Tips for Planning a Conference
Friday, December 09, 2011
Posted by: Dusten Nance, Capitol Chapter
Editor's Note: The Capitol (Springfield, IL) Chapter hosted the Spring 2011 Region 5 Conference. Here are some tips from the Conference Chair, Dusten Nance.
Capitol Chapter's primary goal for 2011 was hosting a successful Region 5 conference on May 12-13, 2011. We got all our ducks in a row during 2010 so we were only struggling with some sponsorships by the time January 2011 arrived. The most important step was taken in early 2010 when the chapter president arranged for me to be conference chair. Previous chapter presidents had done most of the work themselves and our president knew the conference would be more thoroughly planned with a dedicated position.
We learned a lot as a chapter and would like to offer assistance to others planning future conferences. We setup a document repository using Google docs so members could view and update conference files. We spent a large part of our monthly board meetings discussing the conference. Due to lack of sponsorship we spent $2,000 from our chapter account. I am convinced our chapter has wise leaders because they had invested some of the chapter money into a CD (certificate of deposit) to get a better interest rate.
The number one tip would be to start working with your sponsors early, as many have budget allocations complete by the end of the previous year. The number two tip would be to have a "plan B" as we had 3 speakers cancel in the month before the conference. Fortunately, chapter leaders were able to quickly find replacements or get a recommendation from those cancelling. Another couple tips would be to never pay for a speaker and ask those unable to attend to recommend somebody. One more tip is to know your chapter members and make a list of duties according to known skills and interests. You will recognize many of these tips as skills a good project manager would possess.
As we started our conference planning over a year in advance we quickly realized the lack of information available. Most documents from the conference our chapter held a few years before were gone and planners of the conference before ours were too busy to immediately hand over all their planning tools. I was able to find some documents on the AITP.org website and upon request we received guidance from Region 5 leaders.
I was recently elected as our chapter president for 2012. Conferences are a lot of work, so going from conference chair to chapter president will just require a different set of skills. My contact information follows for anybody wanting assistance in conference planning.
Dusten Nance, MS, CAPM
AITP Capitol Chapter 2012 President