The Amazing Meeting Australia

The Amazing Meeting Australia (known to thousands on Twitter as #TAMoz) has been called a huge success by delegates and speakers alike.

Although official events did not kick off until the evening of the 25th of November, the week leading up to TAM was abuzz with delegates from all over the world arriving in Sydney and taking the opportunity to meet before the big event. There were many non-official or ‘TAM-Fringe’ events organised by individuals and promoted via the web site.

This week also saw the arrival, on various days, of our guest speakers, many of whom were greeted at Sydney Airport by members of the TAM organising committee. It was quite a sight when The Skeptics Guide to the Universe (SGU) podcast team landed, complete with families and friends including George Hrab! A large mini bus was on hand to transport the crowd into the heart of the city.

James Randi and Dick Smith chat with Dr Paul Willis

James Randi arrived a few days later and joined SGU for a walk through Sydney’s Botanic Gardens where one and all marvelled at the fruit bats and the glorious views. This walk ended with a private tour of the Opera House where Jay Novella took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend Cortney while being serenaded by George Hrab. (We are pleased to report she said “yes”.)

The days leading up to TAM were full of special moments like these. Some Sydney-siders were doing double takes when they were passed in the street by Dr Steve Novella and James Randi (and twittered about it too!). For delegates, these pre-TAM days were also a memorable time.

On Thursday evening the first TAM event, Skeptics in the Pub, took place at the City Hotel. Organisers opened the doors almost an hour early due to the number of people lining up to get in! The event gave all who attended the chance (the first of many) to meet and chat with our speakers. James Randi addressed the crowd and then made the effort to spend one-on-one time with as many of the attendees as time would allow.

But all these events were a mere warm-up for what was to come.

Friday morning arrived at the Sydney Masonic Centre and so did the TAM organising committee and volunteers. There was much to do before the doors officially opened but one and all pitched in without hesitation. This enthusiasm really set the tone for the days to come.

Then, after two years of planning, at 1pm our MC Dr Paul Willis took to the stage and opened The Amazing Meeting Australia to the cheers and applause of the 600+ crowd. Richard Saunders and Dr Rachael Dunlop also addressed the crowd and acknowledged the attendance of Mark Plummer, who founded Australian Skeptics (along with Dick Smith, Phillip Adams and James Randi) in 1980.

Although Friday was ‘Day 1’, it was more or less an extra day tacked on to TAM Australia to give our delegates and speakers even more opportunity to participate. Highlights included a ‘Paranormal in Australia’ panel and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki whose frantic pace left the audience breathless but wanting more. George Hrab wound up the day with skeptical songs.

That night, SGU hosted a dinner for fans while in another room Simon Taylor performed his mentalist magic show. TAM organisers new things were going well when told by one delegate that this day alone was worth the price of admission!

Day 2 and the official welcome by Australian Skeptics President Eran Segev kicked off a full day of talks and events. The stage was graced by many of the leading figures in world skepticism including Dr Simon Singh, Brian Dunning, Dr Fred Watson, Loretta Marion, SGU and Dr Krissy Wilson. But for some the showstopper was James Randi and Dick Smith in conversation with Dr Paul Willis. Delegates and guests alike were treated to stories and insights from two of the people responsible for the skeptical movement in Australia. The day also saw the announcing of the Australian Skeptics’ awards.

Evening saw large groups of skeptics heading through the city to meet at Darling Harbour to board the night cruise around Sydney Harbour. James Randi, as ever, delighted guests with impromptu magic while the cityscape, Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House drifted by.

Day 3 and the last day of TAM Australia came all too soon. Despite many delegates recovering from a very late night, the hall was packed to see talks by Dr Pamela Gay, Dr Eugenie Scott, Richard Saunders with George Hrab, John Smyrk and the Skeptic Zone Podcast. The last item on the program was a fascinating talk on optics and optical illusions by Dr Rob Morrison of TV’s The Curiosity Show.

The final goodbye was left to James Randi, who bid one and all farewell and received a heartfelt standing ovation.

As delegates filed out of the centre, TAM organisers and speakers were delighted to receive the handshakes and thanks from hundreds of skeptics. That night, the bars and restaurants in down-town Sydney were full of people still buzzing about the events of the last three days.

For the first TAM in Australia, TAMOz was an overwhelming success, much more it seems than anyone ever anticipated. Testament to this success, the #TAMoz tweet stream continues to tick over with blogs, photos and those commenting about how they wish they were still at TAMoz. If you were lucky enough to be there, then you will know exactly what that means.

TAM organisers:

Eran Segev, Dr Rachael Dunlop, Joanne Benhamu. Tim Mendham and Richard Saunders

Photos Ruth Ellison