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Planning a Social Justice ConferenceParticipants listening carefully to a presenter

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Step 1: Conference pre-planning

  • Create a conference advisory committee to help develop conference goals, themes, workshop and resource fair presenters, logistics etc. (Consider including all the stakeholders in your issue.)
  • Book your venue (Venues and rooms sometimes require a year notice)

Step 2: Determining your conference (4-5 Months in Advance)

  • Assemble your conference team – generally a conference chair, someone in charge of workshops and the conference program, and someone in charge of the resource fair, advertising and conference materials, someone in charge of conference logistics
  • Determine the goals of your conference
  • Determine the major theme(s)
  • Determine the parts/timing of the conference (How many sessions? lunch?...)
  • Determine the presenters who you would like to have (“A-list” and “B-list”)
    • Begin creating a master list of contacts (name, organization, contact info, and topics)
  • Create a separate email address for your conference since your personal or work email can be overrun!
  • Create registration system for conference
  • Create a conference announcement, poster and flyer, and begin advertising to relevant stakeholders (school boards, equity offices, safe school offices and relevant organizations)
  • Contact your keynote speaker(s)
  • Send out invite letters to A-list presenters
    • Include a survey link or attachment to your letter which presenters fill out to indicate the workshop title, description and needs (materials, parking, lunch requests, etc.)
  • Determine the presenters at the Resource Fair
  • Send out invite letters to Resource Fair presenters. Attached should be a response form which includes a place for them to fill out the number of tables they need, the time they plan to be there and if they need any additional equipment (such as email, extension cord, etc.)
  • After 2-3 weeks send friendly reminders to workshop and resource fair presenters who have not responded
  • Email confirmation emails to workshop and resource fair presenters as they come in

Step 3: (2-3 Months in Advance)Participants looking at resources during the conference

  • Begin constructing your conference program and organizing survey data
    • Consider diversifying choices during each workshop time slot (i.e. topic, audience level)
    • Consider what topics are missing in your conference and try to fill gaps
  • Choose and send out invite letter to B-list presenters based on absent conference topics
    • Add a survey to determine the workshop title, description and needs (materials, parking, lunch requests.)
  • Determine what will be served for lunch (different for presenters?) and what time lunch will be served
  • Contact catering for lunch and/or refreshments (You might consider catering and refreshments that respect your conference themes, i.e. locally sourced, fair trade)
  • Invite VIP guests (major contributors to the field or profession) as participants and/or to make introductory comments) (Dean invite letter)
  • Determine appropriate “Thank you gifts” for presenters. (We have used Kiva gift cards and given stainless steel water bottles in the past)
  • Ensure online registration system is developed and functioning

Step 4: (2 Months in Advance)

Step 5: (3 to 4 Weeks in Advance)

  • Create a spreadsheet with presenter needs generated from survey wizard
    • Ensure that everyone has filled out the survey and connect with those that have not
  • Decide the logistics of the conference, i.e. registration, refreshments, assigning workshop rooms, parking passes
    • Keep one small room for media and the large one for lunch
  • Contact your volunteers and determine roles – ensure one person is the lead person for technology needs and one person is lead for the registration table
  • Develop conference resource materials (We compiled resources connected to equity, peace and social justice for all teacher candidates who attended conference)
  • Make changes to the program (i.e. invite more presenters) if there are any cancellations
  • Determine who will introduce the keynote speaker
  • Create a media release form for photos taken
  • Book equipment and purchase workshop materials (LCD projectors, flip chart paper, markers, tape)
  • Send out a confirmation to the resource fair participants that includes the information about time, tables, and other equipment they requested
  • Send a follow-up email to all people you advertising to months prior. For us this included school boards, OISE department liaisons, Initial Teacher Education instructors etc.

Step 6: (1- 2 Weeks in Advance)Participant watching a presentation

  • Write a thank-you letter to the presenters (on letterhead)
  • Confirm with catering
  • Finalize workshop lists, needs and list of resource fair participants
  • Create a floor plan for resource fair which includes which tables will be set up where, based on type of organization, size of display, and equipment needed
  • Check room assignment for duplication or non-existing rooms
  • Create conference materials (Resource folders, name tags, resource fair signs, conference evaluation, room signs and conference direction signs, container for conference evaluations, certificates of participation)
  • Photocopy materials (programs, conference evaluations)
  • Assemble presenter packages (gift, name tag, color copy of program, thank-you letter, workshop participant list)
  • Organize volunteers to thank workshop presenters at end of sessions
  • Send final confirmation email to presenters indicating parking, their room number and session time, where lunch will be held and encourage use of reusable mugs for refreshments. Be sure to attach conference program to presenters as well
  • Send reminder email to conference participants reminding them to check workshops they have chosen as there will be no personal direction of workshops on the day of the event
  • Create and send out a media release to local media, and fill out forms to advertise on electronic bulletin boards, and websites (this will likely need to be arranged a couple of months early)
  • Hold meeting with everyone who will be involved in ensuring the conference runs smoothly and go over how the day will run, discuss conference dress, how to speak to and support presenters even in stressful situations, etc.

Step 7: Conference Day

  • Set up registration table with materials. Ensure there are extra name tags, markers, paper and tape to make last minute signs
  • Organize resource fair tables with name stands and extension cords where needed
  • Hang workshop session signs on rooms
  • Post conference posters with directions, times etc.
  • Set up refreshment room
  • Put workshop materials in rooms
  • Ensure rooms are set up appropriately, i.e. number of tables and chairs and room layout seem fine for workshops
  • Ensure the technology leads and the registration table leader have copy of master spreadsheet with workshop presenters, titles, room, needs
  • Greet everyone you see!
  • Set up presenter lunch room
  • Check in with keynote speaker(s), and ensure workshop presenters have all they need for their sessions
  • Organize collection of conference evaluation forms (As a way to gather more evaluation forms we organized a draw for resources at end of day. Participants got a raffle ticket for draw when they handed in their completed evaluation. Most resource fair participants donated a resource for the draw)
  • Distribute participant certificates (unless these will be printed by the participant from the registration site)
  • Have a great day! Enjoy and congratulations on putting together a valuable conference!

Step 8: Post Conference

  • Celebrate a job well done!
  • Gather data from evaluation forms and decide what to do with information
  • Have a debriefing meeting and plan for the following year
  • Organize folders with all of the material from the conference


Resource List

Presenter Invite letter sample
Resource Fair Invite letter sample
Resource Fair Confirmation letter sample
Needs and Requests letter sample
Dean's invite letter sample
Organizations Invite letter sample
Conference Announcement sample
Media Release Form sample
Thank-you letter sample

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