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How to Select A Conference Manager And A Chairperson At Annual Conferences?

May 30, 2017

The individual who chairs an annual conference of a professional society for the first time may feel overwhelmed by the multiplicity of tasks that, seemingly, must all be done at the same time: Among them are formulating meeting objectives, devising a conference plan, organizing committees, developing and administering a budget, setting deadlines, planning technical and so on. Actually, there is another important problem well before all these issues needed to be solved; "How to select a conference manager and a chairperson in annual conferences"? Though it might look very simple for some people, it's not and sometimes it creates a real headache.

Despite general perception, one of the important steps in the process of planning and organizing a professional society's annual conference is to select the key conference officers: the conference manager and the conference chairperson. The balance between participating groups and the talent of potential candidates play an important role in success of some periodical events like annual conferences.Typically, these decisions are made by a combination of society officers, the society executive committees, and the long-range conference planning committees. If the conference is to be jointly sponsored, representatives of the co-sponsoring society may also be involved in making these decisions.

Selecting a conference manager

An important planning decision concerns conference management. Who will be responsible for making the conference arrangements with the hotel or other host site, handling advance registrations and staffing the registration, information, audiovisual, and press offices during the conference? These tasks can be handled by a professional convention bureau, a professional conference manager, a local or conference-arrangements committee composed of professional society members who live in the host city, or members of a local chapter or area university. Society tradition and funds available for professional services are the determining factors in this decision.

Conference arrangements must be handled by knowledgeable, skillful, willing personnel who are capable of negotiating to make the best possible arrangements for the society at the lowest equitable cost. Prior experience in dealing with hotel managers is a decided plus.Contracting for the services of an experienced professional conference manager can benefit a society because such an individual brings knowledge of logistics and expertise in negotiation to the task. Conference arrangements can be costly if a trial-and-error approach is used. The conference manager can provide valuable planning suggestions, aid in site selection, obtain favorable hotel rates, and often negotiate special transportation rates for members.

The person chosen as a conference manager should be an experienced meeting planner with a proven record of producing high-quality, well-run conferences. The individual should have;

  • Excellent communication and management skills,
  • Rapport with others,
  • The ability to work with society officers, the conference and program chairpersons, the local and conference arrangements committees, and the hotel management and staff,
  • The ability to complete tasks on time,
  • Commitment to making the best arrangements possible for the society.

The individual should be bondable and should have a knowledgeable and efficient staff to handle audiovisual equipment arrangements and registration. When a conference manager is selected, it is important to carefully delineate the area of responsibility and to establish the amount of time, and the fees to be charged for the specific services to be provided.

Selecting the conference chairperson

A critical planning decision concerns selection of a conference chairperson. This should be an established, widely known, and respected individual with longtime stature in the discipline. He or she must be familiar with the conference format and goals. It's preferred that, he has demonstrated ability for leadership examples before. A reputation for accomplishing tasks on time, which actually is a frequent problem area in many conferences, is also an important personal quality. Management acumen, rapport with others, ability to work with professional and non-professional staff members both paid and volunteer, skill in interpersonal relations and expertise in delegating authority, coordinating activities, and following up on details are also very important features of a quality chairperson.

Further, the individual should has an expressed interest in chairing the conference and have sufficient available time for this critical mission. He or she should be able to access to secretarial resources, and has a commitment to making the conference a success. During the year before the conference, the chairperson must give conference work the highest priority and be readily available to coordinate others and participate in conference decision-making. Finally, the conference chairperson must have decision-making authority within policy guidelines of the organization.


About the Author

Erkan OGULGANMIS

Posted by Erkan OGULGANMIS

Erkan OGULGANMIS Graduated from Army War College, completed MA degree in Ankara University on Global & Regional Studies, studies law in Istanbul University. Works in MEETINGHAND Online Solutions Co. as Business Development & Sales Manager.