European Conference: Programmes Breakout Sessions
There are numerous logistical details involved with management of the breakout sessions, and therefore it is recommended that each committee member take on the responsibility of three or four breakout sessions and handle the responsibility for those sessions from start to finish. Delegation is particularly important for this committee, as the work can be too cumbersome for one or two people to do on their own. For more tips on how to delegate, visit the Committee Chair Toolkit or contact the Executive Director.
Step 1. Solicit Program Proposals
- All members of the Programs Committee should carefully review the Conference Policies, focusing on speaker requirements and vendor participation, to ensure they are communicating the policies to speakers before they are asked to participate. Note: approval must be received by the Executive Director before inviting any speakers. The Conference Policies were created based on previous experience and feedback from the European Conference, and are designed to protect the organization and our volunteers, as well as provide equitable promotional and exposure opportunities for speakers.
- The Board Liaison will provide the committee with an ideal number of sessions for each target audience, depending on the board's strategic goals. Target audiences are as follows: career coaches, employer relations, specialty masters programs, employers, directors, seasoned professionals.
- Review evaluations from previous European Conferences and other MBA CSEA surveys to determine which topics members are interested in learning about.
- Breakout session proposals are solicited from the membership using MBA CSEA's survey software. The Executive Director will provide the committee with the form used for the previous year's proposals, and the committee can provide feedback and recommendations for edits. Once the form and the communication materials are final, the Executive Director will send the Call for Proposals to the membership. A deadline is utilized in order to encourage submissions (determined based on the overall timeline), and may be extended if needed.
- Once the deadline passes, the Executive Director provides the committee with a list of proposals submitted. If there aren't enough sessions to meet the needs of the target audiences, the committee may invite speakers to present sessions, upon approval from the Executive Director and Board Liaison. In some cases, complimentary conference registrations may be provided to invited speakers (upon approval).
Step 2. Review Program Proposals
- Sessions are reviewed by the committee based on the following criteria. Note: it's preferred that most of the breakout sessions do not fit within the conference theme (if the theme is programming-oriented), in order to ensure diversity of programming is provided.
- Proposal quality - how well is the proposal organized? Is it complete? Are there grammatical errors or other concerns? This provides an idea of how organized the session will be.
- Newness/Diversity of topic - the committee should make sure there is a wide range of topics presented, including those that are new, innovative, thought-provoking, and have never been presented at a European Conference before.
- Relevancy/fit within the organization’s mission and strategic goals, as communicated to the committee by the Board Liaison and Executive Director.
- Level of interaction with conference participants. Attendees like to share information and interact, rather than listen to a lecture.
- Appeal of topic - how practical and actionable is the topic? Will it appeal to our membership?
- Presenter qualifications - what credentials does the presenter have that make them an expert on this topic?
- Speakers should be vetted based on the Conference Policies. The Executive Director can assist with this. Note the vendor policy in particular. This should be communicated with any vendor who presents a proposal to speak, before accepting their proposal.
- Obtain information from the Executive Director regarding how many sessions can be accepted, based on the space provided at the conference hotel.
Step 3. Select Breakout Sessions
- The committee makes recommendations for which proposals to accept, reject, or edit based on the criteria above and general appeal of the topic/speaker. The final list of recommendations for sessions is sent to the Executive Director for approval.
Step 4. Communicate with Speakers
- The committee reaches out to everyone who submitted a proposal to let them know the decision (approve, revise, or reject). The templates found here can assist with the communications.
- If the committee wants to request tweaks to session content, the committee members reach out to the speakers and request adjustments, as needed. Use discretion and sensitivity when asking a presenter to potentially make a change to their program (as a request, not a requirement). For example, if it isn’t clear in the write-up why a session is applicable to a specific audience, first gather more information about the session and then suggest a tweak to the session write-up, explaining that the tweak could increase session attendance and a chance of being accepted. Avoid implying that the session will be accepted even if changes are not made. See the sample communications templates for more details.
- Speakers are asked to respond to the committee member who contacted them to confirm receipt of the communication, and responses are tracked in the breakout session tracking document in Smartsheet. If the presenters do not confirm receipt of the communication, the committee members follow up to make sure they received it.
- Once all of the sessions are confirmed, the committee determines where to place each session within the conference schedule. The committee will make a prediction about the audience size for each session (high, medium, low), which will assist with the room allocation. The committee also helps ensure that there is at least one session for each target audience during each breakout session timeslot (see target audiences above). Note: we do not accept individual requests for timeslots from speakers.
- Make sure all selected speakers register for the conference (including those who are provided with complimentary passes). The Administrative Assistant will audit the speaker roster on a regular basis and let the committee know about any speakers who are not registered.
- If changes are needed to the speaking roster for any sessions, the new speakers must be vetted using the conference policies before they are approved. The committee member or Admin Assistant should also make sure the session presenters are aware that the new speakers must register for the conference.
- Enter speaker details and information into the Conference Schedule in Smartsheet for use on the web site and in the printed program. Be sure all information is edited and final before entering it. View the Conference Program Styling Guide as a reference.
- Identify room hosts for each session. Hosts should be members of the planning committee (Programmes Committee or other), and could be the same people who reach out to the speakers. Session host responsibilities are as follows:
- Gather information needed for conference program (job title, company name).
- Let presenters know what A/V items will be included for their breakout session. A/V policies are as follows:
- Lapel mics are ordered for keynote and plenary speakers only, and only upon request.
- Handheld mics are ordered for all other sessions at a ratio of one mic for every two speakers.
- All speakers except for keynotes and plenary speakers must bring their own laptops.
- No changes to A/V set-ups will be made on-site unless the equipment doesn't work.
- Put together room host packets for use on-site. Packets should include the following:
- Room host instructions (see instructions used the previous year, found in OneDrive)
- 5-minute warning and 10-minute warning signs
- Review conference brochure in draft stage, paying attention to accuracy of speaker names, bios, topic descriptions, room names and session times.
- Communicate with the Marketing committee about the printing needs for the Programmes Subcommittee, including;
- Signage to identify room topics, if needed (note: this may be provided by the hotel - check with the Executive Director)
- Table tents for table topics, if needed
- Signage with the conference agenda, if needed