Conference Planning Checklist: A Director’s Responsibilities (Short Term)
In the previous installment of this checklist, Jane Terpstra outlined the long-term elements an organizer must be mindful of when preparing to host a major conference. Among the 12-month tasks were identifying potential keynote speakers, coming up with ideas for potential presentations and creating a website that elicits presentation proposals. In the nine-month tasks were, among other things, determining a process for rating proposals and defining a review process for annual awards (if necessary).
In this piece, Terpstra outlines the responsibilities of a conference organizer in the six months leading up to the conference.
Six Months to Conference
- Complete the final conference schedule with room assignments for all presentations.
- Monitor presenter confirmations and replace those who have declined with alternate presenters.
- Work with the keynote speakers to select topics and potential moderators and panelists for the conference forums. The keynoters generally participate in a forum as part of their obligation, so the topics generally stem from their areas of expertise.
- Begin inviting the moderators and expert panelists for the forums.
- Work with the keynoters and moderators to suggest ideas for the framework/flow of the forums and determine topic questions to be addressed by each of the panelists.
- Create content for the conference program to be distributed in approximately five months prior to the conference.
- Work with marketing staff to expand marketing of the conference for increased registrations (purchase additional mailing lists, use LinkedIn and other social media marketing and create a marketing plan to increase on-site and virtual participation).
- Confirm streaming services during the conference and select the sessions to be streamed.
- Confirm registration services for the conference.
- Ensure the conference program is distributed about five months before the conference and that the conference website provides details about registration.
- Create a mobile-enhanced program and tool for mobile session evaluations (you can build this using the MyAgenda tool).
- Begin tracking the weekly conference registrations and virtual registrations to compare with previous years.
- Begin building the session facilitator and virtual moderator schedule and email a draft to planning committee members to confirm their assignments.
- As needed, solicit divisional and campus volunteers to complete the conference facilitation and virtual moderation schedule and confirm their assignments.
- Invite committee members and/or campus administrators to introduce keynote speakers and prepare draft introductions from which they can work.
Less Than Three Months to Conference
- Continue to make adjustments to the schedule, as needed.
- Continue to work with marketing staff to expand marketing of the conference for increased registrations.
- Continue to track and graph registration data.
- Create content for the conference handbook.
- If campus funding is available, determine scholarship recipients and inform them of their awards.
- Select promotional giveaways for the conference (portfolios, pens, tote bags, etc.) and for the exhibit hall booth; ensure these are ordered.
- Ensure the framed and engraved awards for the recipients are ordered.
- Test/refine the mobile version of the program and mobile session evaluations.
- Create the physical and virtual conference evaluations.
- Create and prepare paper session evaluation forms, if needed.
- Ensure conference signs, banners and special exhibits are prepared.
- Ensure exhibit booth back-drop posters and handouts are prepared.
- Ensure there’s adequate staffing for the information desk and to handle signage changes, exhibit hall check-in and directions for attendees as the conference progresses.
- Ensure the conference handbooks and promotional giveaways are delivered and that staff are ready to handle conference registration services.
- Ensure the exhibit booth and conference items are packed and delivered to the conference venue.
- Confirm whether marketing will provide a photographer to take promotional photos.
During/After the Conference
- Assist in setting up for the conference the day before the event.
- Greet each of the keynote speakers and help them get set up for their addresses.
- Greet the forum moderators and panelists and help them get set up for their panel discussions.
- Present the conference welcome, introduction to the conference session, award introductions and conference closing.
- If time permits, participate in a special event for certificate enrollees and alumni.
- Attend/visit sessions during the conference, talk with attendees and presenters, visit with the exhibitors and work at the information desk to assess the conference, resolve issues and note changes needed for future years.
- After the conference, send thank-you messages to those who assisted during the conference, send evaluation results to the speakers/presenters and compile the conference evaluation and virtual evaluation results.
- List suggested changes for the following year’s conference.
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