Organise a conference

Summary

Organise a conference that discusses some key issue.

How this helps

Conferences are useful for educating people and for making contacts with experts in the field. Successful conferences also promote the image of the FFII.

Explanation

Before

  • Sponsors and partners. You need funding, mostly from industry, and partners. This is the first part of any event; without funding, you will have to be very modest in your goals.
  • Financial structures. You need a bank account, funding, and someone able to rapidly approve and execute payments.
  • A location. You need to book 3-6 months in advance, depending on the time of year. Start with a rough date for your conference, then find available rooms, and then fix the date. A good location is pleasant for the audience, but unconventional.
  • Web site. You need a wiki that can be updated rapidly.
  • Programme committee. You need three or four people who can help find speakers.
  • Registration form. Usually goes on a website, and it works by sending an email to one or more organisers when people register (see www.eupaco.org for an example).
  • Participation fees. If you can make the conference free, that is good. If you do not have sufficient funding, charge a participation fee, depending on the importance of the speakers and the amount of material being presented. Ensure that academics, civil society, and policy makers can attend for free or very little. Industry and lobbyists are expected to pay.
  • Printed materials. It is useful to print a programme, and a poster. Get the help of a professional graphist even if it's only for the post-production.
  • Online resources and slides. Make sure the web site has a resources page, and put all slides and papers online as soon as you can.

During

  • Briefing materials. Set-up a stand or table near the reception with materials of interest to the audience.
  • Speaker coordinator. You want someone who organises accommodation and transport for the speakers, and handles reimbursement of travel expenses where appropriate.
  • Receptions and dinners. Try to have a reception after the conference (if it is a half-day event), or before (if it is a longer event). If you have speakers in town, organise a dinner and invite VIPs.
  • Audio-visual organisation. You need a beamer, screen, wireless microphones, lighting, a notebook, and someone to take responsibility for this during the event.
  • Time-keeper. To keep your event smooth, set a time limit on all speeches, and assign someone to act as time-keeper: this person uses a stop-watch and warns the speakers when they have 5, 2, 1, and zero minutes left, using cards.
  • Name badges. Make sure every speaker and participant has a name badge with their name and organisation, and a mention of the conference name and date.
  • Reception. The conference reception needs two to three people (depending on the location), who can distribute name badges. You need more people when the conference opens, fewer after that.
  • Refreshments and lunch. Ensure that water, coffee, and fruit juice is available before, and during the conference. For longer conferences, serving wine or beer at lunch, or at the conference close, will help stimulate a debate. (If the speakers are boring, people will sleep.)
  • Conference practicals. You want a stage, with space for everyone who talks at once. Provide seats and low tables, so that speakers cannot hide. Body language tells a lot. Provide a lecturn near the slide screen. If speakers do not use slides, and during Q&A, switch off the projector.
  • Protocol. Quality events demand a high quality of protocol. Get someone jovial but confident to act as master of ceremonies. Every speaker must be introduced. Every member of the audience who asks a question must state their name and organisation. After every speech, we applaud.
  • Keynote speakers. Make sure you have some stars: you need to attract people and good keynote speakers make a difference.
  • Journalists. Journalists are important and you should make a point of inviting them, and if they come, arranging interviews with keynote speakers and/or important guests.

After

  • Conference resources. It's becoming accepted to video-tape conferences and put the videos online. Photographs are also very welcome by speakers.
  • Paperwork. If you spent money on the conference, do all the paper work, and hand it over to the treasurer as soon as you can.
  • Reporting. Write a report and publish this on howto.ffii.org.

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Author

  • Pieter Hintjens <gro.iiff|hreteip#gro.iiff|hreteip>