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Conference Planning Checklist: A Director’s Responsibilities (Long-Term)

Conference Planning: A Director’s Responsibilities (Long-Term)
Conference management is more complex than simply setting a date; conference organizers need to keep numerous plates spinning in order to host a successful event.
As a former director of a large annual distance education conference, I’ve often been asked what happens during the year-long preparation for a conference that draws more than 900 participants annually from more than a dozen countries.

First, we believe it’s important to come together once a year to share experiences; to learn new tools, teaching strategies and problem-solving techniques; to compare strategies for assessment of learning; and to gain insights from experts in the field. Through past conference surveys, we know a major benefit of the conference, as listed by participants, is time to network face-to-face with others working in the field. So we continue to invite those interested to come to Madison for a frenzy of sharing and learning over a one-week period each year.

I recently retired and was asked to share my major roles with the new director, Les Howles. This has given me a chance to reflect on my major tasks to plan, implement and evaluate our conference, in addition to directing our certificate programs and performing divisional/campus roles. Below are the major responsibilities involved in hosting the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning.

Twelve Months to Conference

  • Debrief and decide on possible improvements to the schedule, presentation types and logistics for next year’s conference.

  • Ensure the resource library is updated with additional materials (videos, proceedings papers, handouts, slides) from all speakers.

  • Ask the advisory group members for suggestions for next year’s keynote speakers.

  • Investigate possible keynote speakers (watch videos of past presentations and/or transcripts, interviews, and other examples of these speaker’s topics and delivery style).

  • Email the top two keynote speaker candidates to invite them to speak, giving them the details of dates, place and compensation.

  • Send planning committee members data on registrations and the compiled results from the conference evaluation and virtual conference evaluation for their review prior to the planning meeting.

  • Hold a teleconference to discuss changes and solicit ideas for the next conference from the fall planning committee.

  • Continue negotiations to confirm keynote speakers and negotiate via email or phone to hone in on the exact titles, discussion descriptions and brief bios.

  • Scan other conferences’ websites for new presentation formats and event ideas.

  • Refine the conference schedule, presentation types, and assign tentative locations for events.

  • Work with the division’s graphic designers on a visual for the conference web banner that will carry through on all of the print pieces.

  • Develop content for the conference website to announce the next conference and call-for-proposals.

  • Develop content for the conference call-for-proposals and ensure it is printed and distributed prior to Thanksgiving.

  • Review and update/revise the online proposal submission form.

Nine Months to Conference

  • Confirm planning committee members’ participation in proposal reviews and have them hold dates for the reviews.

  • Update, test and refine the online proposal review and scoring form.

  • Encourage proposal submissions by taking one (or both) of the following actions:

  • Announce on LinkedIn Groups and other social media forums; and

  • Send requests to leaders and organizations in the field, etc.

  • Assign proposal reviews and send them to pre-determined reviewers.

  • Ensure the review process for the annual awards is underway and participate in the review of proposals.

  • Assign staff to participate in making final determinations of proposals accepted.

To read the second installment of Terpstra’s Conference Planning Checklist, please click here.

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