms of determining whether they’ll attend or not.
RM: Yes. And that’s another consideration we have. When you talk about the veteran the Pluto and Leo and before generations, we’re kind of at the point where we don’t want to do a hostel experience, okay?
CB: Okay. Yeah. Right.
RM: We don’t wanna have five or six people in a room sharing a bed and a mat on the floor.
RM: We’ve done that. We did that, and we grew up. On the other hand, you want to keep it affordable enough where young people can afford to come. And maybe they can do some of that. Maybe they can get three or four people into a room.
CB: The big tension is just the cost of conferences can sometimes be prohibitive.
CB: And there’s a tension between that of having a nice location to have the conference and the price that comes along with that versus also being able to make it affordable enough for different people to attend.
RM: Yes, that’s a big consideration.
RM: So when you’re dealing with hotels now, hotels have just exploded their prices now at I would say eight years.
RM: Maybe since 2011 2012.
RM: We used to always be able to get a hotel for $99 a night up until probably 2014.
RM: And now it’s hard to get anything less than $150 a night, and that’s still about half price. Where we’re going to Westminister if you’re not part of our hotel if you’re not part of our group, you’re gonna pay probably $300 a night.
CB: Right cuz you get part of the deal with the conference is making an agreement with the hotel that you’ll sell out a certain number of rooms.
CB: And in exchange they’ll give you discounted rates on those rooms–
RM: That’s right.
CB: –for your conference attendees.
RM: That’s correct.
CB: Okay. And that’s part of what’s necessary to make this affordable for people to come to the conference in the first place cuz otherwise the rooms are so expensive.
RM: Yes. Well, one of the art parts of putting on a conference is negotiating a hotel contract.
RM: That is never easy. And it does involve a lot of give and take. And first, the hotels are gonna say, “No, you cannot do that. We’re not gonna give you that.” And then you get another hotel who’s gonna give you that.
RM: Okay, you see it’s kind of tricky in a way. But you have to play the hotels. And they know you’re doing this. You play them against each other as much as you can to get the best rate you can for your membership.
RM: Because of that very reason if you don’t make it affordable, a lot of people aren’t gonna come. If it’s too expensive if they have all these fees are gonna charge, all these taxes are gonna charge, it adds up. So you wanna make sure the food costs, the spa costs, you wanna get internet to be free, you wanna get as many things as you can taken care of so that the attendee doesn’t have an overly exorbitant expense to attend.
CB: Sure. Yeah, you’ve learned so much doing so many of these conferences. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this episode is just so you can pass some of that on to the next generation in terms of your built up experience of having done so many.
CB: I think you’ve said that this is gonna be your last major conference that you’re gonna be involved in organizing, right?
RM: Yeah, I’ve been doing conferences for it’ll be 50 years in 2021.
RM: This is my 49th year. I’ve done 27 of them major conference for astrologers. I feel good about the work I’ve done for the community in my lifetime–
RM: –and like some others of my generation like Richard Tarnas for instance even Robert Hand. I do wanna now spend a little bit more time working on what I’ve accumulated in terms of knowledge which is writing and carrying forth the legacy that I built with financial astrology–
RM: –and even evolutionary astrology, I wanna go back to that. So there’s things we wanna do. And when you put on a conference and you’re a coordinator like I am a director of it, you got to expect you’re gonna work 10 to 20 hours a week on that.
RM: It’s a lot of work. And if you start two years ahead of time, that’s a lot of hours that you could be spending doing something else.
RM: But I love this community.
CB: And this is like volunteer. This is volunteer work. This isn’t like paying.
RM: I think I figured out I was making 11 cents an hour–
RM: –for doing it. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, it’s pretty good if it’s like the 1920s or something like that.
RM: Right. But to have a successful conference, it does require a sacrifice. I’m willing to sacrifice to bring the community together. I just love doing it.
RM: And I love connecting people together, connecting the dots together. I love seeing astrology growing in my own lifetime. Astrologies had a renaissance. It’s still involved in a renaissance. It’s having like a second wind of a renaissance. And it’s so magical to get the right staff, the right people together who believe in astrology, believe in the cause of astrology in the future of astrology to sacrifice their time as a volunteer mostly to create something magical where people will come together and have a very peak type of an experience. Many people come to these conferences, and they swear this is the peak experience in their life. And that’s so fulfilling to see that you can be part of a group to co create that kind of experience for such a colorful, interesting, exciting, unique group of people as astrologers. Cuz keep in mind, we grew up in society and we weren’t really accepted. Our art, our science is not been accepted as a part of society like it used to be. And I think we’ve made a lot of great inroads toward that in the last 40 50 years.
CB: Yeah, and conferences create a place for astrologers to have a community and sort of be accepted. And also sometimes really important turning points in the community happen at conferences or as a result of them. Like for example–
CB: –I think Project Hindsight started in 1992 at the United Astrology Conferences as a result of a series of discussions that happened over dinner between a few astrologers–
CB: –like Rob Hand and Robert Schmidt and Robert Zoller.
CB: I’m trying to think of other major things that have happened like conferences–
RM: Well, I can tell you one was in 1995. We brought together the leaders of the different organizations to put together a survey of astrologers called Project Focus.
RM: And we created a questionnaire of 100 different areas like how much income do you make from astrology, how many hours a week do you work in astrology, how many books have you written, what would you like to see happen in astrology, what do astrologers need to do to advance the subject, the study of astrology, professionalism astrology. And out of that, three things came. Most of our colleagues and students of astrology wanted to see astrologers understand ethics in practice. They wanted him to have counseling skills, and they wanted to be competent. And he sort of took that. He sort of took that and built their certification model which was launched, and it took us five years to do it. We launched it in 2000. I think it’s become a standard of excellence for practicing or educating yourself to become a good astrologer. So that came out of having a conference. We never thought of having a survey had we not gotten together and had that discussion at a conference.
CB: Okay, that’s brilliant. So the ISAR ethics certification guidelines and everything else and skills training, a lot of that came out of a survey that happened at a conference in the mid ’90s. I didn’t know that. That’s really interesting.
RM: Yeah, It started in ISAR 94.
RM: We had the idea that we go to UAC, we’re gonna meet with the heads of the other organizations and tell them what we would like to do in terms of survey to see where astrology is and where we think it’s going.
RM: And they signed on for it. NCGR was there, AFAN was there, and ISAR was there. And after it was done ISAR reviewed and says, “Okay, this is our mandate. This is what our community is saying they want. Let’s do it.”
CB: Okay. That’s brilliant. Yeah. And so there’s tons of things like that that are major community defining events, but then there’s also just for individuals oftentimes life defining events that happen at conferences in terms of like learning something new and heading off in a new direction–
CB: –from an educational standpoint or let’s say meeting somebody and making an important connection with somebody that changes your career, your personal life in some significant way.
RM: That goes on. One of the keys to being a successful astrologer is learning how to brand yourself.
RM: Find your niche, become a specialist, market yourself as a specialist in that area. A lot of people coming into astrology go to a conference and they meet somebody. They meet a teacher, a well-known astrologer.
RM: And something clicks. Like, “Yeah, that’s the kind of astrology I wanna do. And this as the kind of a mentor that I want.” And that kind of relationship develops that individual to find their niche, their role, their brand in astrology to begin to market themselves.
RM: They need developing marketing tools of course, but at least you can’t develop an effective marketing or branding program if you don’t have a passion for what it is you wanna do.
RM: And so that happens in a lot of conferences. You find out, “This is my passion. I wanna be a financial astrologer. I wanna a specialist in relationships. I wanna be a medical astrologer. I wanna be a traditional astrologer.” There’s so many fields, there’s so many areas you can specialize in that can make you unique. And then the other thing about that too Chris is that once you’ve got yourself branded once you’ve got your reputation developed in that area, other astrologers will refer people to you–
RM: –that you’re getting really good at that. That’s part of the ethics program. If you’re not an expert in this, don’t pretend you are. Refer to somebody who is an expert, and don’t pass yourself off as a medical astrologer when you’re not.
CB: Right. Yeah, and at conferences it’s nice meeting other people that you can refer clients to if they need a referral.
CB: Like if you know a good medical astrologer you met at a conference where you got–
CB: –familiar with their work and saw that they were competent, trustworthy–
CB: –sort of person.
RM: Yeah, that’s what happens.
CB: So we touched on this really quick. But just to return to it, so most of conferences involve a lot of volunteer work. And there’s tons there’s dozens maybe sometimes even a hundreds of volunteers that are working these conferences often in largely unpaid positions. And that’s kind of necessary especially for a lot of these big conferences to take place, right?
RM: Yes, and the two biggest areas where you need volunteer work is in registration–
RM: –and monitoring the classes.
RM: Greeting the peoples that come in the classrooms doing the evaluations, make sure the evaluation forms get passed out. And so we work with this. It’s volunteer, but we have soft dollars if you will. We give them classes and/or recordings in return for their volunteer work.
RM: So we don’t pay them. Actually we do pay them some money now. It’s not much. It might be $50 to $100–
RM: –to do it. But we also give them interest in classes, we give them recordings. And yeah, if it wasn’t for that if we had to pay them $15 an hour straight up–
CB: Mhm. Just the–
RM: –it would not be financially feasible.
CB: Just financially the numbers wouldn’t work cuz the conference would lose so much money that it just wouldn’t be able to happen.
RM: And that kind of happened with one of our conferences, too. We had too many volunteers.
RM: And the problem is when you have too many volunteers, they take up the rooms–
RM: –in the hotel.
RM: And if you can’t sell those rooms to paying attendees, you’re missing income.
RM: Every attendee who comes is probably gonna bring in $5 $600–
RM: –through the classes, through the bookstore, the trade show, through various things. Well, if you’ve got a volunteer in there and you’re covering their room or half their room expense, you’ve lost a lot of the income. And that can make them a success or failure.
CB: Right. So that’s a really important point. It’s interesting and something that took me a while to get used to and didn’t have this realization a whole number of years. But it’s like nobody’s really making money off of any of these things. That’s not really the point.
CB: The speakers are either they’re not getting paid cuz the speakers just they’re getting free access to the conference now.
CB: And they might get like a night paid at a hotel. Maybe there’s some conference and–
RM: You’ll get half room nights for two, four, five, or six nights depending how many presentations you’re making.
CB: Yeah. But that usually it’s like a very small dent in whatever the hotel room costs, and they still have to pay their own plane ticket and food and everything else while they’re out there in addition to taking the time to prepare their lectures ahead of time and then give the lecture in whatever time they have to take out of their schedule to present and everything. So there’s no speakers necessarily that are necessarily making a ton off of the conferences, but instead they’re going to teach and share knowledge. And maybe as a result of that, they might get some students or clients or something like that.
RM: Well, see, that’s the important thing to keep in mind that when you present at a conference–
RM: –when you’re a speaker at a conference, true, you’re not gonna get your expenses covered. You’re gonna be out of pocket or something.
RM: But if you take the long term approach the long term view, like in your case, you have subscribers. You have numbers to your club.
RM: I have subscribers. So if people are there who aren’t familiar with me or they’re not a subscriber or a member of my club or whatever–If I can do a credible excellent presentation, I will get subscribers. And once you get a subscriber if you continue to do good work, there’ll be subscribers maybe for the rest of your life.
RM: So it’s in that you think of it as a long-term investment. If I can get 10 or 15 new subscribers to my market letters–If I can get people to join ISAR cuz I believe in ISAR, it’s an investment for the long term that pays off.
RM: If I don’t make it in that event–I don’t make a killing at that event, I do well. I build my future income through developing these contacts.
CB: Sure. So it’s about like exposure, networking with other astrologers, presenting your research and establishing authority in the field at some point.
RM: I think you need to have a product or a service that is passive income. Yes, you can build up an astrology practice as a consultant.
RM: But did you know that can wear on you?
RM: That can take a lot of energy out of you. And you can’t do that all of your life.
CB: Yeah, that can’t be your only source of income as just seeing clients. It can’t be. Okay. Sure.
RM: It is for many people like psychologists, too. It is for many people, but I don’t think that’s gonna really help. It’s not gonna help your career, and it’s not gonna build your financial base of success to be strictly a consulting astrologer unless you’re going to do 20 consultations a week or more.
RM: Maybe 15. I don’t know. That all depends, but you got to do 15 or 20 a week. And that can be wearing. So it’s good I think for astrologers to brand themselves, to have them a letter, a subscription or something or a club if you will or an organization that people can join that you know is passive income for you–
RM: –and also provides a service in a field that you have passion for.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that makes sense. And I guess what I was saying earlier and I should clarify is just I don’t know any of my contemporaries who don’t have some form of passive income that they mix as part of their income as an astrologer a professional astrologer in addition to doing consultations. Like people teach classes or have audio lectures or other things that they have for sale to some extent.
RM: Mhm. Yeah. Well, that’s one way you can build up a passive income is record everything you do–
RM: –and make it available–
RM: –for a fee. Smart, professional, business-oriented astrologers, they do that.
RM: They don’t rely just on consultation. They do teach. They do lecture, and they do make recordings available for a price.
CB: Right. That makes sense. So I’m trying to think of are there any major themes that we haven’t talked about or that we should touch on when it comes to organizing an astrology conference in general?
RM: Yeah. Probably the most important thing is selecting your team.
RM: If you’re gonna be a director, you have to select the team you wanna work with. You’re thrown in a situation to work with people you don’t know or you don’t necessarily see eye to eye with or have the same temperament.
RM: It can be difficult.
RM: It can be stressful. And instead of looking forward to the conference, you’re looking forward to when the conference ends–[laughs]
RM: –in order to get that done with.
RM: And that happens. Unfortunately, that is happening at times with UAC cuz you got to work with the other organizations, and you’re not always on the same page. You don’t have the same goals in mind for how this should be presented. But if you are a director and you want this conference to succeed, give that director the option of choosing his or her core team. Okay? And the people you need are you need an assistant director you can talk ideas with every day or at least a couple of times a week.
RM: You need an assistant director to give tasks to cuz as a director you’re seeing the whole picture. You know who’s got to do what and how it ties in together, but you can’t have the time to connect with everybody.
RM: You don’t have the time to connect with everybody individually, so you need an assistant director to do that.
RM: You need to have a very good registrar. That’s somebody that’s got to be really dedicating his time and can handle the pre-registration and the on-site registration, and that person’s got to have a team.
CB: So they deal primarily with just the attendees who have signed up and sort of taking in to some extent their money and dealing with the financial side of things. And then once people get on site, giving them like badges and making sure that people who pay get their packets and everything else.
RM: You don’t wanna have a traffic jam at registration desk when registration opens.
RM: That can be a problem. You could get–
CB: So that’s probably one of the most–
CB: –most crucial sort of jobs then as registrar.
RM: Registrar on site and pre.
RM: And a lot of people, they can’t make a decision right away. They wanna know more about it, so the registrar has to be familiar with the program and be able to answer the questions. And they must be customer friendly. And it’s very important that you value customer service and you’re friendly to the customer.
RM: If you’re short with them, you lose them. So one of the things I always try to establish with my team is go out of your way, bend over backwards, do everything you can to answer any inquiries that come in in a very friendly way, in a very helpful way. People like that. They don’t like it when you treat them coldly and “Why don’t you just read our website instead of asking me that?”
RM: Don’t do that. [laughs]
RM: Reach out and help them, “How can I help you?”
RM: –and want to be customer friendly.
CB: Yeah, so that’s one of the most important jobs and probably one of the most challenging jobs just cuz there’s so much involved so much work involved in that both in the build up–
CB: –to the conference and during the conference itself.
RM: And then you’ve got the website now.
RM: You had to have a brochure and go through postal mailing.
RM: I don’t think we’re gonna do that this time. We’re so technologically oriented now that we need to have a very very good webmaster who can create a smooth, easy to operate, easy to navigate website and shopping cart. That’s extremely important.
RM: And after that you have your food and beverage people. That’s important. The tradeshow coordinator is very important. The monitor, the guy or the girl, the woman who’s going to define who are going to be monitors and what their job is and make sure they’re there to do the job. Those are all very important functions.
CB: Okay, it’s the room monitor coordinator?
CB: Okay. And then there’s the room monitors themselves–
CB: –who are the people that help the speaker get set up–
CB: –when the speaker shows up, make sure their recording equipment is going okay and–
CB: –make sure everybody has like a badge that they paid for the conference before they come into the room–
CB: –and then they do a head count and help sometimes hand out like handouts or like–
CB: –review sheets. Like sometimes they’ll do a review of the speaker evaluations?
RM: That goes on, too. Yes.
CB: Okay. Yes, there’s a ton of different positions.
RM: And we have production. I didn’t even mention production entertainment.
CB: All right.
RM: People, although they come to hear the classes and they come to meet one another, they wanna be entertained, too. And I have a policy that I don’t have lecturers in the evening as a rule.
RM: Every so often I’ll make an exception like before the conference. But usually once a conference begins, every evening is entertainment and something that ties into the theme of astrology–
RM: –whether it’s musical, dancing, whether it’s a Michael Lutin play up, something like that. We try to have entertainment going on every evening where there’s no headwork. It’s just downtime and socializing.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. And trying to balance those two because the days are obviously filled with usually four lectures back to back–
CB: –which is very heady, intense–
RM: That’s correct.
CB: –educational like learning environment and wanting to balance that out in the evenings. I guess it’s what you’re saying?
RM: Absolutely. I think it’s very important. You got to get the balance between fun and serious study.
RM: If you get the balance, people like it. If it’s all intellectuals, all mental, they get burnt out. And they usually don’t leave with as high a sense of fulfillment from that experience.
RM: So you want them to have fun as well as knowledge.
CB: Sure, that’s a really good point in terms of understanding part of your underlying goal and like what you’re shooting for in each instance in terms of every one’s or the general feeling that all of the attendees walk away with.
RM: We want them to walk away with a feeling of fulfillment, enjoyment, and awesome–
RM: –feelings. [laughs]
CB: What are some of the best conferences? Are there any that stand out that you thought you really hit it out of the park like over the years?
RM: Every one I think I do. [laughs]
CB: Okay. Yeah, so every one.
RM: Every one I think is better than the last one. [laughs]
CB: Okay. Nice. That’s–
RM: I think UAC was the best UAC I’ve been to. I think the ISAR of 2016 was the best ISAR we had. Every one I do i think is better because people are more and more familiar with what we’re trying to achieve. And we work better together with each conference we do. So, yes, I think every one’s better.
CB: And you probably learn something new each time, so you’re always incorporating that and implementing new things with each iteration.
RM: So, when you look at ISAR’s conferences’ time, you’ll see. There are new things that we’re offering that we haven’t offered before. And you’ll see that with every ISAR conference, you’ll see that with every UAC conference at least if I’m involved with it.
RM: You’ll see something new added every time, and it comes from feedback from people or it just comes through inspiration. You can be sitting there and thinking, “Why didn’t we think of this? Why don’t we do it?” And you present it to other people. If they’re on board with it, they’ll embellish it and they’ll add on to it. And before long, you have a new purpose, a new project to launch every conference. And that’s always exciting to see how it’s responded to.
CB: Yeah, and I just thought of something that’s a really crucial part of organizing that you’re in the middle of doing right now which is putting the schedule together–
CB: –of which lecture goes when.
CB: And that’s like an art in and of itself, right?
RM: Yeah, I’ve always turned that over to other people. This time I’m doing it myself.
RM: Because, well, I can do it better. [laughs]
CB: Sure. Yeah.
RM: I shouldn’t say that, but I think there are certain things I’ve seen and I’ve listened to the complaints. For instance, speakers who have two slots to speak. They don’t wanna speak on the same day. They don’t wanna speak on two days in a row. So you wanna give–
CB: Or like back to back or something.
RM: Yeah, you wanna give them a date break. If you have a speaker on Thursday, you wanna give them a Saturday slot. A speaker on Friday, give them a Sunday slot. Don’t put them back to back.
RM: You try to balance it in terms of male and female presenters. I’m trying to balance it in terms of Pluto after Leo and Pluto before Leo or Pluto Leo and before and Pluto Virgo and later.
RM: I’m trying to get a balance all the way through. I’m trying to get a balance with subjects.
RM: I’m trying to get a balance with attraction. I don’t wanna put all the top speakers in the same slot in the same session.
RM: I want two or three of the big draws on every session, not six in one and none in another.
RM: And these are things I’ve noticed in other conferences. They just like throw the dart against the board and put this person in this slot. [laughs]
CB: From an attendee’s standpoint, that’s one of the things that’s the hardest is there’ll be a slot like a 90-minute slot or 75-minute slot where there’s, let’s say, five or maybe 10 lectures going at the same time. And if you wanna see like all of them, then you’re kind of in trouble cuz then you have to choose between like five different lectures that you all wanna see.
CB: So sometimes that can be tough if it’s all the best speakers like all speaking at the same time. But then on the other hand, from a speaker’s standpoint, you’ve got the older and more established astrologers. There’s sometimes the bigger draws, and then you have newer speakers who are not as big of a draw. And so then there’s a tension there between the bigger draws drawing all the people and the newer speakers maybe not getting as many attendees if they’re up against like a Rob Hand or something like that.
RM: You can’t avoid that totally.
RM: Like you said, it’s a Rob Hand, a Steven Forrest, Michael Lutin, Chris Brennan.
RM: You get these top people are gonna draw. They’re gonna draw disproportionate to somebody who’s not well-known.
RM: There’s nothing we can really do about that. All we can do is encourage each speaker to spend some time and create a description of what they’re gonna present in the most attractive, exciting, fascinating way possible. Because a lot of people do go to the topic more than the speaker.
RM: I would say majority go to the speaker’s his or her reputation.
RM: But I would say probably a third or so will go to somebody who has an interesting topic. So take the time to develop a topic. Word it right. Or come to us, talk to our content development person. We have a content development person on our planning committee now. And she, Elisabeth Grace, will help you make something very attractive to the audience. So, yeah, that’s always gonna be an issue trying to get a balance there so that we don’t have some people getting a small workshop, others getting a very large workshop. So you try to balance it with topics. So you have 10 different topics instead of five on the same topic and five on different topics. You try to balance that all so you get variety. Yeah, these are some of the things that we should put into practice when we start slotting speakers. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. It seems like there’s a certain art to writing a good title and description that–
CB: –sometimes takes people a while to learn, but it can make all the difference in terms of both from an attendees standpoint, looking through and understanding what people are talking about. When you’re a speaker, that’s one of the challenging things is you only have short space for a title and maybe 75 words to describe your talk–
CB: –and making it not just accurate but also compelling that somebody who would want to attend that talk is one of the challenges from a speaker’s standpoint.
RM: Yeah, we’ve increased. I think at one point we had it down to 50 words. Now it’s 75.
RM: In fact, I think even the workshops are getting 100.
RM: They can have 100 words because people are gonna make their decision based on information.
RM: So not only do you need to be creative in how you present it, but you got to give enough information so they get an idea of what they’re gonna learn here.
CB: Yeah. And one of the funniest things that’s sometimes funny or annoying from an attendee’s and a speaker’s standpoint is from a speaker’s standpoint for something like a UAC or a big conference where it’s planned out very far ahead, you have to submit your lecture title and description very far in advance, like two years or a year in advance.
RM: I know.
RM: And things can change.
CB: Yeah. Or just yeah. What you think you might wanna talk about and having to come up with something that’s compelling versus two years later once you get there and you wanna give a presentation on something that’s current in terms of your current research versus from an attendee’s standpoint sometimes it being super annoying if the lecture title or description says it’s on one thing and then the speaker ends up giving a talk that’s not exactly on that is something that happens occasionally.
RM: That happens a lot even for myself because I’m speaking on financial and economic things. And what I think is popular today may not be of interest, something new may come up two years later.
RM: So as a coordinator, I try to take that into account. And my wish would be to allow the speakers to change their topics right up until the point we have to go to the program book.
RM: The problem with that is it’s a lot of work–
RM: –when you change something. So, I think we do it on a case by case basis. Somebody comes up with some saying, “Hey, what I was presenting isn’t gonna be as attractive as what I could present. If you let me change it–“And so I will take that into account as a conference director. No, I don’t wanna encourage all 120 of you out there who are seeking to change your topic.
RM: But if you have something that you’ve found is more compelling than what you’ve already told us you wanna present, I’ll listen and so will my staff.
CB: Okay. That makes sense. Yeah, so speaker, descriptions, topics. Obviously presentations done putting together, good presentations is an art and a whole thing in and of itself–
CB: –where astrologers grow and develop hopefully and keep working to improve–
CB: –and get feedback from the audience Incorporated over the course of their careers.
RM: Yes. One thing that beginning speakers who are first time speakers should try to put into their planning–And I’m a person who violates this a lot, and I gotta be careful. But what I’m gonna suggest is try to end your speech on time or a little before.
RM: When you go over time, people are gonna get up and walk out–
RM: –because they wanna get to the next lecture.
RM: And you may take that personally, and people are always happy to have a good presentation in a shorter amount of time than a longer presentation. There’s no better.
CB: Time is valuable or where you’re rushing to like put in the last few words or your final culminating point at the very end.
CB: And then it doesn’t come out very well.
RM: Try to leave a little bit of room for questions and answers.
RM: The audience likes to get involved.
RM: And they’ll have questions, so always leave five or 10 minutes at the end.
CB: Well, that’s a funny thing in and of itself is audience interaction and sometimes issues that come up with conference is in terms of if there’s ever any challenging things that come up between like an audience and a speaker. Like sometimes there can be audience members who can be maybe too aggressive about asking questions–
RM: Yes. Yes.
CB: –or instead of asking a question like making a point or a statement instead of a question or something like that.
RM: Uh-huh. They’re auditioning for their own presentation–
RM: –through your class.
RM: Yeah, you have to be careful that–You as a speaker must know when to cut them off. It’s an art itself.
RM: I hear what you’re saying. Let me paraphrase it and I’ll answer, and I have to go on the next one.
RM: You have to stop it.
CB: Right. Yeah. So that’s just something you have to learn, and then I’m sure occasionally you run into issues in terms of having to deal with if there’s been a problem in terms of attendees or other things like that. But that’s not necessarily something we have to get into.
RM: Well, I think in my 27 conferences I’ve coordinated I can only remember one maybe two instances. I will say that astrologers, they’re wild.
RM: There’s a lot of wildness in our community.
RM: Especially the Pluto and Leo generation are wild.
CB: True. So I’ve heard.
RM: But for the most part, they don’t violate the code of conduct.
RM: If the hotel comes up and says, “Hey, you’re noisy. Shut it down.” they do.
CB: That is definitely one of the biggest things is like partys late into the night that are too loud getting shut down by like hotel staff or something like that.
RM: That happened at the ISAR party in Chicago. [laughs]
RM: Because we had too many people in the room and fire code thing they said.
RM: So, yes, most astrologers are respectful of the hotel and the property they’re on. I haven’t seen too much damage. Maybe once or twice.
RM: So astrologers, they’re wild. But they’re well behaved in the end. They don’t cause problems. I haven’t had any problems really to speak of.
CB: Okay. Yeah, yeah. This isn’t like organizing like a rock concert or something like that and dealing with the same–
RM: In a way it is. But the attendees are they are more disciplined and well-behaved.
CB: Okay. True.
RM: Astrologers, they’re not the undisciplined renegades that society might want you to think they are. Astrologers are for the most part, and you know this too, astrologers are very well educated.
RM: If you look at the community of professional astrologers, I’m amazed how many of them got doctorates, master’s degrees, or at least bachelor’s degrees.
RM: You don’t see that in all the professions.
RM: So astrologers are a pretty well educated group, and they’ve been around. And even though they’re colorful and they’re very independent, a lot of them are mavericks cuz they’re very Uranian. When it comes to staying out of trouble and not violating the rules, the codes of the hotel, astrologers are pretty good.
CB: Okay. And the last thing I just remembered is occasionally one of the things that you have to take into account when you’re picking lecture slots, is you need to actually estimate and be able to anticipate how many people will probably attend that lecture.
CB: Cuz that has a bearing on what room you put people in and how many people that room can hold, right?
CB: Cuz the–
RM: So, for this conference we have 10 classes going on at once in 12 sessions, that’s 120 classes.
RM: So we have some rooms that will hold 200, some 175 150 all the way down to 70. So I kept 10 categories, the top 10 draws in my opinion and based on the attendance that they had at UAC, the attendance that they had at ISAR 2016, or the amount of people who voted for them to be speakers of this conference, I take all that into account.
RM: And I create 10 categories. And so the top ones in the top 10 go in the biggest rooms. The second 10 go in the second biggest rooms. The third 10 go in the third biggest. And that’s how I devise it.
RM: And that’s something that I don’t think other conferences do, but I’m doing that now.
CB: Yeah, that’s got to be the most tricky thing. And I know at UAC last year there were some problems with that where–
RM: Yeah. [laughs]
CB: –there were so many people that attended that the rooms were overflowing. And sometimes due to the fire code, they had to like cut it off at a certain point–
CB: –cuz too many people were trying to pack into one room. So some attendees didn’t get to attend certain lectures that they wanted to just cuz there were too many people there attending.
RM: Right. Oh, that brings me another point here. When we talk about some speakers won’t draw as well as others and so it’s disproportionate–
RM: –and they wanna see five or six people, one thing we’re doing at this ISAR conference never been done before, if you’re a full conference attendee, you’ll get recordings of every class–
RM: –as part of your conference registration.
CB: That’s brilliant.
RM: You don’t pay extra for it.
CB: Whose idea was that? Cuz I really love that idea.
RM: Alexander Imsiragic came up with that brilliant idea.
RM: So you’re gonna get recordings of everybody. You’re not gonna miss anybody.
CB: Okay, yeah, that’s a really good idea because that is definitely always an issue in terms of missing lectures or–
CB: –yeah, just certain ones not being able to make it, too. And then if you’ve already paid so much to sign up for a conference and then having to pay for all the recordings all over again–
CB: –it’s a whole other expense that many people can’t do right away. So it’s always too bad, so that’s a great idea.
RM: It’s a great value to add to the conference. We estimate that’s probably $1500 right there that you’re not gonna pay for recordings because this comes with your conference package if you sign up for the whole conference.
RM: Yeah, I think it’s a great idea. Alexander has been a brilliant, intuitive, inspirational leader. I think ISAR is really privileged, if you will. That might be the wrong word. Blessed might be better to have him in his creative ideas, leading us, leading the organization now.
CB: Cool. All right, so let’s talk finally just about some of the final things about just details surrounding the conference next year. So what are the dates again?
RM: September 9th through the 14th.
RM: There is a pre conference on Wednesday September 9th. There’s a post conference on Monday September 14th.
CB: So pre conferences and post conferences are like full-day workshops where you can sign up–
CB: Four-hour, yeah.
RM: Four-hour workshops. You can sign up, and you can have a very intense experience with one of the 12 workshop leaders.
CB: Okay. So there’s pre conference, post conferences, and then the main conference itself lasts for how many days? Like four or five days?
RM: That will start on Thursday September 10th, I believe it is if I’m correct. I think it is. Thursday at 1:00 p.m. the conference starts. That’s our electional chart 1.00 p.m.
CB: So it’s not just you picked out an electional chart for like the day or the week, but you have the specific chart for the exact time–
CB: –that the conference opens.
RM: Yeah, it’s 1:00 p.m. on that Thursday.
RM: Uh-huh. And so we’re gonna open the conference. There’s two packages. You can pay for the full conference which starts then and it ends Sunday afternoon with a closing ceremony. We have an opening ceremony and a closing ceremony. And then between you have access to the presidential panel that will take place on Thursday evening. Friday evening you can join the reception for the school heads. We’re having all the leaders of the astrological schools in the world that we can invite. And we’re gonna present them as a reception and show what they do with their schools all over the world. And then Saturday we have our awards banquet. And we have a banquet with awards, and we have entertainment and dance after that. And then the closing ceremony on Sunday. So your basic conference package covers all of that. You get a full conference if you want to take advantage of the pre and post conference. And also on Wednesday evening–We have to talk about this.
RM: The Wednesday evening that you’re gonna do a special event where you’re gonna have a podcast.
RM: So if you can sign up for the full package, It includes all of these things, the start with the pre conference on Wednesday afternoon, the podcast the live podcast that you’re gonna conduct Wednesday evening, we have a research workshop going on Thursday morning from nine to noon how to do research the fun way, and then the conference opens at 1:00 and goes all the way till Sunday evening Sunday afternoon, and then the post conference workshop on Monday. So you can sign up for the super package as well as the main package.
CB: Okay. Yeah, and I’m excited to do that. I’ve done two live podcast events with my co hosts Kelly Surtees and Austin Copic before, and we’re gonna be doing another one. This will be our third one which is gonna be happening at the ISAR conference that Wednesday which is the same day as some of the pre conference events that’s gonna happen in the evening.
RM: Yes. Yeah.
RM: Wednesday evening.
CB: Okay, cool.
CB: So we’ll probably do a live Q&A which is what we did at NORWAC just in May a couple of months ago, and we did the first one at the United Astrology Conference last year. And it was a lot of fun.
RM: It’s gonna be very cool.
CB: Yeah. Cool. All right. I’m trying to think of any other things that are worth mentioning about the conference or that are notable.
RM: Well, we could say we’ll have special packages for local astrology groups or astrological schools.
RM: And that’s basically if you have five people from your group or your school who are going to attend the conference. You’ll get a 20% discount. So–
CB: Oh yeah, that’s great. We did that with the Denver astrology group last time you guys did an ISAR conference.
CB: And you did that package deal. We got a group of I think five or 10 astrologers from our local astrology group to all sign up at the same time, and then they got the discount.
RM: Right. Yeah. And that’s a considerable savings. If the conference is $400, that’s a savings of $80 a person.
RM: So that helps.
CB: Okay. Yeah. And I’m sure there’ll be other ways to sort of help cut costs and like save things in terms of like maybe connecting with roommates–
CB: –or other things like that.
RM: No, that’s a big way to save it, too. If you can share a room with somebody–
RM: –get a double room. Your hotel cost is cut in half by doing that.
CB: Yeah, that’s got to be the biggest way to save some money and just make it easier to come to a conference.
CB: And I know especially for younger astrologers when I was the president of the Association for Young Astrologers 10 years ago we would rent out like a big room and have multiple people–
CB: –stay in it.
RM: I remember that. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, I’m past that now in terms of needing to get a little bit more sleep than I got that week.
RM: But there’s still that group.
RM: There are people coming into astrology who will want something like that. And the hotel has agreed to allow four people to a room.
RM: So that will help, too. If you can get four in a room, that’s one fourth the cost.
CB: Yeah, I think we did a little more than four last time. And I will not–
RM: Yeah. You didn’t tell me, did you?
CB: No, I did not.
CB: You were not aware of and have no–
RM: I’m glad I wasn’t. They might have told me that you’ve done that.
CB: Just for legal purposes you had no awareness of that arrangement–
CB: –whatsoever. So we’ll see what they do at this conference.
CB: Yeah. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today. I’m trying to think. You’re actually about to fly off to Europe because you’re getting ready to get married, aren’t you?
RM: Yes, I am.
RM: Thank you. This is part of my tour to my marriage. I’m leaving from Phoenix to Telluride last weekend to Denver now to Detroit where I’m from next weekend and then finally to Europe to start the wedding ceremony.
CB: Brilliant. Where in Europe is it happening?
RM: On the Rhine River.
RM: The Rhine River is from Rudesheim to St. Goar which is where the Lorelei rock is, the most beautiful part of the Rhine River. It’s the UNESCO designated natural scenic or beautiful part of the world. I’ve rented a cruise ship, and we’re getting married on the cruise ship and taking the cruise up and down the Rhine.
CB: Wow, and you’re actually getting married to another astrologer.
RM: Antonia Langsdorf–
RM: –who’s one of Europe’s top astrologers and one of your greatest fans. She loves your podcasts. [laughs]
CB: Yeah, well, I really love her YouTube channel. She actually has a great YouTube channel where she does some really cool videos in terms of regular forecasts and things like that.
RM: Every month she has a YouTube program for–
RM: –for every sign really. And not just signs, she goes into specific dates and aspects that are happening in the heavens by the degree that would correlate with your Sun degree. So she has a pretty big following now.
RM: She’s doing well.
CB: She’s one of the most famous like astrologers in Germany.
RM: Yes, she is.
RM: She was the best-selling astrology author there for a couple years.
RM: And she will be again. [laughs]
CB: Awesome. Well, you’re very lucky. Congratulations.
RM: Thank you.
CB: You guys have been together for like 10 years or something, right?
RM: Yeah. It’s a nodal return–
RM: –for our meeting.
RM: But we’ve actually been a couple of sort of speak. Engaged, I would say, probably since 2010 something like that.
CB: Okay.Were you waiting for like a really good electional chart? Like I always think about that in terms of astrologers picking out marriage dates and sometimes the decision to be more impulsive versus the decision like wait until the time is right.
RM: Well, it’s both. She has a daughter. And she was in Germany, and so the daughter was going to school. The daughter finally graduated. So we didn’t wanna get married until the daughter graduated because I wanted her, and she wanted to spend more time with her daughter.
RM: So that’s now taken care of. Her daughter, by the way, has now been hired by elite modeling agency out of Paris. So she’s got a bright future ahead of her, too. She’s beautiful.
RM: Beautiful person. So, yeah, we waited for that. And then we tried to pick a good date after that. And that was just last year.
CB: Were you–
RM: So the date we picked was August 9th.
CB: Oh yeah, that’s so funny cuz the August 9th that actually independently was the best electional chart that Lisa and I picked out for next month–
CB: –just completely independently. And you actually picked that as your wedding date just on your own.
CB: The two of you didn’t?
CB: So, I thought it was really funny when you told me that day.
RM: Yeah, she supported me on picking that date.
CB: So, yeah, it was a thing you went into together? There wasn’t like a disagreement about the date or anything?
RM: No. Well, a little bit. Okay, she wanted August 10th Saturday because many people come from Germany–
RM: –and they don’t wanna take off work on Friday.
RM: So we’re going for August 10th which is still pretty good. You still got the Moon and Sagittarius making the last aspect trine to Mars.
RM: We always wanted to make sure the last aspect is a favorable one. But I wanted August 9th because that of course was when Sun and Venus were conjunct trine Jupiter.
RM: They are going stationary.
RM: And it’s starting to separate a little bit on the 10th. And I also want to be married on a Venus day Friday, a Venus day–
RM: –not Saturn’s day. [laughs]
RM: So we had a little disagreement with that, but it turned out that August 10th was the flame on the Rhine. It’s like fireworks, throughout fourth of July fireworks. So you couldn’t run a cruise ship because they’re all being used for the firework display on the Rhine–
RM: –at that time. But the day before we could, so that settled it. And she was fine with that because we couldn’t do it on the 10th.
CB: Got it. Well, yeah, there’s always with election astrology like we’ve talked about a lot in this episode that tension between practical concerns versus astrological concerns and finding the middle ground between those two.
RM: That’s right.
RM: And you got to try to find that middle ground, that’s exactly what we do.
CB: All right. Brilliant. Well, thanks a lot for joining me for this today. This is actually your second appearance on the podcast. You and I did an amazing episode on the financial astrology way back–
RM: Yes, we did.
CB: –I think maybe two or three years ago. So people can look through the episodes list at theastrologypodcast.com/episodes, and you’ll find one that’s titled Financial Astrology with Ray Merriman if you wanna go back and listen to that. Otherwise, where can people find out more information about your work?
RM: Go to our website mmacycles.com. MMA is Merriman Market Analyst, so mmacycles.com will get you there.
CB: Okay. And for the ISAR conference, what’s the ISAR website?
RM: It’s going to be isar2020.org.
CB: That’s the conference website?
RM: But right now you can just go to isarastrology.com.
RM: That’s ISAR’s website. And there’s some announcements there, but we won’t start registration until the new moon in Libra September 28th. The new moon in Libra is when registration begins and Venus sextiles Jupiter then, so we chose that Venus sextile Jupiter.
RM: Registration begins then. You can find out about it going through isarastrology.com or that time we should have the website up isar2020.org.
CB: And once registration opens, that’s another thing in terms of things that attendees should know is there’s different time ranges where initially like the lowest price for a conference is always–
CB: –right after it’s been announced and registration’s been opened. But then prices every few months will gradually go up at certain dates, right?
RM: Yes, it’s sign up early and save big bucks.
RM: That’s the theme. [laughs]
CB: That’s the theme.
RM: The earlier you sign up, the more you’ll–Say, for instance, if you sign up September 28th through January, the full conference or the main conference package is like $360.
RM: If you wait till the last month before the conference can be over, $500.
CB: Okay, so it’s like literally saving potentially hundreds of dollars–
CB: –the earlier you sign up? So–
RM: Yeah, it goes up in increments about $35 approximately every three months.
CB: Okay, so that’s another way to save money on conferences. And why do conferences do that by the way? Is it–
RM: Well, we do it because we get an idea of how many people are actually gonna show up.
RM: And it helps us plan our finances.
CB: Got it.
RM: I’ve been tracking each of these conferences for, well, at least the last 14 years. And I know that the first cutoff date, you get 11%. A profit 11% of your total attendance is gonna be at the first cutoff date.
RM: It’s gonna jump to 25% at the second and on up, so this enables us to see how we’re progressing if we’re doing the average, if we’re above average, below average. So it helps us make our plans. You also have to work with the hotel. If you have a sense that you’re not gonna have enough people for banquets, there’s penalties for that.
RM: You’re not gonna have enough people spending the night. So it helps you plan with your hotel and what kind of rooms you’re gonna need for your entertainment events in the evening, too.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. So it’s really a crucial thing in terms of–
RM: Very much.
CB: –getting a sense early on for how many people are gonna show up and then adjusting accordingly?
CB: Got it.
RM: Yeah, if we think we’re gonna get 700 people, then we would expect 100 people to sign up in the first cutoff period.
CB: Okay, so that those initial signups you project that out because you’ve done it enough times that you know based on how many people sign up–
CB: –right when registration opens like this is probably gonna put us on target for this many people by the end.
RM: We have a range. It’s gonna be between 8 and 14% of the first cutoff date.
CB: Got it. Good. Well, I know this is gonna be the biggest conference definitely in North America, the biggest astrology conference next year in 2020. It might be the biggest conference in the world. The only iffiness surrounding that is I don’t know if there’s any bigger conferences in like India or something in terms of attendees.
CB: But it very well might be the biggest conference in the world next year which I’m happy about. It’s happening in my home state.
CB: So I don’t have to go too far. It’s just in my backyard. But I’m looking forward to have so many astrologers flying in from out of town from all over the world into Denver and, yeah, having a big astrology conference here next year.
RM: It’s a great location, the Westminster Westin Hotel. And I think Denver is a great location. We always look for three places to start off site inspection. I didn’t mention that either.
RM: But the site inspection part is important. You have to visit different places you think are gonna work. We visited Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Denver.
RM: And we settled on Denver.
RM: And we’re excited to be here. I think it’s a stunning location with the Rocky Mountains. And the time of the year of September I don’t think can beat that in Colorado. That’s probably one of your finest times.
CB: Yeah, weather wise.
CB: Yeah, it’s really beautiful. People can visit Denver and check out some nice places like the Mercury Cafe which is where we host The Denver Astrology Group, and it’s a local cafe that’s owed by a local astrologer.
RM: Astrologer, I remember them from UAC.
CB: Yeah, a lot of astrologers ate there when UAC happened here in Denver in 2008.
CB: And then I’m excited about doing a lot of interviews here with different astrologers when they are in town and hopefully having more people over the studio and stuff that week to just document the conference and talk about what’s going on, and I’m sure it’ll be a big event.
RM: It will be. And thanks to you, Chris, for all the support you’ve given to this conference. It’s been great.
RM: And I expect it to continue, and we’ll help you as much as we can get the better personnel you need to have the best podcast you can have.
CB: Yeah, I’m looking forward to that. It’s gonna be our biggest one yet. So cool. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today. Thanks for like sharing some of this wisdom and just experience in terms of organizing conferences, and thanks for everything you’ve done just in all the volunteer work you’ve done over the years to set these conferences up that have been so important for the community just as a matter of like a community service. I really wanted to recognize that, and that’s part of the reason why I wanted to have you on today. So thanks a lot for your contributions.
RM: Thanks for having me, Chris. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.
CB: All right. All right. And thanks everybody for listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast. You can find out more information about it at theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. And we’ll see you next time.