Wednesday, October 17, 2007

WLA 2007: Library Conference Planning 101: Backs to the WAAL

As a newbie to the WAAL 2008 planning committee, I couldn't believe my luck. An entire session on planning the WAAL conference, by members of last year's committee!

I was so impressed by these folks - they put a lot of good energy and work into coordinating a successful conference, and they clearly had fun doing it. Oh, and not only that, but they put that same amount of energy and fun into this session. They even brought a basket of candy for attendees, and gave out door prizes! Wow.

They had tons of practical tips and words of wisdom to share:
  • Committee member pins and t-shirts ("It will be okay... I promise") helped establish team camaraderie
  • Get to know your conference site staff, and show appreciation
  • In-house program booklet is a lot of work and versioning can be difficult, but saves money
  • Conference headquarters room for committee members is helpful
  • Most program applications will come within a few hours of the deadline
  • Very difficult to estimate attendance at a given session
  • Whoever sends out the initial email will receive all kinds of communications, because there's no central "planning committee email address" and nobody knows who is on the planning committee and what their areas of responsibility are
  • Flexibility is key - there will be cancellations and problems
  • Be sure you have permission to use copyrighted images
  • If graphics are done in-house, need to be professional about service, and not try to "own" your artwork; there will be multiple iterations until finalized
  • Have entire committee look at program booklet to check for ommissions/errors
  • You can turn a regular "school"-type folder into a nice conference folder with nice conference graphic sticker on cover
  • On-site registration desk staff benefit from "ready reference" materials detailing who is doing what, where and when; maps of technology set-ups, conference center, surrounding area, etc.
  • Local Chamber of Commerce may provide "goodie bags" of information, coupons, etc.
  • Speaker forms: limit # of words for session description, ask if they can provide a Powerpoint file, ask if they would be okay with videotaping of their session
  • Food: shoot for breaking even, although making money here can subsidize other parts of conference
  • Ask local staff for costs of everything, including tablecloths, staffing, gratuity, etc.
  • Ask if you can bring in outside food, or caterers
  • Request specific foods; chefs can usually handle this - menu is just default
  • Lots of positive remarks about providing bottled water, although expensive ($1.50 each)
  • Attendees staying on site want to be entertained, but you can't please everybody
  • Local planning committee member should float around and handle issues as they arise
While I came out of the session more informed, I was also anxious about not having accomplished as much by October of this year, as they had at this time last year...

WAAL 2008 will be held April 15-18, 2008 in Manitowoc. It's affordable, fun, and relevant! Confirmed guest speakers: Gary Price (, Matt Goldner (OCLC), and Rochelle Pennington (WI author). Hope to see you there!

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