After months of blood, sweat and tears, your research conference has finally been wrapped up! It came and passed without a hiccup, participants seemed to enjoy themselves and the guest speakers went down a storm. Success! While you’re close to the finish line, your work isn’t quite done yet. Below are five essentials to look at post-conference before you can finally take that well deserved break.
Debrief with your committee
Even though relief may kick in after the event has finished, it is advisable that your committee meets as soon as they can after the event, preferably within the first 5 days after the conference while everything is fresh in the committee members’ minds. It’s easy to forget certain things.
What worked best in your opinion? Did a particular tool make your life a lot easier/harder compared to the previous year? What is the one thing that each committee member would do differently for next year?
Make sure you cover all the areas, from technical programme and peer review to logistics, food and catering, communication, budgeting, etc. While it won’t be possible to change everything, there may be a problem that affected more than one person that could easily be fixed.
Thank everyone involved
The first thing you should do is thank all the sponsors, speakers, volunteers and attendees. They’ve invested a lot of time (and in the sponsor’s case, money) into the conference. While all the sponsors and speakers may be thanked in an email campaign sent out to everyone associated with the conference, you should spend the time to contact all the speakers and sponsors personally. Remember, you may need their help next year!
Analyse attendees’ feedback
It’s not just your committee’s feedback you should take on board. It’s important to listen to what the conference attendees had to say and analyse their feedback. After all, there would be no conference without the attendees. You’ve invested so much of your time over the past 6-8 months into organising the academic conference that it’s good to get the perspective of people who aren’t as invested in the process as you are.
There are numerous ways you can collect data from the attendees. While you could print out feedback forms and hand them out, there’s a lot of manual work involved in calculating each score before you can analyse it. There are several interactive tools you can use to collect this feedback. Michael Heipel has written an article on the numerous tools you could use.
Pay the Bills
It’s unfortunate, but has to be done. Paying the bills is one of those unavoidable tasks that has to be done. Again, it’s important to get this sorted as soon as you can. As the main bulk of the conference budget is based on the registration fees collected, you may have had to purchase some things on your credit cards. It’s important to pay these off as soon as you can to avoid paying any extra on interest rates (which in turn will make your budget even tighter – and you don’t want to be organising at a loss!).
Promote for next year!
As many research conferences run on an annual basis, it’s important to start promoting for the following year as soon as you can. On your website, you could create a page with the date and venue of the following year’s conference. When you send out the thank you email to delegates after the conference, you should also include a ‘date for your diary’ section to clarify the date and State/Country of the following year’s event.
While most of the intensive work is completed once the conference day has passed, it’s important not to lose focus until the whole process is finally completed. This will ensure that you reap the rewards of your conference and that you prepare for the following year in the best way possible. Once you’ve done this, the only other thing left to organise is a vacation for yourself!