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Thread: Conference Planning - Any help at all would be greatly appreciated

  1. #1
          Downtown's avatar
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    Conference Planning - Any help at all would be greatly appreciated

    Dearest friends in the planning community:
    I've had the (dubious) honor of being tapped to organize our Chapter conference for next year. However, I was tapped quite late in the game, and now we're in a bit of a rush to get organized. So, I'm asking (ok, begging) for any snippet of advice that any of you, who have had conference planning experience, could extend my way, so that this conference is the a**kicking-est ever. Or at least doesn't completely suck. This is my first conference I've ever worked on (how I got to chair the thing is still beyond me), and I'd be ever so grateful for responses.

    Thanks guys,
    Kelly

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Welcome to the club Kel.

    I have the same dubious honor here, as the state director for a 3 state chapter, and the conference is in NH in '03.

    I have access to the Leadership section of the APA website, and there's a few nice conference planning handbooks I could e-mail to you if you'd like (PDF format).

    Other than that, I'm still so early in the process that all I've selected is a host city, and not much else. My committee still hasn't really formed yet....but we have 11 months until conference time.

    Let me know if you want the handbooks (and an e-mail address to send 'em to)!
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

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    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    I was on the host committee for the national conference and all that I can say is that it was an "experience." Make sure you have reliable committee chairs and try to keep the infighting down to a minimum.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  4. #4
          Downtown's avatar
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    Thanks guys. Tim, I PM-ed you with my email. Thank you so much!

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    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I'll give you a little advice my wife just learned. Don't plan it for New Orleans in September

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Originally posted by Mike DeVuono
    I'll give you a little advice my wife just learned. Don't plan it for New Orleans in September
    Ironically, the state conference used to be held in Sept but they had to keep rescheduling because of the hurricane and tropical storm threats. Now, it's held the first weekend (Thurs-Sat) in Oct. Guess what hit Louisiana on day one of the conference????
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Oh, yeah, I've been doing this one for a while, for both our state downtown organization and economic development organization. I've spoken at a few as well.

    One small thing always comes up - have plenty of refreshments available before and between sessions. Ridiculous that they should, but some people seem to focus on this.

    The quality of speakers is always another issue. Our attendees seem to not like panel discussions as much as other formats. Solid case studies are very popular, but not simple "show and tell." We also get complaints when something is too academic, though others enjoy the more theoretical presentations. Alright, so nobody can agree. That is why we often have a mix of formats.

    We have also tried to structure each conference around a single theme. Feedback to this has been positive from both organizations. Lastly, we try to find a speaker who can give an overview of trends - demographic trends, industry trends, etc., related to the conference topic. These are usually popular keynote sessions.

    I hope these ideas help.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Of course up your meds right before the conference.

    I have organized several successful conferences and I find I really enjoy letting my anal retentive side bloom right up until the first speaker starts. Then you kick back and ride the wave you have created.

    The devil is in the details. A trick that works for me is to pretend I am a guest and do an entire walk through as your guests several times during the planning and set up stages. Go where they will go, see what they will see from all corners of the room. Keep sessions to 50 minutes for the bladder challenged. Keep the rooms on the cold side. Make sure the few smokers left have a place to smoke. Have spares for everything and don't skip the small details. Don't trust anyone - it is not as important to them as it is to you. Make sure the conference center staff knows that you're not one to screw with or be in the slightest bit late with. Verify, verify, verify.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    The KY chapter convinced a micro-brewry to be a sponser. Oldenberg is a pretty good brew...especially when free.

  10. #10

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    I always like the tours or mobile workshops. Seeing a successful project - or seeing the results of failed efforts - 'on the ground' is worth the effort. Plus, you often get to talk with some of the people who actually do the work, the ones who are too busy to come to three days worth of meetings in El Guapo's cold rooms.

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