THESE GUIDELINES ARE INTENDED TO ASSIST A LOCAL WHEN HOSTING A CONVENTION, CONFERENCE OR SEMINAR. THESE ARE JUST GUIDELINES AND WILL NOT ALWAYS WORK FOR EVERY EVENT AND CITY.
YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO READ THROUGH THESE GUIDELINES PRIOR TO STARTING YOUR ACTION ON THE EVENT.
THESE GUIDELINES ARE PROVIDED TO YOU FROM YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF THE IOWA POSTAL WORKERS UNION – APWU – (AFL-CIO).
Put out the word and ask for, as many volunteers are you can get. There is no such things as too many volunteers when you are hosting something of this nature.
Form committees with chairpersons for each committee. Assign these committees specific tasks. Keep a list of who is responsible for what. You may have people that are chairs of one committee and work on another.
Prepare an agenda for the registration, to include the whole conference agenda, where everything will be (room numbers and how to get there.).
Make sure all your speakers/dignitaries/instructors know the agenda and where they fit in. They may have handouts etc and they want them in the right place and right time.
Don’t change the agenda unless you absolutely have to!
Make sure you have pen and paper provided either in the registration packet or on the tables at the meetings.
Advertise right away. Let the editors of your newsletter and the state newsletter know what is going on, all the specifics, as soon as possible.
Ask the state president to do a mailing on the conference, include the tentative or final agenda, specifics on the hotel (registration) cost of the conference and who to call and where.
Keep a file folder of everything you do. This is good for records and will help with the next one your host.
Contact your City Convention Visitors Bureau (if you have one). They will assist you with contacting hotels and with other items.
The Convention bureau (CVB) will send out a notice to all hotels on their list, that you are looking for hotel rooms and meeting rooms and that the interested hotels should contact you.
If you do not have a CVB you will need to send letters to all the hotels in your area. Let them know the date or dates you want, the approximate number of hotel rooms, the approximate number of people that will be in meeting rooms, and if they have multiple meeting rooms available.
The hotels will contact you and have more questions. Do not commit to any hotel until you have had time to look at all the offers.
Once you have decided on a few hotels, contact them and they will gladly invite you over to show what they can offer. Take a note pad and write down the good and bad of the hotel. Again do not commit.
Ask about complimentary sleeping rooms. Usually the hotel will comp a sleeping room for every so many sleeping rooms booked.
Ask about complimentary meeting rooms. Some hotels will not comp the meeting rooms unless you are having a lunch or banquet. Consider this option. It may be less expensive to have a lunch/banquet and get the meeting rooms free, then to pay for the meeting rooms outright.
Ask about hospitality rooms. Look at what they have to offer. Make sure it will accommodate the number of people that may attend. Keep in mind smoking, noise in hallways, and adjoining rooms. Try to book all the conference rooms together and near the hospitality room, this way we disturb our own. Ask if the hospitably room is comp? Some time you can get a hospitality room that has a sleeping room attached. This can work as an office during the conference or provide sleeping quarters for you or staff.
Ask about parking. Is there a charge? If there is what is it, and can it be waived with validation the people are attending your conference? Work out a deal with parking if there is a charge.
Remember these people want your business. They are willing to make deals. Tell them what you want and need. Let them know you are talking to other hotels. Most hotels will work with you. Play Hotel against Hotel, once you have some quotes on prices and offers.
Block off more rooms than you will really need, you can always cancel them as you get closer to the date, and have a better idea on how many will be attending.
Keep in mind that many locals and guests are not rich. Try to keep the cost of rooms down.
Find out where the offices are of the people you will be dealing with, including the catering. You need to know where to go and who to talk to.
Handicap accessibility is importing for sleeping rooms and meeting rooms.
Depending on the size of the conference and logistics, sometimes the hotel will provide you with some kind of communications (walkie-talkie) to have quick access to hotel staff. Ask about this.
Make the hotel aware you may be receiving parcel packages and need to be notified of these when they come in. There may be a need to store and or transport these items – plan for that.
Dignitaries & Guests
Send a letter to President of the APWU immediately and ask them to attend the conference. If they are not available would they please send at designee? Make sure you tell them the dates. The place and time is not important until you get a commitment.
Send a letter to the Regional Coordinator requesting their attendance, and the attendance of all the National Business Agents that represent your area and crafts.
Send a copy of the Regional Coordinator request letter to each of the NBA’s.
If you have a tentative agenda on classes, contact the instructors right away. Even if the conference is months and years away. Their availability and hotel room availability may not work together and you may have to make changes.
Let the instructors know what you would like, but leave it open for them to modify to fit their time, ability and expertise. Send them info on who and what we are, in case they have never worked with us.
Contact a local Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and Veterans Groups to present the Flag, and lead the attendees in the pledge of allegiance.
Invocation is optional, but is the norm. Contact the church of choice and see if they are available. Once they have agreed, send them something about the union, so they know who and what we are. Too often they think we are letter carriers.
Asking local political officials (Mayors etc) is ok, but keep their time short and again make sure they know whom they are talking to. Send them info on us, prior to their speaking.
Once you have commitments from the dignitaries and guest send them a thank your and a reminder on the dates. Once you have finalized the hotel, make sure they receive that information as well.
You should reserve hotel rooms for all your dignitaries and guest that are coming in from out of town, or will need a room. Book room sizes according to their positions.
Invite other local union officers from the installation, state and contingent states.
State President should also send letters as mentioned above.
If you have a dignitary coming in at the airport, don’t forget to pick them up. Call ahead and make sure the flight is on time.
Does the hotel have a shuttle to pick up people at the airport/train station etc? How often does it run? Is there a cost? Most hotels do have airport shuttles, and you may have to make some arraignments on them being more available then they usually are.
Does the hotel have a nice limo to pick up the dignitaries? This sends a nice message to the guest/instructors. Again most hotels do have this option and usually don’t charge for it.
Get a map of how to get to the hotel. Make sure this map shows several options from the main interstates, as well as using downtown streets.
Parking is usually a problem. If there is a charge, make sure that is sent out in the information on the conference, so people can financially plan for that. Again try to work out something with the hotel on free parking or reduced rate for validated parking. If you do work something out for the validate parking, make sure you have one contract person either a member of you local or the hotel that the attendees know to go to in order to get the validation.
Bus parking. Keep in mind that some locals contrac charter busses and there will need to be parking available for the bus and location for the bus to drop off passengers at the hotel.
If there are items of interests (gambling, ammusemente parks, etc) attempt to set up transportation for you guest to get to these. Usually the hotel will again provide this, but make sure and get that included in the agreement with the hotel. If you can not work out a deal with the hotel, then you will have to use your own locals vehicle, your or a members vehicles if you can. The other option is to contract with a private shuttle service.
Ask how many people each room will hold. This number will change depending on the format of seating. Theater sitting (chairs only) will seat more that class room (tables). There are options to use round tables (rounds) that sometimes help the hotel out if the room is going to be used later for lunch or the banquet. Making life easier for the hotel can get you some perks. The most desirable is classroom seating.
Look at lighting options. Can the lights be dimmed if they need to be? Do you need special lighting?
Is the stage raised? Will this be a problem for any of the speakers/guest? Can it be moved?
Will the hotel provide a lectern (tabletop paper and microphone holder) or a podium (stand-alone)? Is there a charge for either?
How do the speakers sound when using the microphones? Are the filled with static? Can you hear everywhere in the room?
Is the room laid out for all speakers to use? Is there room for audio/visuals (AV) to be used? Are the plug in available for the speakers.
Are there electric outlets for lap top computers to be used by the attendees?
Is there room for registration out side the meeting room? Is there room for the coffee/pop/Danish inside the room. (Sometimes these items outside the room lend to people that are not part of your conference, helping themselves to your coffee etc.)Try to keep it in side your meeting room.
Smoking is always an issue. If at all possible keep smoking outside of the main meeting room, or at least designate an area that is for smoking only. Providing the hotel allows smoking. If there is no smoking in the room, make sure you announce where the smoking area is.
Try not to crowd people in. Give them room to stretch their legs and work comfortable at. Give them room to walk in and out of their seating area.
Ask about break out rooms. How many. Where are they? How much are they. Is it possible to divide the general session room into break out rooms? Is there a charge for this? You may not always need break out rooms, but ask about them anyway.
Audio and Visuals (AV)
Ask the hotel for a listing of what AV equipment they have on hand. Find out if there is a charge. Usually there is for things such as overhead projectors, lavier microphones, and flip charts.
Find out if you must use their AV equipment. If not, then shop around. There are usually business that rent these out for a reasonable price.
Find out what your instructors/dignitaries need or want.
Make sure the equipment works, prior to the class starting. Such as VCR’s and TV’s. Make sure all microphones work, including the lavier. Make sure the instructors and dignitaries know of the lavier and how to use it. Does the overhead work, do you know how to turn it on. Do the plug ins work? Is there enough paper on the flip charts? Are the grease pens workable?
Is there a need for additional microphones on the floor? If so how many. Do they need to be numbered? Make sure they work. If they are cordless, make sure the batteries are good, or that there are batteries readily available.
Know where the AV office is in the hotel in case there is a problem, or at least know who to get a hold of.
When discussing with the hotels, ask about providing lunches, and if a banquet is involved, what rooms are available. Is there an extra cost or can the lunch/banquet be worked out with meeting room use?
Ask the hotel to see their catering menu including cost. Again do not commit to anything until you have had time to look at the options and work in this cost with your registrations charge.
It is usually good to have a lunch in the middle of the conference. This tends to keep the attendees near and they come back to the meetings/training on time.
Plan for special dietary needs of people (keep holidays in mind also). Make that know in the letter or notice on the conference, that if there is a special dietary need, they must let you know by a certain time. Most hotels will work with you on this, but they do need to know in advance.
Hotel will ask for an approximate on the meals, but as it gets to within hours and sometimes the previous day, they need to know exactly the number.
Create a meal ticket to make sure you do not get any freeloaders. Make sure you have someone there to take the tickets. No ticket – no meal!
If you are paying for the meal of dignitaries and guests, make sure the person taking the tickets knows that and who they are. Or supply complimentary tickets to present.
Keep in mind the meeting room is sometimes the banquet room. The hotel may need time to break down meeting space and create banquet space. Allow for this.
Will banners placed at the meeting fit in with the banquet décor?
Make sure everyone knows where the meals will be, the time and how to get there. Put on the agenda how long the mealtime is and announce it at the meetings.
Especially with a banquet you need someone that coordinates the meal. If it is a sit down meal, the hotel will coordinate presenting the meals. If it is a buffet, you need someone to go from table to table inviting them to the buffet. Otherwise you may end up with chaos; a mess and it may cause problems.
Always let the head table get their meal first.
Everyone at the meal should be able to see and hear the head table.
Is there need for a dance floor? Will this require to removing of things right after the meal?
Try to not have a speaker while people are eating or while the caterers are clearing tables. This is distracting.
Start on time. If you have an agenda for speakers stick to it. Be organized. If you have a prayer prior to the meal, make sure this is planned. If they stay for the meal, sit them at the head table if you can.
If there are speakers, make sure there is a microphone and it works. Have the hotel test it out.
Coffee/Pop and condiments. This is not always an option. Again this will come from the catering menu. Check out the price per gallon for coffee, dozen Danish etc. If you want to do this, you will have to absorb this cost or pass it off in the registration. Plan to run out of Danish, but don’t buy more. Most people eat breakfast. So buy Danish for at or less then the approximate number in attendance. Coffee will need to be plenty and with the option to get more than you originally ordered. Hot water for tea should also be available, at least one pot. Pop will need to be a variety, with ice. Make sure the pop is not on a current boycott list. Make sure the hotel knows the exact time you want these items available.
There should be drinking water and glasses on the tables or available in the room.
Try to do as much pre-registration as possible through newspaper ad or mailing. This way you can have several of the nametags done prior to everyone showing up.
National will provided nametags and holders. There may be a charge for these. The easiest way is with computer, and most programs that come with computers have options to print nametags.
Along with the name of the person, on the nametag, put the place where they are from. Too many times you know a face and possible the name, but it is important to know where they are from.
Do a registration table the night before the conference. Either in the lobby area as people check into their rooms, or somewhere nears the hospitality room.
Have a receipt book with carbon copy for your records. Be prepared to make change.
The hotel will usually provide you with tables to set up the registration area.
Well-displayed signs showing people to the registration area and at the registration area help. The hotel will usually place this information on a board in the lobby area.
The registration table is where you usually attempt to sell COPA , Auxiliary and other items. Plan space for this.
Sometimes the CVB will provide you with assistance at the registration table – ask them about it.
Budget for this.
Keep in mind that you will have wide diversity of people in attendance. One specific type of music or entertainment may be offensive and chase out most of the people there.
If you are presenting a program or show. Don’t make it too long. Banquets are usually late and people are full and tired and will not want to sit any longer than they have to.
Dancing is good – keep in mind the diversity!
Entertainment is not a requirement. If there is plenty else to do and you just want to have a hospitality room, don’t invest a lot of money and time. It is difficult to have entertainment that will gather all those that come to the conference.
If at all possible, don’t have a cash bar prior to the banquet. Offer this from your local or ask some other agency to fund this hour – such as an insurance company or credit union. Keep the bar open during the meal, but make it a cash bar then, and keep it a cash bar till you leave.
If you can not afford an open bar prior to the meal, give out "one free drink" tickets in the registration packets. Make sure they say "compliments of …"
If you have a band or DJ, ask them to set up prior to the meal. You do not want them setting up while you eat or the speaker is talking.
Be prepared to accommodate for hearing impaired and those in wheel chairs or in need of any other special assistance.
Keep in mind special food needs.
Call around for prices on interpreters. You will need at least two interpreters so one is allowed a break. They need to be seated up near the front speakers, and rope of seating where the hearing inpaired can sit so they can see the speaker and the interpreters. Interpreters may be needed for the banquet. Plan on feeding them.
This is not a requirement, but people do like them. Special events like a 25th meeting are good times to do something really special. Special bags, shirts or gift items. Don’t assume you have to do this with every conference.
Sometimes you can get the local Credit union, CVB, or several business people to donate items to place in the folders/bags.
Go out and seek donations for the COPA drawing. Keep in mind that not everyone is from your area and may not be able to make use of a local only prize.
COPA tickets – use the double tickets one for the sale, one for the drawing. Have them put a name on the back in case they are not there at the time of the drawing. Keep all COPA ticket sales money separate from registrations and other income.
Look at what the National union will give your for your packets. E.G. Health Plan, ABA, pamphlets etc.
Set up all your packet stuffers on tables, and do an assembly line to fill them up. Box them and take them registration area.
Be prepared to have to go buy more of everything!
Get a good mix of alcohol and mixers. The alcohol will keep till your next need to use it. Buy canned mixers and don’t refrigerate them – they too will keep.
Plan for non-drinkers. Have plenty of pop and non-alcoholic drinks available.
You will need to buy some food items. Such as cheese and meat platters etc. Always try to get your members to volunteer to donate food items. It is better to have them brought in containers that can be thrown away. This eliminates broken and lost personal items. Asking you members to donate also may get them to come and be social.
Make sure the room is big enough.
Can the windows open if it gets too smokey?
How is the heating/AC?
Will there need to be two rooms – one smoking, one not?
Make sure you can get ice if you need it. Ask the hotel what the cost is. It may be cheaper to go out and get it.
Make sure you have plenty of plates, plastic silverware, napkins etc. These items will keep also for future use.
Make sure you do invite all your members to come and be social.
If you don’t have enough coolers for the canned beer and pop, use the bathtub.
Now that it is all over, you can have the well-deserved break. Plan for time off to tie up things with the hotel, rental people and your committees. You will be worn out and in need to some time off – take it!