Oct 102012

So far in this series of blogs on organizing conferences we have looked at the various phases of organizing a conference, how to set up a conference organizing structure, the planning phase of the conference and publicizing the conference. Today we are going to discuss how to run the conference once it finally gets going after months of careful planning.

How to Run a Conference

Attending to Conference Logistics

The conference logistics can be described as those tasks that make the conference run smoothly. The following are some of the conference logistic that will require attention at the conference.

  • Organising the volunteers and staff who will be manning the conference information desk, directing people to the sessions and handing out relevant information.
  • Making sure right presenters and speakers are at the right room at the right time.
  • Ensuring the conference venue has sufficient space for the meals, breaks and other events at the conference.
  • Printing or copying conference materials such as evaluation forms and participant packets.
  • Scheduling of conference sessions in such a way that it makes it easy for participants to follow a topical thread.
  • Appointing hosts for each session, who will introduce the presenter, make sure the equipment is in place, keep time schedules, hand out materials, distribute and collect evaluation forms.
  • Make sure that exhibitors, coffee, hand outs etc. are in their correct places.
  • Find the correct place for the registration and information desk.
  • Arranging and informing the conference participants of the location and availability of parking.

Registration of Conference Participants

Preregistered participants will have conference packets waiting for them. A table will have to be set up where participants can check in and receive the conference packets as quickly and easily as possible. It makes sense arranging the packets alphabetically, helping the person stationed at the table to find the appropriate packets efficiently. The conference coordinator or the coordinator’s assistant will need to be close by or at the table to answer questions.

Clear procedures need to be put in place to deal with walk-in registrations. The staff at the registration desk will need to know how to deal with money paid on the day and when to stop accepting walk-in registrations.

Taking Care of the Conference Speakers and Presenters

The conference coordinator will have to appoint someone to take care of the needs of the keynote speakers, honoured guests, celebrities and other important people in the field. This person will make sure these delegates get to the right places at the right times and tend to any other needs that they may have. They must ensure that these delegates should have a pleasant experience of the conference and have positive feelings toward the sponsoring organization.

Crisis Management at the Conference

It is highly likely that there will be various crises that will have to be managed during the running of the conference such as presenters who do not show up, weather emergencies and computer errors.

Although it will not be possible to anticipate all of the possible scenarios, try and anticipate some of the most common crises that may occur. Have alternative plans in place and appoint people to deal with any crises that may occur. It is also essential to plan for any medical emergencies that may occur; make sure there is an adequate first aid kit and know where all the fire exits are located. Ensure that all the staff is aware of what to do in case of an emergency. Staff should also be trained on how to deal with angry or irrational participants or speakers.

 Conference Evaluation Forms

For smaller conferences, group evaluations sessions can be set up and the feedback can be obtained directly from the participants. It is more common though to hand out evaluation forms after each session and one form for the overall evaluation of the conference. It is usually the session host’s responsibility to make time for handing out forms, as well as collecting, and depositing the forms at a central point.

Cleaning Up After the Conference

If cleaning up is not included as a service provided by the conference venue, it is the responsibility of the conference organizers, staff and volunteers to clean up after the conference is finished. It is also the organizer’s responsibility to ensure that all forms and materials are returned back to the sponsoring organization. It is helpful to provide a lost and found box and inform the participants of found items.

Conference Follow Up

Make sure all loose ends are tied up and that agreements made in the sessions are initiated. Issue continuing education certificates where applicable and make sure that all involved in organizing and running of the conference are formally thanked in writing. Settle all outstanding payments with the conference venue and suppliers.

Now that the conference is finished the only thing that is left to do is to evaluate the conference. In the next and final blog, in this series, we will take a look at how to evaluate the success of the conference.

Resource: Community Tool Box: http://ctb.ku.edu/

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  One Response to “How to Run a Conference”

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