Conference Planning Guide
Washington State Association of Student Employment Administrators
© June 2003
This project was made possible by an administrative grant from the
Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB)
Table of Contents
The Washington State Association of Student Employment Administrators (WSASEA) hosts an annual conference each spring; it is the single most significant offering of the Association and draws many non-WSASEA members each year. This guide is designed to assist a new Executive Board member, who may have no experience in event planning and management, in the process of planning and carrying out the conference. Some practices in this guide are based on long-term conference traditions; others have been borrowed from other student employment or financial aid professional associations. It is our hope that this guide will be a living document and will be updated with additional “best practices” as the WSASEA spring conference evolves.
A special note regarding location applicability: for several years, the conference has been held at Rainbow Lodge, a retreat center in North Bend, Washington. Attendees have indicated that Rainbow Lodge is a centrally located, affordable, relaxing venue. For that reason, the WSASEA Board is likely to select Rainbow Lodge as the site location in the future, and the conference planning guide was written largely with this unique location in mind. However, because Rainbow Lodge is also in high demand, this conference planning guide includes information that is relevant if the Association finds it necessary to hold the conference in another venue, such as a hotel, college campus, or alternate retreat center.
Additional information and templates for conference correspondence are available on the Executive Board Resources webpage on the WSASEA website (http://www.wsasea.org/board_resources.html ). Registration materials for previous conferences are available on the Archives webpage on the WSASEA website (http://www.wsasea.org/archives.html ).
In addition to the materials presented here, conference planners may wish to consult online resources (search on “conference planning”), books, or guides prepared by other professional associations. As of June 2003, the Western Association of Student Employment Administrators (WASEA) was in development on a conference planning guide and had indicated their willingness to share this document upon completion with WSASEA; if interested, contact the current WASEA president via their website (the current address is available from the WSASEA website at http://www.wsasea.org/links.html ).
Each year, the WSASEA Executive Board meets in January or February for a meeting to plan the spring conference. This meeting may also be attended by a HECB member, who can discuss whether the HECB is able to sponsor a keynote speaker or other resource, or offer registration scholarships. If the Board has formed conference committees, the committee chairs should also be present. WSASEA has normally covered the travel to this meeting (which usually occurs on a Board member’s campus) if the Board member’s institution is unable to pay travel costs. The Vice President or President may plan this meeting and issue invitations.
In this day-long (or longer) meeting, the Board
In recent years, the dates of the WSASEA conference have been determined at the end of the prior conference; since Rainbow Lodge books at least a year in advance, we have normally selected whatever dates are remaining at approximately the same time of year.
If Rainbow Lodge is unavailable, the Vice President should gather information about options and make several proposals to the Board during the fall, and a date and site should be selected by November; this may require a site visit by the Vice President or another conveniently located Board member. The proposals might include the following information
When selecting a site, in addition to the information above, the Board should also consider
In selecting the date, the Board should consider the following
When establishing the conference registration fee, the Board may wish to consider the cost of other conferences occurring around the same time, the cost of WSASEA conferences for previous years, as well as the actual costs associated with the venue and speakers. The Board may also determine whether to pass on the charge of a single room at Rainbow Lodge (normally $5 per room) to the attendee if single rooms are available. A simple formula for determining single-day attendance is to total the cost of meals for that day, increased by a small percentage to cover other costs.
The sections below outline some typical conference committees. Although in recent years Board members have normally assumed responsibility for all aspects of the conference and have assigned these committee categories among themselves, a committee approach allows the Board not only to spread the work among more members, but also to provide professional development opportunities for other student employment administrators with little time commitment. If the Board wishes to form committees, they might decide in the first Board meeting (August) who might chair these committees, extend invitations, and then invite the committee chairs to the conference planning meeting held in January or February.
The Registration committee may prepare and distribute registration materials, send “heads up” emails or postcards to members and other administrators in the state in order to determine early interest in the conference. They may also receive registrations and forward registration fees to the Treasurer. They may assign rooms to participants, prepare name badges and conference packets, and staff the registration desk at the conference.
The Sponsorship committee may contact local businesses or the Higher Education Coordinating Board to seek sponsorship of keynote speakers, special program sessions that require the purchase of more expensive materials. They handle sponsorship contracts (see Executive Board Resources webpage for examples of sponsor contracts and thank you letters), make program announcements thanking sponsors, and send thank you letters after the conference is over. When approaching businesses or organizations regarding sponsorship, it is essential to articulate how the sponsor will benefit from the investment.
The Audiovisual committee arranges for microphones, laptop computers, data and overhead projectors, VCRs, internet connections, easels with notepads, writing implements, and any other audiovisual equipment necessary. The Program committee will normally gather information from individual speakers about their audiovisual needs, and then pass this information on to the Audiovisual committee. The Audiovisual committee will normally assist in the setup and troubleshooting of the equipment at the beginning of each session.
The Program committee gathers information about desired and timely topics and works with the overall planning group to suggest topics and speakers. The Program committee then contacts speakers, makes arrangements for speakers to attend (sending a formal letter of agreement to speakers with directions, reiterating dates/times, giving information about the Association and the annual meeting, and outlining the topic that will be presented). The committee will also gather biographical information on speakers for the conference program and for session introductions and will provide the information to session moderators.
The Site Coordination committee, headed by the Vice President, may be responsible for signing site contracts, acting as liaison to the site staff prior to and during the conference, meal planning and providing meal counts to the catering coordinator, arranging for session room setup and cleanup.
The Community Service Project committee will normally gather information about community service agencies that need materials, equipment, or resources. The committee will present the options to the Board, and Board members will select an agency to sponsor during the conference (examples: silent auctions, or collecting children’s books, school supplies, or clothing for a shelter). The committee will then contact the agency, will provide information about the project to conference attendees with registration materials, will gather and deliver the items, and may invite an agency representative to be present for a meal and brief presentation of the items gathered. As an alternative, the conference planning group may decide to undertake a service project in the local community as part of the program, and the Community Service committee may make the arrangements.
Responsible for introducing speaker, monitoring AV equipment to ensure proper operation, giving speaker a certificate and/or gift at the end of presentation. Moderator chair may also be responsible for collecting bio information about speakers for the program and providing printouts of the speaker bios to moderators at beginning of the conference.
The Hospitality committee is responsible for the initial icebreaker event, themes, decorations, setting up and announcing social networking opportunities, the “trivia question of the day” event, purchasing and wrapping the trivia prizes, purchasing food and beverages for hospitality table or room if necessary (often attendees are invited to bring these items). The Hospitality committee might also arrange transportation for speakers as necessary.
The Recognition committee oversees the Student Employee of the Year and Student Employment Administrator of the Year celebrations, working with the Board and the Past-President to make the call for nominations, distribute materials, and coordinate the selection process. The Recognition committee would then order plaques or other tokens of recognition and gather biographical information about the recipient. The Recognition committee might also draft an invitation to the recipient and his/her supervisor and family member, to ensure that the recipient can attend the presentation.
When planning the conference schedule, the Board may wish to consider current topics of discussion on student employment listservs, to consult with the HECB or members about interests, to poll the listservs for ideas about possible keynote speakers, and to review the most recent conference programs from the national or regional association meetings. The program planners may use the following information in scheduling and executing program sessions:
The Executive Board Resources webpage contains a diagram of a common WSASEA conference schedule to be used for planning purposes. Common sessions and issues to consider when planning the schedule are noted below:
Recognition events normally occur during the luncheon on the last day of the conference. Persons recognized in these events would be present at the conference, or (if unable to attend the full conference) invited for the luncheon for the announcement, along with their supervisor, and WSASEA covers the cost of the meal for the honoree and their guest(s). The sections below discuss typical recognition events.
WSASEA sponsors a Student Employee of the Year celebration; this recognition is separate from the state or regional winner selected in the WASEA competition, although member institutions may submit their nominees to both associations. The past-president announces the competitions and coordinates the submission of entries, and then the Executive Board will vote on the nominations via the web form established for this purpose and conduct a conference call to select the winner. The past-president will purchase a plaque, and contact the student’s student employment administrator to obtain the student’s Social Security number (required for purchase of the savings bond—the treasurer will then purchase a $50 savings bond prior to the conference). For more information about nomination materials and process, consult the Executive Board resources on the WSASEA webpage.
The Executive Board should issue a call for nominations for Administrator of the Year to the listserv, financial aid listserv, and financial aid/student employment administrators list available from the HECB. Current members of the Executive Board are not eligible to receive this recognition. Also, honorees should be current WSASEA members; in special instances, the Board may elect to offer a complimentary membership to the honoree. The Board will select the Administrator of the Year from the nominations, or, if no nominations were received, may choose to select a deserving recipient. Or the Executive Board may wish to recognize special individual service to the profession, as evidenced by a significant project or undertaking by an individual or institution during the prior year.
While not required, it is customary in professional associations for the President to be recognized and presented with a certificate or gift of Appreciation by the past-president on behalf of the entire board. It is also customary for the President to recognize the Board members in similar fashion, with an additional special notice or gift to the conference planner. Conference committee chairs should also be recognized and presented with a certificate or gift of appreciation by the vice-president.
In addition, the Board may wish to develop special recognition events for long-term WSASEA members who may be retiring from student employment positions (“lifetime service awards”). For example, the recognition might include gathering letters or other mementos of this person’s contributions to the organization.
Sample registration materials from previous years are available for review on the Executive Board Resources webpage. The conference planners may wish to finalize the registration materials during the spring planning meeting. They should also decide on the following details:
On the registration form, remember to
In some years, WSASEA has considered offering a scholarship for attendance, so that all or part of the registration fee might be waived for a deserving attendee. To date, this program has not been implemented, but future Boards may wish to discuss this possibility and consider how members would apply for these scholarship funds.
The following information outlines the process for confirming arrangements with speakers prior to the conference.
In the weeks before the conference, the Board and conference committee should do the following
Items to bring to the conference:
The Resource table can be set up to gather examples of forms, program manuals, timesheets, etc. from conference attendees. Attendees should be reminded in pre-conference materials to bring copies to share. Extra copies of speakers’ materials remaining after sessions can also be put on the Resource table.
On the first and second days of the conference, there should be a housekeeping announcement to include the following:
The following actions should be taken after the conference: