Your conference committee will need to work exceptionally hard to plan your upcoming conference. Choosing appropriate committee members can make a huge difference to not only your conference’s success, but your stress levels as a convenor!
By assessing your peers strengths and weaknesses, you can match together a fantastic group of people who have their own blend of specific skills that when combined make a fully rounded conference committee.
The ideal size of your committee depends on the complexity of your conference. Decisions can be significantly delayed by a large committee. If you do decide upon a large committee, it is best to have 2 or 3 key decision makers who can work with the PCO when a quick decision needs to be made.
Building your committee will also depend on your type of conference. Perhaps your conference requires a lot of sponsorship or exhibitors? If so you would need committee members who have lots of industry contacts and perhaps experience gaining sponsors previously. If your conference has lots of academic papers, you would require committee members who have time and knowledge to effectively & efficiently approve the abstracts that are suitable to your conference. Your conference may have lots of external field trips to be organised. You would want to include someone who is aware of the requirements of these field trips and have the time available to create interesting itineraries for delegates.
Committees vary in their size and positions required. I’ve included a brief description below on the standard positions within a committee.
The chair of the committee is responsible for guiding the conference committee through the planning process. You should be able to take responsibility but also delegate to other members. You will be your PCOs main point of contact and you will develop your strategic plan together. You should be able to take the committees varying points of view on matters but make any final decision. Previous experience in a conference committee is a huge advantage for this role. You must ensure there is enthusiasm within the committee, as an uninterested committee will create an uninteresting conference.
The conference convenor will chairing all of your committee meetings and be responsible for ensuring the committee stays on task and meets any deadlines. At the start and end of the conference, the convenor is expected to make a speech to welcome and thank delegates & sponsors.
Your treasurer will work together with your employed PCO to create a draft budget and maintain this budget through the planning process. A treasurer should have a good head for figures and understand the conference in great detail. It is your role to approve any invoices that your PCO provide to you. You will keep a track on expenses together with your PCO. At committee meetings it is your responsibility to report to your peers about the budgeted vs. actual costs as provided by the PCO.
A conference is remembered by its social activities for delegates. The social committee should be aware of the expectations of delegates for the conference, and have a creative flare to create exciting ideas for the functions. Ideally the members would have organised social functions before and have ideas for entertainment, theming and venues. Your PCO will work with the social committee to plan the exciting social elements of your conference whilst staying within the conference budget.
The scientific committee is responsible for developing a program that best reflects your conference theme. These committee members should have the experience and knowledge to decide which abstracts are suitable for your conference. Abstract guidelines, selection criteria and approval letters all need to be reviewed by the scientific committee. Approving abstracts can be hectic in a short space of time. There are strict deadlines on the abstract approval and author registration so therefore your scientific committee should be reliable and be able to meet deadlines. There is often a scientific sub-committee to help spread out the workload.
You will decide upon keynote speakers & VIPS as well as any welcome to country ceremonies. If necessary you will liaise with the speakers and ensure any international speakers receive VIP treatment.
You may need to participate in some conference sessions (such as a session chair) and you will have the final approval of the conference program and abstract book.
Your sponsorship committee is responsible for raising funding from government and non-government organisations. It’s a huge advantage if your sponsorship members and have personal contacts within the industry whom they can follow up with. You will need to suggest possible sponsors and exhibitors that would be interested in the conference. Any grant applications will also be managed by the sponsorship team.
Successful promotional activities surrounding a conference can greatly increase the amount of abstracts, delegates and profit delivered for a conference. A marketing committee member would assist the PCO with writing and approving media releases as well as any other promotional material.
Your PCO will request suggestions for promotional areas and relevant conferences, journals, like-minded societies where you could attract your target audience to attend the conference.
Running a conference is by no means easy. By being part of a conference committee you are dedicating your time and effort to make the conference a success.