Conference 3.0: Joining the Conference Committee

May 30th, 2012

This is cross-posted on my co-conspirator’s blog as well: you can follow him at @JoeGinese

Sometimes, the timing of things just happens to work out. We’ve been discussing this topic for the past week or so and then something happened. This morning we witnessed an exchange in our twitter streams that perfectly sets the stage for the blog post we had just finished editing a day before.

Here is the exchange:
And now for the post:

Student Affairs Pro 1: “I want to join the conference planning committee! It looks like so much fun!”

Student Affairs Pro 2: “Great! Why?”

Student Affairs Pro 1: “Well, look at that team, so much fun. Great vests, too! And a nice line on the resume!”

Student Affairs Pro 2: This look.

You’ve more than likely overheard or have been a part of such an occurrence at a conference. Great enthusiasm, great energy, no direction. This is akin to volunteering to be on the stage with a magician before he/she has told you what you volunteered for. Student Affairs Pro 1 is doing it for the glory, not for the greater good.

So before you, Student Affairs Pro 2, encourage this individual to fill out the application, write the essays, and start using word of mouth to share their interest with others, perhaps you should pass along this list to them.

If you are considering applying for a Conference Planning Team – or know someone who is, read the following and pass it on.

The ideal conference committee member…

– Should not be doing this for popularity, SWAG, or because of the cute conference chair.

– Should not be doing this because they were voluntold without reason

– Should do it if they are asked specifically for a certain skill set that the conference team is lacking (you bring value to team)

– Should do it if they have good ideas and want to provide a quality professional development experience for their colleagues

– Should not do this to pad the resume or for the “glory.”

– Should do this with the intent of improving the conference experience

– Should be willing to ask for help if it will make the conference a better experience for attendees.

– Should not be planning to recruit all of their friends to their committee, team, volunteer,

– Should look to recruit people with a high level of commitment to the ideas expressed above.

– Should have a high level of organization – or know someone that does and recruit them to assist.

Commitment – Time, Energy, Focus
– Should be able to commit the time and energy through the full conference planning process. This likely means a lot of time in advance, but also time after the conference for assessment and wrap up.

– Should not be applying if they know they will be job searching out of the region. *Re-read previous line*

– Should not plan to just re-use materials from last year without making improvements or changes.

-Should be willing to do grunt work in addition to ideas-work – when it comes to conference time, everyone has to pitch in!

– Should be willing to talk to others and be open to new ideas – and willing to see them through.

– Should already have ideas of how to enhance and/or improve the conference experience they just had.

– Should consider talking to people who have raved about recent conferences to see what was so great and how to incorporate it.

– Should be prepared to attend a conference that is outside of higher ed in the year leading up to their conference to cultivate new ideas

– Should explore how to involve student affairs professionals from diverse functional areas and across all stages of their career – grad students, entry level professionals, mid-level managers, SSAOs, etc.

What are your experiences with conferences and professional organizations? What is on your list of dos and don’ts? Feel free to continue this conversation in the comments below, or by following the Conference 3.0 hashtag #Conf30.

Thanks to @StacyLOliver, @CLConzen @CarolynGolz @JeffLail for kick starting the conversation this morning. Thanks to @WSWCSM for the hilarious GIF image and website.

  • Kelley

    FYI I’ve never been on a committee so my suggestions may already happen.
    1. If committee has access to reports and evals how is the chair using the info? Are they keeping it from themself or sharing it with the rest of the group?2. How welcomed does the group feel? Do they feel empowered enough to ask for help or even share ideas?
    3. Volunteer positions should have an estimated time commitment

    • Kelley–These are all good suggestions. Most committees on which I’ve served have had access to reports from the previous year’s committee…assuming that committee has finished it, of course. In addition, they should have access to evaluations. I think one question to add to that is what kind of data we get. If we’re evaluating the conference within its current state, are we really getting info that is helpful?
      And yes, yes and yes – an estimated time commitment. I think that EVERY volunteer commitment needs to have one of those – and it should be over-estimated instead of under.
      Thanks for your comments!

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