Some while ago, I agreed to chair a panel sponsored by one of my professional societies at a big annual conference. I didn't pick the panel's topic and had no real investment in it--but since I knew I'd be attending the conference anyway, I was happy to volunteer.
I wasn't expecting to need to do very much. Since the society sponsors multiple panels, someone else wrote the general CFP; someone else collected and sorted through all the abstracts; and it was the chairs' job, basically, just to approve or veto those that seemed suited for their particular panels.
In the event, however, we were short on viable abstracts--especially for my panel.
After 24 hours of trading emails with other people in the organization, sighing loudly, and feeling vaguely put-upon--it wasn't my panel!--it occurred to me that I knew some really smart people working in more or less relevant areas who might have something suitable. So I wrote a handful of emails, and in less than a week I'd assembled an awesome panel populated with smart, lively people, almost all of them personal and professional friends I've met in the three years since getting my degree.
I'm now genuinely excited about this panel, but I'm even more excited by the sense that, hey! I know people.
How'd that happen?