Policies & Procedures

Conference Planning Manual

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Revised 1998


I. Conference Planning Committee
II. Planning Activities: Overview
III. Planning Activities: Detailed
IV. Post Conference Duties

I. Conference Planning Committee

The Conference Chair is appointed by the WAAL Chair Elect. Conference Co-Chairs may be appointed at the discretion of the WAAL Chair. The Committee members are appointed by the WAAL Chair in cooperation with the Conference Chair. As a standing committee of WAAL, the Conference Chair is expected to attend meetings of the WAAL Board and, in between meetings, to report directly to the WAAL Chair.

The Conference Planning Committee generally consists of eight to ten people. While all members should be involved in program planning, it is recommended that specific assignments of responsibility be made for Registration, Local Arrangements and Publicity. Later in the process, individual committee members should also be assigned as introducers for conference programs.


Conferences are expected to be cost recovery activities. However, some expenses will be incurred early in the planning process - particularly travel reimbursement for members of the committee. WLA vouchers should be prepared for these items and submitted to the WAAL Chair. These expenses will be paid from an operating account. At a later date, funds will be transferred from Conference income to reimburse this account. (The same type of transfer will also be made for any conference related charges incurred by the WLA Office.)

II. Planning Activities: Overview (See Appendix for Activity Timetable. Timetable based on a late April Conference date.)

  1. Preliminary Planning ( to be done during the summer preceding the conference.)
    1. Date and Conference Site Selection (Note that sites are pre-selected by WAAL's past Chair)
    2. Selection of Conference Theme
    3. Initial Publicity
    4. Appointment for duties: registration, local arrangements, contracts, publicity, equipment/technology, vendors, thank yous, budget.

  2. Program Development (to be done by WLA Fall Conference)

    1. Identify program ideas and speakers. Committee members can make initial contact with speakers. See Appendix for "Speaker Contact Form."
      1. Invite speakers, beginning with major presenters, followed by invitations to "local talent."
      2. Chair(s) (or Committee member in charge of contracts) follow up initial invitations with speaker contract. See Appendix for sample speaker contract.

    2. Reserve a block of rooms at the conference facility for non-WLA presenter. These can be canceled closer to the date if they are not needed.

  3. Plan social events and/or tours, etc.

    1. Find sponsor for reception if one is being held.

    2. Contact tour places for prices, etc.

  4. Publicity

    1. Articles in WLA and WAAL newsletters. Aim for the December issues.

  5. Registration Planning (should be done no later than October)

    1. Appoint registration chair

      1. Draft conference schedule
      2. Prepare registration forms

  6. Appoint local arrangements person

    1. Select meals and establish prices.

    2. Print meal tickets

      Plan for materials to be included in the conference packets. Send registration materials to the WLA office for mailing. Registration materials should be sent out 8-10 weeks prior to the conference. Talk with the printer about their scheduling needs. Allow two weeks for a jobber to sort and ready materials for mailing.

  7. Vendors

    1. Contact WLA Vendor Coordinator for information on vendors to be contacted and send an invitation letter to each vendor.

    2. Follow up vendor' invitation letter with a telephone call to the contact person.

    3. Give person in charge of printed programs a list of all participating vendors.

    4. After receiving a verbal commitment, send "thank you agreeing" letter to vendor.

    5. After conference send another thank you letter to each participating vendor.

  8. Final Planning Details (should be done during the final six weeks before the conference.

    1. Follow up with presenters

    2. Appoint hosts/introducers

    3. Finalize equipment needed for sessions

    4. Confirm lodging reservations and make meal reservations for presenters as needed

    5. Make room assignments for each session

    6. Finalize program and have program printed. Programs will be need for conference packets two weeks before conference. Check with printer for their lead time.

    7. Prepare evaluation form

    8. Confirm duties of hosts/introducers

    9. Stuff Conference packets

  9. Post Conference Activities (to be completed within three months of the conference)

    1. Write thank you letters to all

      1. Speakers
      2. Conference facility
      3. Committee members
      4. Vendors

    2. Pay all expenses

    3. Prepare income/expense report

    4. Compile evaluation results

    5. Prepare Final Conference Report and submit to WAAL Chairperson

III. Planning details and suggestions

  1. Preliminary Planning

    1. Site Selection and Planning This is not the responsibility of the Conference Planning Committee. This duty is performed by the past WAAL chairperson. Sites and dates are chosen/selected several years in advance.

  2. Conference Theme

    1. Choose the conference theme at the first committee meeting

    2. Identify major speakers at the first committee meeting and appoint committee members to make initial contacts with potential speakers.

  3. Initial Publicity

    1. Send information about dates and location of conference ASAP to the following journals: Channel DLS, American Libraries, Library Journal, WAAL & WLA Newsletters.

    2. Prepare a flier to be distributed at the fall WLA Conference. This can be available at the WAAL booth or, if possible, put into the WLA conference packets.

  4. Major Publicity

    1. Contact WLA and WAAL newsletter publishers for deadline information.

    2. Write articles giving conference information including dates and place as well as speakers/programs of special note and entertainment/social activities planned.

    3. Place in newsletter with publication dates closest to the date registration materials will be sent out.

  5. Program Development

    1. Identify and confirm speakers. Actual program planning takes place July through October. During this time the Planning Committee will need to meet on a regular basis. The first meeting should have resulted in the selection of the theme and the identification of major speakers. Individual committee members should have been assigned to make initial invitations to the major conference speakers. As responses are received, forward the information to the committee member in charge of contracts. The committee member then makes the official invitation and requests that each speaker complete and return a speaker contract, a photograph and an equipment needs form. Along with the contracts, it is helpful to have another form requesting the probable program title and the time(s) preferred by the speaker.

      Once the main speakers are set, additional programs need to be planned. It's a good idea to vary the format of conference sessions. Contacting speakers is a task that can easily be shared by all committee members. Be sure to take advantage of local talent whenever possible and appropriate. As additional program sessions are agreed upon, the committee member in charge of contracts should send contracts and equipment needs forms to each speaker. Contract forms for local talent differ from those used for paid speakers. The Conference chair should keep track of individual sessions. Signed contracts will need to be received by the committee no later than mid-December to enable the registration materials to be finalized for the printer.

      Create a database containing the name, address, e-mail address and phone number of each speaker. This will make future mailings and contacts much easier and more efficient. Reminder letters should be sent to each speaker approximately six weeks before the conference date. These letters should contain the date, time and title of the program and confirm any travel and/or meal that have been made for the speaker.

      Concurrent with the planning of the substantive parts of the conference is planning for meal functions, receptions and/or tours as well as things like a fun run or other types of events. This planning is the responsibility of the Local Arrangements committee. If a reception is to be part of the conference, a sponsor must for found. The WLA Vendor Coordinator must be contacted before the committee contacts any vendors for support of any conference activities including scholarships, programs, underwriting the printing costs, receptions and freebies to give away at the registration desk or in conference packets. Poster sessions have proven to be a popular event when held with a reception.

      Someone should be assigned to handle each event. One person, usually the conference committee chair or the local arrangements person, should be responsible for all contact with the conference facility.

    2. Set the Conference Schedule: A tentative schedule for the conference should be ready by January. This is to be presented at the WAAL Winter Board Meeting as well as the Winter Conference Planning Committee meeting. This allows for an overview of the conference. Any gaps will show up on this tentative schedule. Registration materials can now be developed for printing. This preliminary schedule can be used for the in-depth articles to be written for the Winter issues of the WAAL and/or WLA newsletters.

    3. Budget and Fees:

      Conference fees are determined at the Fall WAAL committee meeting.
      Estimate income. Depending on location, attendance at WAAL conferences runs between 100 - 200 attendees. Add up expected expenses. Begin with the major speaker - include honoraria, lodging, meals and transportation costs. WLA rules prohibit payment of honoraria to WLA members. Other budget items are mailing of registration materials (obtain estimate from WLA office), printing, equipment rentals and funds for general supplies. Be sure that total expenses are reasonable close to projected income. Compare costs with those from the previous year.

  6. Registration Planning

    1. Appoint a registration coordinator at the first Conference Planning Committee meeting. This is usually someone from the Planning Committee, but someone else can be appointed at the Conference Chairperson's discretion. The registration coordinator must be someone who is very organized and reliable. If two people are to be involved, there must be very good lines of communication between two people.

    2. Registration mailing is handled by the WLA office and is done through bulk mail. It should be received in the WLA office 8 - 10 weeks prior to the conference. Conference registration materials are sent out in one mailing WAAL members and co-sponsors of the conference. This process requires a minimum of 8 weeks, six weeks for the mailings and two weeks for the WLA office handling. Copies can be delivered to the WLA office ready to fold, stuff and mail.

    3. Registration Forms Present the final draft of the registration form at the winter WAAL Board meeting and at the winter Conference Planning Committee meeting. The registration form must include all attendance options including member, non-member and student rates. It must also include all meals and other "cost" items. It must indicate to whom the check should be payable (WLA). Clearly state the registration deadline as well as the policy on refunds/cancellations. If program sessions will have a limit on attendance, include this information of the registration form and indicate whether or not a waiting list will be kept after the session is filled.

      1. Use a two-part form. One part will be for committee records. The second part will be the receipt.

      2. Set up the form to facilitate addition; use amounts that are easy to total. It is cumbersome to have to return a check, collect additional money or issue a credit if the registration form has been totaled incorrectly.

      3. Indicate on the form whether or not a confirmation will be sent. Generally this is not done. The receipt (the copy of the registration form) is put into the person's conference envelope. However, if there are sessions for which attendance will be limited, which needs to be clearly indicated on the registration form, there will need to be some way of notifying people whether or not they will be able to participate in that particular session.

      4. Indicate a registration deadline and a deadline for cancellation and refund of payment. Even if this is clearly stated, there will be requests for exceptions. The Planning Committee should set a policy for these situations before registration forms are mailed. It is suggested that registration refunds be given on request AFTER all conference expenses have been paid and if there are funds available to provide the refund. Refunds for meal functions should be provided ONLY if the meal is resold to someone or the meal could be canceled with the facility in time to prevent WAAL being charged for it.

    4. Pre-registration for concurrent sessions: If concurrent sessions are planned, it is a good idea to include a separate form with the official registration form, asking people to indicate their preference. This information will be very helpful in making room assignments, even if attendance will not be limited and the selection will not be considered binding. This may make it possible to avoid overcrowding at some sessions.

      If attendance is limited or individual room sizes are restricted, this information must be recorded by the Registration Coordinator(s) as pre-registration forms are received.

      If the selection of concurrent sessions is intended to be binding at pre-registration, then people should receive a record of the selections they made in their conference envelope.

      Additional notes for pre-registration materials Include name, address, phone numbers and rate information for the conference hotel.

      The session information should be as descriptive of the programs as possible.

    5. Conference packets

      The registration coordinator(s) should be responsible for collecting and stuffing the conference packets. Information to be included in the packets includes:

      • listing of area restaurants and places of interest
      • information about conference activities
      • final conference program
      • conference evaluation form

      Folders may be donated by a vendor/sponsor or purchased with conference funds. Actual stuffing of the packets should be done just before the conference. Set a deadline for receiving materials that is well in advance of the conference.

  7. Final Planning Details

    1. Hosts and introducers: It is a good idea to have a host for each out of state or big name speaker.

      Duties of the host include:

      • pick up speaker at airport, or make arrangements
      • greet speaker upon arrival, make sure speaker receives program packet, expense reimbursement form and meal tickets, if appropriate. Check on lodging arrangements.
      • check room arrangements for program, making sure requested equipment is ready.
      • escort speaker to program
      • make sure introducer is present (if different than host)
      • return speaker to airport if necessary
      • remind speaker to submit expenses for reimbursement

      Be sure to remind hosts of duties just before the conference and include the details of the particular session.

      It is common practice for the introducer to serve as host. Introducers can be members of the committee or other WAAL members. Remind introducers of their duties and provide them with the appropriate vitae. Besides the actual introduction, the introducer should also be responsible for serving as a moderator for questions, being sure to repeat the question so that everyone can hear the question. Introducers should remind attendees to complete the conference evaluation form.

    2. Speaker lodging and meals: Review presenters list and determine who will need overnight accommodations and meal tickets for conference functions and make the required reservations. All of these reservations should be made by one person who need not be the committee chair.

    3. Equipment: Assign someone to be responsible for equipment needs. Check with the conference facility to see what equipment they provide. Check on phone lines and other connections. Coordinate any wiring or hookups with the conference facility. Be sure not to schedule the same piece of equipment in two or more concurrent programs. If equipment will need to be moved from one room to another, make arrangements before the conference begins.

    4. Room assignments Make final room assignments for each session. Keep under consideration such things as noise from a concurrent session, noise from the set-up or clean up of a meal function and the size audience the program is likely to draw. Be aware of the technology needs and its availability. Be very careful in rooms with moveable walls. Noise can be a problem in these areas.

    5. Speaker follow-up To touch base with all conference presenters on more time, a letter should be sent three to four weeks before the conference. If a vitae or equipment list has not been received, request them at this time. In this letter, confirm the time and place, the title of the program, the expected length of the presentation and the equipment that will be provided. Explain lodging arrangements if these have been made and any official functions for which tickets will be reserved for the speaker. Provide the speaker with The name of the person doing the introduction and/or the name of someone who will serve as host. Include the final conference program if it is ready.

    6. Facility confirmation Prepare a day-by-day, program-by-program checklist including time, equipment, room arrangement and any special needs. Send a copy to the conference facility and follow up with a phone call to make sure that there are no problems.

    7. Processing Pre-registration forms WLA will handle the pre-registration processing. They will provide a list of registrants and the meals ordered. The committee uses this list to notify the facility of the number and kinds of meals needed.

    8. Meal tickets Tickets should be printed for all meal functions. Be sure to include a vegetarian option for all meals. The tickets for each entree selection at each meal should be different colors to remind people of their selections and to make life easier for servers. Check with the facility about their vegetarian selections. Make certain that they will serve a different vegetarian selection at each meal function. Many attendees will expect a dessert to be served at each meal function. Meal tickets should be included with the envelope containing name tags and receipts.

    9. Conference packets All materials for conference packets MUST be received 10 to 14 days before the conference by the person in charge of packet assembly. Make certain someone will deliver the packets to the conference site.

    10. Evaluation forms Evaluation forms must be included in the conference packets. These forms provide extremely useful information for conference planning. The form should have a place to evaluate all conference sessions, functions and social events. Also include a place for suggestions for future programs.

  8. Conference Day

    1. As people check -in at the registration table, they should receive an envelope including their name tag, meal tickets and receipt along with a conference packet. As they arrive, check off each person's name of the alphabetical list of pre-registrants. Have each person check their envelopes IMMEDIATELY for the correct meal and function tickets. The list of pre-registrants should contain name, meal tickets purchased and number of days for which they registered.

    2. On-Site registration A number of people will register on-site. To be prepared, add 10% to the number of conference packets being readied. Registration forms, name tags, etc. must be at the registration table. Other supplies to have on hand include: receipt book, tape and marking pen. Each registrant must complete a registration form. Verify that the total is correct. Take the person's payment, preferably by check, and prepare a name tag and receipt. Stamp the backs of all checks "for deposit only."

      A cash box of $50.00 for making change is arranged for by:

      1) submitting a $50 voucher to the WAAL Chairperson

      2) the WAAL Chairperson signs the voucher and sends it to the WAAL treasurer

      3) the WAAL treasurer sends a check to the Registration coordinator

      4) registration coordinator cashes check and sets up a cash box.

IV. Post Conference Duties

  1. The Conference Chairperson sends thank you notes to all presenters, introducers and planning committee members and the conference facility.

  2. Be certain all presenters have submitted their expenses and authorize payment.

  3. Tabulate and analyze evaluation forms.

  4. Prepare final report which will contain a financial statement, evaluation results and comments or suggestions which may help future conference planners. The report is to be completed within three months of the conference and is to be sent to the WAAL Chairperson along with a statement of conference profits.