Hosting an INANE conference is, to be honest, a major undertaking, but it is very rewarding and can be lots of fun – particularly if you start early and organize a great group of folks who can share the load! In the process of organizing the 2014 conference in Portland, Maine, we (Leslie Nicoll and Peggy Chinn) prepared a short history of the hosting process, along with a number of hints for getting the job done. And, we developed a bag of tools that you can use if you wish to take on the job of being a guest host for a future INANE conference!
First principle — you can organize the conference any way you want! Each conference has been and certainly can be handled any way a host prefers. We have never fired a host–and we never will!!!
In the early days, when INANE was quite small, hosting was a relatively simple matter. As some have described it, “A bunch of old gals getting together at a resort in the off-season.” The Editor(s) who volunteered typically took care of many (most) details on their own, or with limited support from staff in their organization or university. As our group grew, and expectations for the annual meeting increased, planners for some INANE conferences drew on more institutional support for help.
Think of it as a pendulum: at one extreme, an institution (such as a university) or organization (such as a publisher) has taken a key leadership role, handling all the financial aspects of the conference, registration, and arrangements for the venue. In the middle, the host and planning group of INANE Editors rely on selected institutional resources, typically to handle the hotel contract and registration, while the planning group of editors handle the details of planning the program, engaging the plenary speakers, and arranging for extra-curricular conference activities. At the other end of the spectrum, INANE members take on the whole job with no institutional support or help.
An example of the “full institution” involvement was the San Francisco INANE (2011) conference when Lippincott’s conference department covered all the advance expenses, located and contracted with the hotel, organized our planning committee to identify speakers (which they then worked with for all the details of posters, presentations, etc.) handled registrations and all negotiations with hotel, and even sent a team of 3 folks to be at the conference to staff the registration and take care of all the details.
The conference in 2014 is an example of the do-it-yourself model. Suzanne Smith was an avid advocate of the “do-it-yourself” model, which she and Margaret Freda had done at least once, with great success. Leslie Nicoll had volunteered to host the 2014 conference in 2011, partly because she wanted to bring the planning “back to its roots” and demonstrate that a conference of this size is manageable for a small (but dedicated) planning committee. With Suzarnne’s terrific support as a cheerleader, Leslie and the other members of the planning committee set out to do the conference with no institutional support other than donations to help us cover costs. The biggest challenge with this model is dealing with some of the upfront costs, including hotel deposit and deposits for special events.
So, would you like to host a future INANE conference? We hope you will give it serious consideration. If the idea intrigues you, read on!
Regardless of the approach you use, the first step is to obtain the contract with the hotel, which should be done 18 to 24 months in advance. This initial step also pins down the
dates of the conference which isn’t so hard, since INANE always meets at the end of July or beginning of August. The bigger variable is which days of the week should be scheduled. For 2014, since we are in Maine at the height of tourist season, Leslie was able to negotiate the best deal on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday–weekend dates were absolutely out of the question.
Our conferences are typically all week-days, which helps in terms of hotel availability. We typically have an evening event on day 1, all-day sessions on day 2, and anywhere from a half day (morning only) to lunch/early afternoon on day 3. Hotels can typically be more flexible with this short time frame mid-week. They typically will agree to provide the conference room rate for a night or two before and after the conference, which is great for folks who want to include some time for a bit of vacation. If you decide to proceed with the hotel contract on your own, we can help with the many details that this involves.
Once you have this major expense identified, you can begin to work out your budget, which determines what your registration fee will be. For a north-American location, planning based on about 100 registrants is a safe estimate. Our conferences are financed solely with registration fees and sponsor donations. Each host is responsible to negotiate sponsor donations, meaning contacting our publishers and any other organizations that might chip in to support our work!
In terms of money, in 2014, we opened registration for the conference at the end of the 2013 conference, which helped to provide funds to cover the advance expenses. It was a bit of a gamble–INANE registration has never opened this early before. But, we discovered that the longer lead time enhanced our 2014 conference in more ways than we anticipated. For example, the planning group had a comfortable time frame in which to develop the program, involving as many INANE members as possible.
One detail the conference planning group will not have to address in the future is the awards! The awards processes for the Mentoring Editors Awards and Margaret Comerford Freda Leadership Award will now be handled by volunteer groups for each one by INANE members. All that the conference planning group will need to do is find out who will be receiving the awards and put the awards presentation on the program. All the details of each award will be handled by the awards committees. The online resources for each of these awards will also be housed on the main INANE web site.
As an outcome of the 2014 experience, we have established a number of valuable online resources that future planning groups can use:
- Online forms for submission of abstracts for posters and presentations
- Online processes for the Margaret Comerford Freda Leadership award and the Suzanne Smith Mentoring Editors Awards.
- Resources for handling registration and donations, for any planning group that wants to do this on their own.
- A template for creating a web site and blog dedicated to the conference you are planning.
In the big scheme of conference planning, INANE is a relatively small event. In 2014 we had a record 150 attendees plus 25 guests. Although our numbers vary, we seem to hover in the range of 80 to 150 participants every year. Being small gives us flexibility to choose more interesting and intimate venues. So think about it. Do you live in a smaller city with a conference venue that tops out at 200 participants? Cities like Seattle, Vancouver, Milwaukee, and Nashville are coming to mind. Would you be interested in hosting a future INANE? We will be selecting sites for future meetings (2017, 2018, and maybe 2019) at this year’s conference. If you are even a little bit interested, contact us for more information. Bring your ideas to this year’s meeting. Don’t be shy–hosting INANE is a great experience!