**Conference Planning Committee**
I have been looking at the conference report, evaluation, and speaking with organizers in order to determine to what extent the data bases can assist the congress. Examining all the information collected leads to the observation that there are three distinct functions required to mount a successful conference.
First is project planning. More specifically, this includes getting the right people together; allocating responsibilities; and making sure
everything is done on time.
Next is conference management. That is, the logistics of arrangements, registration, scheduling, and conference day support services.
Thirdly is the evaluation and publishing.
Software support for all three is available. Complex project planning can be assisted with several project management packages. Whether this would help the current effort can only be determined by the readiness of the organizers to learn formal proj planning techniques and software operation.
One of the key components of the preliminary planning stage was the merger of mailing lists from several associations. As more organizations use computers, it may be possible to ease this burden by offering to exchange mailing lists in electronic format.
A partially completed conference management package was used previously with limited success. It may now be finished and ready to re-use. Other commercial packages are also available. Purchasing such a package should be done only after detailed operational requirements are identified – including the ability of the package to generate data in formats usable by our info system. The information gathering process and the processing of that information has to promote networking among the participants.
Information collected should be verified against out mail list and used to publish a list of registrants in the final report. This can all be
done by a well designed system. If the committee chooses to go this route, please let me know as soon as possible.
Evaluation and publishing software is of course available now. Last time, much of the tabulation had to be by hand and then input into
a spreadsheet for limited calculation. This could be avoided if the evaluation form is designed in consultation with IT staff. We
can set up either a special dBase or spreadsheet program to record both quantitative and qualitative information, perform the necessary
analysis, and produce output for publication. Experience of the past congresses should be helpful in coming up with a program
which is useful for at least two or three future ones.
One suggestion which I would like to make is the setting up of a live, functioning clearinghouse during the conference. That is, we set up our portable with the full databases, communication capabilities for on-line searches of commercial services, remote login for e-mail, and a printer to give output to requesters. One staff person at a time should be operating the mini-clearinghous. This operation would not have any conference management responsibilities. It would be a clearinghouse of one counsellor. In announcing it to conference participants, we would explain that it is not simply a demonstration; but set up to handle real requests. Because staffing and time are limited, initial responses would be brief, but would be followed up with a full report.
If the committee decides that all of the above is nice, but not possible for the upcoming event; please make certain that they understand the important links between the capabilities of the current database to feed information to the conference process and the output of the
conference to support the database. These links are not only conceptual and operational but also technical.
In other words, whatever you do – make sure that we are informed so we can be useful.