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How to resource and run an effective Organising Committee

There are several elements that help make an event great. The vision, the marketing, the content and the execution. Often these elements are broken into separate entities and become the responsibilities of different parties. There is however one constant that sits across the entire event, the Organising Committee. It is not hard to see therefore, why the role of the Organising Committee is so important. But what can be harder is identifying the right structure and roles of the Committee. Here are six considerations that should be made when assembling an OC.

  1. Define Roles & Responsibilities

It may sound obvious but one of the very first thing an Organising Committee needs to do is define their roles and responsibilities. This will not only help structure the committee but also assist in identifying skills shortages from the get go. Whilst many skills and services can be outsourced, it is crucial to have a balance of experience and strengths on the committee. For example, whilst an understanding of sponsorship and sales would be beneficial, it is not necessary to have 8 out of 10 Committee members having a background or exposure to sponsorship. A well put together committee would look at the skills available and define who will do what from the get go. This could be as follows:

Skills/ Responsibilities
OC Member 1 Coordinate external parties (PCO etc), be primary point of contact for the OC and suppliers (conference Chair)
OC Member 2 Program Development
OC Member 3 Finance/ Budget
OC Member 4 Sponsorship
OC Member 5 Social Program
OC Member 6 Publicity
OC Member 7 Knowledge Sharing

National associations generally choose to rotate the responsibility of conference organising around different divisions or branches. This has benefits as it constantly brings new eyes and fresh blood to the event as well as sharing around responsibilities. However it can result in a loss of learnings and past IP. To avoid this, it is often wise to retain at least one OC member from the previous event’s committee, even if just in an adviser role.

Some larger events may call for sub-committees to be established. This is especially common for scientific and technical conferences. Other subcommittees may be created to nominate a number of people to focus on different areas. For example, a program committee, abstracts and papers committee and a social committee.  In the event of subcommittees being established, each subcommittee should have, as a minimum, at least one member of the OC on board.

  1. Ask for Help

Experienced committee members will know that planning and producing a conference of any scale is a huge undertaking. Outsourcing responsibilities is common place and can free up committees to focus on the vision and strategy of the event without getting bogged down in the doing. This also allows the OC member to continue with their day job. Appointing an experienced Event Manager or PCO will allow committees to tap into established systems and possibly prior knowledge to ensure the event in question is executed at a highly professional level, with minimal disruption.

As with subcommittees, using an outsourced service provider requires clearly communicated reporting chains between the provider and the committee. Appointing one primary committee member to liaise with a provider reduces confusion and ensures that work is carried out in an efficient manner.

  1. Listen to Help

A common mistake made by new Organising Committees is to ask for help but not utilise the help in the best way possible. Advice offered by experienced PCOs generally comes from a place of knowledge and proven capability. Any PCO worth their invoice is not going to offer bad advice to lead a client into unchartered waters. Whilst no committee is ever governed by a PCO and can opt for different paths, sometimes it is worth listening to the practised professional.

  1. Evaluate Along the Way

Identifying key points during the timeline to evaluate activity to date is essential. Critical paths exist to guide committees to success, and, any concerns raised are best dealt with as early as possible. For example, if Early Bird registrations have not had the uptake expected it is important to explore why and, ideally adjust the critical path with a planned resolution if appropriate.

Similarly, constant evaluation of the budget along the way is key to avoiding nasty surprises. If using a PCO, budgets should be (but aren’t always) conservative and transparent. The nominated Event Manager, whether in house or through a PCO should refer back to the budget regularly to provide updated figures for the OC. If you, as an OC member have any questions regarding the budget it is always essential to raise them as early as possible to allow for amendments to be made which are effective in addressing the issue.

  1. Duty of Care

Being aware of your duty of care as an OC member is incredibly important. Whatever code of ethics governs the overarching association should be reflected in the presentation, organisation and execution of the conference.

OC members also have a legal obligation regarding negligence and cannot afford to be complacent.

  1. Structure

Set up a calendar of meetings from the get go. Be organised from the start and draft a template agenda, nominate a minute taker and initiate a process to follow up on action points following meetings. Being organised in your administration will contribute to the smooth running of the event!