Hosting A National Conference

Conference Planning Manual

The following is taken from a guide presented by Millie Linville at the 2007 National Conference

Where does the Money Come From?

MoFA Funding — Through your Consulate

This will be the bulk of the funding that your chapter receives. It will cover the following costs:

  • Pays for hotel rooms for delegates only (typically enough for 36 delegates to share a room);
  • Pays for beverages only (no food);
  • Pays for meeting room usage fee (if any);
  • Can pay for A/V equipment and transportation.

It is best to notify your consulate as soon as you initially consider hosting the national conference. Having their full support is necessary to receive funding through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Typically an invoice is sent in March before the beginning of the new fiscal year, which starts April 1st.

The amounts needed for the above items vary by region, state, city, etc, but the funding amount in yen is pretty much static. If you have an unfavorable exchange rate, this will drastically decrease the amount of US dollars available. Please keep this in mind.

At least 3 months prior to the conference, you will need to submit an invoice to the consulate. Please refer to the sample invoice that US4 used for the 2007 National Conference in Atlanta.

You may experience a lot of back-and-forth as the JET liaison works with consular staff to confirm the funding and for what items funding can be used. The consulate will have to communicate with Tokyo and get back to you. It will be in your best interest to be organized and patient when working with your local consulate.

Make Sure You:

  • Send a copy of the hotel contract to your local consulate contact,
  • Send a copy of the catering costs for beverages to your consulate contact,
  • Provide any quotes for services/rental fees to the consulate along with your invoice for approval,
  • Send them the conference schedule as soon as you have a draft, and keep it updated with new versions,
  • If you want the Consul General to speak at your conference, please notify as much in advance as possible,
  • If you want the Consul General to submit a welcome letter for delegates, please notify as much in advance as possible,
  • Consult with your consulate contact about plans for the reception hosted by MoFA (your consulate),
  • Invite all consular staff to your optional social events and the CLAIR reception.

CLAIR Funding — Through the Japan Local Government Center in New York

  • Provides Y200,000 for the following conference needs:
    • Conference Information Booklets
    • Snacks
    • Travel for the Country Representatives
    • Duplication Fees
    • General Supplies/Materials like nametags, paper, flip charts, markers, etc.
    • Speaker Honorariums
    • Parking fees, tolls, etc. for conference staff
  • Provides $2,000 for a reception hosted by CLAIR.
    • CLAIR asks the hosting chapter to suggest places for this reception
    • CLAIR prefers places with a culture or history specific to the host city
    • Funding must pay for all costs associated with this reception, such as transportation, taxes, gratuity, etc.
    • CLAIR usually likes to provide a kampai round for delegates
    • Special guests and volunteers typically ok to join if funding is available.
  • Provides approximately $1,400 for conference lunches.

It’s prudent to send an introductory email to CLAIR once your chapter has been designated as the host chapter. In 2007, the CLAIR representative was Seiko Kubo. Her information can be found below.

In this correspondence, it’s important to ask for the necessary documents for Multi-Chapter GIA Funding and invoices for the reception and conference lunches. Forms 1 and 7 (Optional) are required at least 2 months prior to the conference along with a detailed budget summary.

Sometimes there are kinks you will have to work out with CLAIR, so it’s important to have ample time to sort things through. Waiting until the last minute will cause undue stress.

Please refer to the sample forms and detailed budget included in this manual.

Make Sure You:

  • Make contact with CLAIR once you are officially the conference host chapter,
  • Ask for necessary forms in that initial email so you have ample time to get them to CLAIR,
  • Make sure you submit Form 1 and 7, along with budget summary at least 2 months prior to the conference,
  • Get approval from CLAIR about any reception suggestions you have for the CLAIR sponsored reception,
  • Sign and fax budget forms to CLAIR and send originals via post, and
  • Sign and fax invoices for lunch and reception and send originals via post.

Your Own Chapter Funds

Sometimes chapters raise funds to supplement the funding received from CLAIR/MoFA. If your chapter has a general fund, you may have to spend some of this money to pay for costs associated with the conference, like:

  • Volunteer thank-yous (cards, gift cards, etc.)
  • Extra hotel nights for conference staff
  • Parking fees, tolls, train fare, etc. (Travel Costs)
  • Goody Bags, or additional treats/supplies not covered by funding.

Stages of Conference Planning

Creating a Theme and Agenda

Before submitting your conference proposal, the Country Reps will guide you with a suggested conference theme. Once selected as the host chapter, you will work closely with the country reps to develop and refine the conference schedule. Here are some recommended steps to take:

  • Meet with your core conference committee before submitting a proposal to determine a general schedule relating to the theme/topic(s) chosen by the CRs,
  • Once chosen, go ahead and draft a detailed conference agenda with the information you have (be as detailed as possible, make suggestions for break-out sessions, etc.) This takes a bit of time (few hours minimum). This is important as it will be the jumping board from which you will build. This is typically a 1-2 person job.
  • Submit this draft to the CRs via email.
  • Schedule a call with a CR, probably your regional rep, to discuss what elements/topics need to be added, removed, modified, etc.
  • From this call, determine what questions need to be asked to potential chapter delegates via conference questionnaire. Send this questionnaire in March or early April.
  • The CRs will probably create a second draft with what you’ve discussed, and send it back for your input (this continues pretty much throughout the entire planning process).
  • Eventually, you will have a schedule that takes into consideration delegate feedback and the input from your committee and the CRs.
  • The schedule will continue to evolve so give it a deadline at least 3 weeks prior to the conference.
  • Experience from 2007 tells us that delegates want to have a tentative schedule to determine their attendance. Send your draft schedule to delegates at least 2 months prior to the conference.
  • Be sure to change up the type of meeting and who’s presenting. Experience from 2006, 2007 tells us that delegates want a variety of speakers and opportunities to meet in more intimate groups for more detailed discussion.
  • It’s smart to always include a session on how funding works and the GIA forms.

How Do We Get Delegates to Show Up and Stay?

Registration of Delegates

In 2007, regonline.com was chosen to handle the online registration of delegates. If needed, online registration sites like this one will handle payments and optional agenda items. Because in 2007, the delegates did not have to pay a registration fee, the online site was used to compile information in a centrally located, online database.

The website charged us approximately $5 per person who registered. Setup was not complicated and their technical support was eager to help. The most helpful feature was the ability to download data collected in a variety of standard and customizable reports.

You can also register delegates any number of ways, and here are some guidelines:

  • Get their chapter number, their contact phone number and email. Make the phone number mandatory in case you need to reach them in a hurry.
  • Be sure to ask for emergency contact information and whether they have any allergies, dietary restrictions, medical conditions that you need to know in case of emergency, etc.
  • Be sure to have them tell you when they will arrive/depart the hotel.
  • Any other information you deem necessary for the registration form.

Hotel Rooming Lists

In 2007, the conference planners created a rooming list for the hotel. You can choose to create this rooming list or ask each delegate to call the hotel on their own and make the necessary arrangements.

Also note:

  • If you’re in a high price area, delegates may need to pay the difference of whatever the MoFA money doesn’t cover,
  • Anyone wishing for their own room will need to pay the difference of whatever MoFA pays for each delegate.

What’s the Conference Planners Timeline?
Ideal Timeline for Conference Planning (for a June conference)

December 1) Contact Consulate of your intent to submit proposal
2) Submit Proposal
January 1) Voting by chapters
2) host chapter announced
3) First Committee Meeting, scout potential locations (better done during proposal period), notify Consulate
4) Email CLAIR Representative
February 1) Book conference location and accommodations
2) Send first draft of schedule/agenda to CRs
March 1) Send Invoice to Consulate for hotel rooms, refreshments (bevs only), A/V, transportation, etc.
2) Second Committee Meeting, confirm location, devlop 3 month plan of action
3) Send conference questionnaire to chapters
4) Send CLAIR ideas for potential reception locations
5) Coordinate with Consulate on the MoFA reception location
April 1) Budget forms due to CLAIR 2-months prior to conference
2) Invoices due to CLAIR and local consulate
3) Open registration for delegates
4) Begin compiling documents/information for conference handbook
5) Quote transportation, if needed, and send deposit to secure date/time.
May 1) Third Committee Meeting, check progress, work out optional social events, etc.
2) Rooming list due to hotel meeting minimum room night requirement
3) Confirm reception locations with all parties
4) Send conference confirmation letters to each delegate to confirm you have the correct details
5) Pay balance of transportation, if needed
June 1) Fourth Committee Meeting, finalize progress, tie up loose ends, etc.
2) Host Conference
  • Typically need at least 1 week for turn-around on conference booklets/handbooks
  • Give delegates at least 2 months to make travel arrangements
  • Hotel information must be confirmed at least 1 month prior to conference

Optional:

  • Solicit donations from area businesses and local Japan-related organizations (January-May)

Note: For conferences later in the year, keep with this ideal timeline but increase the number of months you have for actual planning and refining of content.

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