Setting Up A Conference: Part 4 - The Exhausting Minutia
Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog
Now you have your theme, your audience definition, your venue, your track layout, your speaker list...life is sweet...but now the exhausting part starts....the minutia.
You are going to have a reception...you need to order the food and drink. What about vegetarians? What about Vegans? How much beer and wine? What about non-alcoholic drinks? Wait, does the facility allow alcohol? What about under-age? Do you need bartenders?
Are you charging admission? How do you tell people who have paid? Do you need badges? Do you accept non-registered walk-ins? How many? Will we have enough badges? Too many?
How about security for the equipment? And what about insurance for the event? Liability insurance, theft insurance?
You want to have Internet at the event. You did not even consider that it would cost that much. Well, speakers can get Internet at the hotel for free. No, you have a sponsor for the Internet, but that does not include routers. Who will stage the routers? Where will you get the routers?
And the list goes on and on....
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs....blocking up the scenery...
Signs for directions, sponsors, schedules of talks...more and more signs....
A registration table, along with tape, scissors, etc. A money box for collecting cash on-site.
Microphones for the speakers. Do they want wireless lapel mikes so they can wander, or would a wired podium mike be o.k.? Those LCD video projectors cost a lot of money to rent, can we borrow a few from local companies? Will the speakers be using their own laptop, or will they need us to supply a PC to host their talk?
Speaker release forms....we are going to tape the speech, but do we have the right to release it afterwards? And where do we get the video and audio equipment to do the taping?
Tired yet? I am...and I am not the one putting on this event...you are. All of the above is why you need a TEAM of people, and when you form your teams, have the leader of one act as co-chair of another, and vice verse, in case the leader of a team goes AWOL half-way through the planning and execution stage. That way the co-chair will know what is going on and can take over.
And you will have meetings...lots of meetings....and the bigger the conference the larger and more frequent the meetings.
There are even things you should not have to do that have to be done. Recently two different conference teams at opposite sides of the earth had to spend days talking on their mailing lists about their harassment policies. I personally have an answer for harassment, but I have been told it is illegal in many countries around the world, so these groups had to be satisfied with coming up with a policy that would first warn people ahead of time and then remove them from the event if they violated the policy.
For a first-time conference all I can recommend is either to contact another conference that has been successful and ask if they have a “check-list” of things they need to think about, or (lacking a such a friendly crib-sheet) nominate someone as “project manager” who keeps a check-list of all the things people are supposed to do and makes sure they are done. Then next year you start with that list and add to it.
Minutia is exhausting. How do you know if you have it all covered?
Rely on the venue's professional planners for suggestions of food, beverage and "things". They have done this 10,000 times before, just not with you. For the most part they will understand "trying to save money", even though you may think they are expensive.
Walk through it at your meetings. Even if you do this "virtually", have your team members act as if they are registering, attending the reception, etc. After you have walked through various processes a couple of times and no new processes or supplies needed occur, you may be most of the way there.
Don't worry, you will have forgotten something.
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