24:4 (2009:12) Conference Planning Committee Wrap-Up Report

December 9, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Conference, Conference Planning | Leave a comment

CONFERENCE PLANNING COMMITTEE
WRAP-UP REPORT
2009 CONFERENCE, ASHEVILLE, NC

Conference Planning Committee

Members:
Jennifer Arnold, Mary Bailey, Chris Burris, Maria Collins, Eleanor Cook (co-chair), Christie Degener, Pam Draper, Laurie Edwards, Kay Johnson, Gail Julian, Steve Kelley (co-chair), Rebecca Kemp, Selden Lamoureux, Nancy Newsome, Frieda Rosenberg, Jacquie Samples, Merrill Smith, Gale Teaster, Shoko Tokoro, Rob Wolf
Consultant: Joyce Tenney
Board liaison: Sarah Wessel

AV

One committee member (Chris Burris) handled the AV responsibilities for the conference.  We used the in-house AV company for the main conference hotel, the Renaissance Marriott.  The service was very good and quite prompt.  Due to space limitations at the Renaissance, we had to place our internet cafe in the overflow hotel, the Sheraton.  This was inconvenient, but necessary because of the small size of the Renaissance.

Cost: $20,911.50
Recommendations: 1.) Use the hotel’s in-house AV company.  The slight cost-savings that might be generated by seeking outside bids is more than offset by the quality of service and convenience of using the in-house company.  2.) If an internet cafe is set up, every effort should be made to have the cafe on the grounds of the main conference hotel.  3.) Make sure that the Registration Desk is equipped with a computer and a printer/copier.

Conference Packets

Conference totebags were given to all attendees.  The totebags were donated by a sponsor, and each contained donated pens, a donated notepad, and a donated flashdrive, loaded by a PPC member with the files for all of the handouts for each of the conference sessions.  Also included in each bag was a lanyard, badge holder and a folder with various handouts.  The handouts were coordinated by one committee member (Jacquie Samples) who had the copies made at a Kinko’s using the NASIG account.  A wiki was used to track the various pieces that needed to be created and placed in the bags.  She also coordinated volunteers at her library who helped with stuffing folders and bags.  She then shipped some of the pre-stuffed bag to the Renaissance Hotel using FedEx.  Several people also carried some of the boxes with them as they travelled to Asheville.  New lanyards, badge holders and badge inserts were purchased, and some supplies remain for use at the next conference.

Cost: $2,670.60
Recommendations: If at all possible, have the folders and bags stuffed off-site prior to the conference.  This greatly eases stress on the registration desk.  Also, every effort should be made to continue the practice of having flashdrives with the conference handouts available.  This was a very popular feature of the conference.  The CPC for the 2010 conference will have to purchase new ribbons for the badge holders, as we ran out of several types of ribbons.

Conference Schedule and Printed Program

Once PPC develops and firms up the program content, CPC works with PPC to get the program information formatted and ready for packets.  Frieda Rosenberg was the point person for this aspect.  Frieda and others spent a lot of time taking the PPC spreadsheet and creating something that the web editors could work with, but were able to get the program posted in time for the opening of registration.  Also, for the first time, NASIG sold advertising space in the program.

Cost: Included with Conference Packets
Recommendations: One thing we would like to suggest that would make this process smoother is for PPC to deliver program content in a formatted document that can be ready to post on the web.    If PPC would do this part, it would help move things along.  It would also save the CPC from unnecessary typos and informational errors that inevitably occur when transferring and/or rekeying information.

Discussion Groups

Informal discussions were held during lunch on the second day of the conference.  Due to the small size of the Renaissance Hotel, and the need to have rooms set for various functions, the discussion groups were all conducted in one ballroom.  This led to some problems with hearing conversations around the table.  The CPC was aware of this potential problem before the conference.  The decision was made that the discussion groups would work better if tables were available for people to eat their lunches.  The groups could have been split off in other rooms, but the attendees would have to eat a box lunch off their laps, which can be quite inconvenient and distracting.

Recommendations: If at all possible, arrange for lunch-time discussion groups to have separate rooms and tables available.

Food

The food for the conference (coordinated by Christie Degener and Merrill Smith) mostly consisted of meals and breaks served at the Renaissance Hotel (breakfasts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a box lunch on Friday, a first-timers reception on Thursday, an hors d’oeuvres buffet for the opening reception on Thursday, and various breaks throughout the conference and pre-conferences).  One all-conference event with food was held at the Crest Center on Saturday night.  Because of the proximity of the Renaissance Hotel to downtown Asheville and a number of eating establishments, attendees were left to their own devices for other meals.  Because of concerns about attendance numbers due to the economy, our food minimums were negotiated downward.  The most serious problem occurred during the opening reception, when the hotel staff forgot to put out signs identifying each of the dishes, which a major concern for people with food allergies.

Cost: (for Renaissance – $77,268.66, for Crest Center – $22,084.11)
Recommendations: 1.)  NASIG attendees are great coffee drinkers, but they are also great hot tea drinkers.  For beverage only breaks, be sure to specify they include tea.  2.)  Attendees were avid water drinkers, and bottled water went fast at all the breaks.  3.) Insist that food items be labeled to avoid problems for those with allergies.  4.) When accommodating requests for sugar free items, find out what artificial sweetener has been used — some people are sensitive to particular sweeteners.  5.)  As a rule of thumb, plan for about 30% vegetarian choices.  6.) Make sure the food gets set up at least 15 minutes prior to the official break time, since sessions often end early.  7.)  Always ask how much the hotel will serve over the guarantee numbers (the Renaissance Asheville was prepared to serve 5% over the guarantee numbers), must be sure to provide enough buffer for last minute registrants.  8.) Despite the ready availability of restaurants, some attendees missed the dine-a-rounds as an opportunity to meet up with new people.

Fun Run

A number of attendees participated in a fun run/walk on Saturday morning, coordinated by Jennifer Arnold.  This appears to be a popular tradition among a core of dedicated NASIG runners.

Cost: Nothing
Recommendations: Try to make sure you have at least one runner who is willing to figure out a route for the run serving on the CPC.

Hotel

For the 2009 conference, we had a main hotel, the Renaissance, and an overflow hotel, the Sheraton.  The Renaissance, while a very nice hotel, was rather too small for all our needs, and thus a number of accommodations had to made for setting rooms for particular purposes, the poster sessions were placed in a hallway, and the internet cafe had to be located in the overflow hotel.  We re-negotiated a lower number of rooms in our reservation block, due to concerns about attendance.  A problem developed regarding the Sheraton’s registration website, which made it difficult to get registrations made at the block rate, but this problem was eventually resolved by the hotel.  Eleanor Cook developed a spreadsheet that aided in tracking comped rooms for speakers and board members, etc., which cut down on billing problems and other confusions.

Recommendations: Whenever possible, the Site Selection Committee should try to find a city that has a lodging venue that is large enough to accommodate the entire conference.  Have a person on the CPC to be the contact point for the hotel to keep on top of hotel registration problems.

Offsite Events

This year, we had an all-conference offsite event on Saturday night, and two optional offsite events on Friday night.  The all-conference event was an evening at the Crest Center, a reception facility with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Entertainment was provided by the musical group Wishing Chair.  A full meal was provided at the Crest Center, and attendance was somewhat less than total.

On Friday, a group of conference attendees went to minor league baseball game (the Asheville Tourists, a single A team).  The CPC informed conference attendees about the game, but did not arrange blocks of tickets, due to uncertainty about the number of possible attendees.  On Friday, we also arranged an optional evening event at the Biltmore Estate.  This ticketed event cost $125 per person and included bus transportation to and from the Estate, dinner and a tour of the house.  The ticket price was set to just barely cover the cost of the event, and a tiny profit was made ($146.61).  Ninety-four people attended this event.

Cost: Crest Center – $31,558.49 (this includes the food cost noted above of $22,084.11)
Recommendations: We would not recommend arranging two large-scale offsite events during the conference.  This was an unusual circumstance, as the CPC had hoped to have an all-conference event at the Biltmore Estate, but this was simply not financially feasible without making it a separately paid event.  We would also recommend developing some mechanism to get a relatively firm count on the number of expected attendees at all-conference offsite events, so that menus and food counts can be adjusted and waste avoided.

Opening Session

The conference was opened by Jill Emery, president, NASIG.  Jill introduced Kenneth Richards, a local historian from Asheville, who gave a very wide-ranging, colorful talk on the history of the area.
Cost: $250 (honorarium)

Poster Sessions

Nine poster sessions (coordinated by Gail Julian) were set up in a hallway in the Renaissance Hotel on Friday.  Due to the small size of the hotel, this hallway was the only option for the posters.  Space was tight and it was a less than ideal situation.  Luckily, the hallway was large enough that the poster boards could be placed at a comfortable distance from each other, and chairs were provided for each of the presenters.  The rental company delivered and set up the poster boards on Thursday afternoon, and took them down on Saturday morning.

Cost: $624.49 (delivery and set up for poster display boards)
Recommendations: If at all possible, hold poster sessions in a large enough space to allow for smooth traffic flow.

Preconferences

Three preconferences were held, one day-long session on Wednesday, one half-day meeting on Thursday, and one day-and-a-half long preconference on Wednesday and Thursday.  Breaks with snacks and beverages were provided for the preconferences, but not lunch.  The registration figures for the preconferences were as follows:

Navigating Your Way Through the E-Journals Rapids – 19
SCCTP Electronic Serials Cataloging – 11
Basics of E-Resource Licensing – 29

Cost: $367.74 (includes licensing fees for materials and binders)

Publicity

The logo for the conference was designed by Craig Fansler, a librarian at Wake Forest University, who has designed logos for a number of local and regional conferences.  The conference was publicized through blast emails sent by the NASIG publicist, as well as through “What’s New” updates on the NASIG website.  A discussion forum on the NASIG website was devoted to answering questions and providing information about the conference.  There were also postings sent out on the various listserves from the NASIG publicist.

Cost: $500 (for logo design)

Registration

The CPC was fortunate to have Mary Bailey continue in her role as conference registrar from the 2008 conference.  Her experience helped smooth the process and the registration operation worked very well.  Jennifer Arnold worked with Mary as an understudy and will serve as registrar for the 2010 conference.  We rented a computer and printer/copier from the hotel’s AV company for use at the registration desk.  The registration desk also functioned as a general information desk.  In addition to CPC members working at the desk, a number of volunteers worked shifts at the registration desk.

Recommendations:  Make sure that printed name badges are at the conference site before the preconferences begin.  Establish a quick training routine for workers on the registration desk, to orient them with the major registration/info issues (where the evening event will be, where the internet cafe is, etc.).  If you do not have a separate information desk, consider staffing the registration desk for long and off hours.  Many people had questions that needed answering after sessions finished on Saturday, and early Sunday morning, when we did not have the desk officially scheduled.

Signs

One CPC member, Maria Collins, took the lead in creating signs for the conference.  She used the NASIG Kinko’s account to have signs made for the registration desk and to indicate meeting rooms.  She also had a sign made featuring the logos of conference sponsors to display as thanks, as well as signs to indicate the sponsorship of buses used for transportation to an off-site event.

Cost: $481.26
Recommendations: Assigning one person to have primary responsibility for signs worked very well.

Souvenirs

As with the past several conferences, we did not have a full-fledged conference store.  Instead, we used Cafe Press to create souvenirs for conference attendees on an as-needed basis.  While our sales were not high, this eliminated overhead and expense to NASIG, and the problem of excess stock.  Kay Johnson and Pam Draper developed our list of offerings from Cafe Press.

Recommendations:  We recommend the continued use of Cafe Press or a similar company.

Sponsorships

For the first time, NASIG sought monetary and in-kind sponsorships, and the process was quite successful.  Selden Lamoreaux and Maria Collins were the CPC representatives in this process.  Sponsors made donations toward specific items or functions (totebags, notepads, thumdrives, buses, etc.), as well as general donations toward the conference.

Income: $43,200
Recommendations: We would recommend greater communication between the past president, as sponsorship coordinator, and the CPC.  The breakdown of donations, particularly targeted donations, can be very important to budgeting for the overall conference.

Transportation

Transportation was perhaps the thorniest issue for this year’s conference planning.  The company that ran the shuttle bus from the Asheville airport to the local hotels went out of business before the conference.  So, in addition to planning for bus transportation to the all-conference event at the Crest Center, as well bus transportation to the optional event at the Biltmore Estate, we had to charter a bus and develop our own airport shuttle.  Luckily, Nancy Newsome performed heroically in this function, coordinating the bus runs as well as collecting payment from attendees.  The local bus company that we used was very accommodating and worked with us very well.

Cost:     $8,324.38 (for Crest Center)
$1,989.37 (for Biltmore Estate, cost recovered by ticket prices charged to attendees)
Income: $260.00 (slight income from shuttle service)
Recommendations: Do everything possible to avoid having to run your own customized shuttle service.

Volunteers

Two batches of volunteers were recruited.  One group was recruited by the packet coordinator, Jacquie Samples, to assist her in stuffing conference folders and bags before the conference.  The other group of volunteers was recruited locally from the Asheville area by Eleanor Cook to assist on the registration/local information desk.  The assistance of all volunteers was greatly appreciated.

Website

The CPC had two administrators for the conference website, Shoko Tokoro and Rob Wolf.  The website provided information about conference registration, hotel reservations, travel, souvenirs, and a discussion forum.

Recommendations: Having two web administrators allowed us to keep the site updated very promptly.  We would recommend having at least two authorized users, so if one person is unavailable there is knowledgeable back-up.

Miscellaneous

  1. It is helpful to have conference archives available so the current CPC can see what has been done in the past.
  2. We experimented with the use of “Travel Gurus” (Kay Johnson and Susan Davis) to help people negotiate the airline choices and other issues with the location.  This was a free service and was not meant to serve in any formal capacity.  Is this something that should be continued?
  3. Conference photos were put on the NASIG Flickr site.
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