Tips on Hosting a Regional Conference

 

Thinking of hosting a regional conference, symposium or workshop? Hosting a regional event can be a very rewarding and enriching experience. With proper planning and organization, it could bring the entire weather product and service provider community together with those who require timely and accurate weather support. Therefore, this page is dedicated to provide some practical tips and lessons learned from others who have hosted regional conferences and workshops. There are several key areas that must be addressed in order for your regional conference, symposium, or workshop to be most successful:

Topic/Theme

  • Come to clear agreement on a topical area or theme that you want to investigate, discuss, or focus on
  • Present your ideas and options for a topic or theme to a cross-section of weather and non-weather experts from your region/area that agrees needs to be resolved, discussed, or needs investigation
  • This topic/theme should be one that a preponderance of experts believe needs to be discussed in a conference type forum
  • Make sure that your conference is truly regional and focused on a particular topic, one that makes it unique and different from all the rest of the "national" type meetings that are held each year
Organization

  • Form a small event organizing committee; be also prepared to form committees focused on specific areas (e.g., program, food/drink, publicity)
  • Decide early who should be on this committee; the list should be representative, balanced for your region/area, and consider weather, decision maker, and public/consumer components
  • Hold regular/routine meetings; keep committees informed through face-to-face meetings, e-mail, and conference calls
Venue

  • Where should we hold this conference?
  • How long will this conference be? Your goal or purpose and topic will drive the length of your event. Shorter events are easier to organize but you might not be able to cover all that you want to cover
  • This event site should be as convenient and accessible as possible; balance cost with ease of access, location to mass transportation, etc.
  • The site for the venue should be naturally related in some way to the topic/theme of the meeting; this will help ensure credibility and support
Logistics

  • People will attend the meeting - helping the cost - if they see big names in topic that you are discussing. Get as many speakers as possible, big names too. If these speakers come then others will volunteer to talk. Overbook the speakers with the knowledge that 2 to 4 out of 40 to 45 will not make it at the last minute
  • Get local involvement as much as possible - speakers, sponsors, media (newsprint and tv, radio) etc.
  • Timing is almost as important as where your event is held. Ensure your event can meet a need in your area (e.g., Should we discuss winter storm forecasting before or after the winter storm season?)
  • Consider use of local/nearby/on-site and recommended vendors since they will likely give you the best deal; discuss options with others who have had events at the same location that you are planning
  • Have one session - this makes for a full room and easier to organize.
  • If you want the participation/attendance of the broadcast meteorology community, you *cannot hold a conference during a sweeps month* (generally November, February, May or July). Broadcast meteorologists are simply forbidden from taking time off during these periods, and *will not* attend your conference. We learned that one the hard way. If you need to check specific dates for the sweeps periods, check with a local broadcast meteorologist, they are set well in advance.
  • Have a great timekeeper to keep speakers on track; have them put the lectures on the same media and have several volunteers who are media experts
  • Get students to volunteer for the media and registration desks and they can attend for free. Therefore, try to hold the conference when it fits the university schedule as well.
Cost/Budget

  • This is very important; after you’ve decided where this event will occur, how long it will be, and what type of food and drink will be involved, estimate early on how much this event will cost to host
  • Brief the organizing committee on the event costs, and suggest means to raise the funds to cover all expenses (registration fee, corporate/agency sponsors, individual contributors, consider venue food/drink alternatives
Sponsorship/Funding

  • Once an approximate budget has been established, agree on an approximate registration fee that you’re comfortable with
  • Estimate the amount of funding you’d like to solicit from corporate/agency sponsors after all known income has been subtracted from estimated expenses
Publicity/Marketing

  • PR/marketing is an important area; get an enthusiastic volunteer to lead this portion as soon as possible
  • Use ALL available media/means to get the word out; short, professional, and attention-grabbing promotional items work best
  • Make a web site early giving all the information on the conference, put this on the AMS conferences page too
  • Get the word out early AND OFTEN; leverage newsletter articles, BAMS, e-mail, phone calls with colleagues, other related societies, friends, etc.

 




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