Need Some Ideas for Improving Your Next Conference?
Updated: Aug. 6, 2019 | Categories: Meetings/Events
Holding a conference that delivers the outcomes you intended requires foresight and planning. And a good understanding of what attendees want, and the right sized budget and…the list goes on.
For a real world understanding of some of the things chapters can do to help ensure the success of their next conference, we spoke to Rosemarie Fraumeni. In addition to being the Director of Payroll for Thrive Skilled Pediatric Care, Fraumeni is the chairperson and treasurer for the New England Payroll Conference (NEPC), a StarChapter client. In this role for 19 years, she and her all-volunteer committee plan and execute the NEPC, held yearly in June. Year after year they hold successful conferences, and we wanted to understand their secret to success.
Fraumeni believes their conferences continue to go really well because they:
- Communicate early and often
- Follow a timeline & schedule
- Learn from previous years
- Don’t make assumptions
The NEPC holds their first planning meeting in August. Most months, the committee connects by phone at least once, even as subcommittees are completing their own tasks. It’s important, Fraumeni say, to communicate early and often with the committee(s) as well as with partners and prospective attendees. It’s also crucial, she says, to keep potential attendees engaged from the start, and ‘’get them pumped” about coming to the conference.
The goal of the NEPC is for attendees to leave with as much knowledge as they can get while having as much networking time as possible. To help make this happen, the committees follows a similar process each year.
Their committee has nine volunteers, and each volunteer has two primary responsibilities. First, the committee sets the theme and the prices for the next year’s conference in August, so they can start marketing with “save the date” materials and early registrations. They even try to keep the cost consistent from year to year; price changes have only happened three times since Fraumeni began running the committee.)
This year the theme was Payrollopoly, based on the game Monopoly. Once they selected the theme, they incorporated it into their marketing and networking activities. To engage potential attendees, they held a trivia contest for six months prior to the conference. Everyone that participated received a raffle ticket for every question they answered, regardless of a right or wrong answer. The tickets were added to a raffle for $200. Then, at the conference, they held a game night with a Payrollopoly game board and card games, plus a Family Feud event, for which Fraumeni was the master of ceremonies.
They pick the session topics in August and base them on what worked well at the last conference and the results of a survey that asks what attendees want to learn at future conferences. Early on, they also pick the local charity they’ll support that year. This year, they raised $800 for the Prudence Crandall House in Connecticut.
The planning committee works hard to create an atmosphere of community with the sizeable group of payroll professionals who have been coming for years. They do this by following the best practices they’ve developed, incorporating current payroll content into the presentations, and bringing in the “best of the best” for their vendor hall.
Fraumeni calls her committee a “well-oiled machine.” To ensure everything gets done, they keep a detailed list of every task, even as most of the volunteers have been on the committee for more than 10 years; they don’t assume everyone will remember what needs to be done. They also hold people accountable for their responsibilities, but each member of the planning committee is willing to help with other areas as needed.
And most importantly, Fraumeni says, they make sure the planning process remains fun. “If you’re not having fun,” she says, “then it just becomes another job. “We laugh a lot,” she adds, “even when we are stressed to the max!”