The production of EBT The Next Generation is an 11-month affair. Once the booths are all down and the goodbyes said, the conference planning committee takes a month off. (actually, 3 weeks). Then, in mid-December, the executive committee of the eGovernment Payment Council , which hosts the conference on behalf of EFTA , meets for its annual leadership and planning forum.
While the leadership and planning meeting covers a lot of ground in two days, about a third of that time is spent reviewing the results of the recently completed conference and planning the upcoming one. Among the topics we cover are:
- The marketing efforts: did they work?
- Statistics: How many people attended? Where did they come from?
- Feedback: What were the results of the conference evaluations?
- What can we do better?
These are usually spirited discussions. The next day we spend several hours beginning the arduous task of putting the next show together. Among the topics we tackle:
- The fee structure: Can we hold the line on increasing fees?
- Expenses: Where did we go over budget? Why?
- Sponsors & exhibitors: Can we get more companies engaged?
- Programming changes: What are the "hot" issues we need to cover?
- Marketing: How do we get the message out about the conference?
- Venue: We are presented with a choice of several venues and formally approve one.
From that point on the Council plans pretty much constantly untile show time November 7, 2010. To give you an idea, here is a high level look at the "project management plan" for EBT The Next Generation:
- January: A conference call for volunteers to serve on the conference planning committee. Hotel contract signed.
- February: The planning committee holds its first planning teleconference. At this meeting we determine the broad outlines of the show: number of tracks, number of sessions, workshops, etc.
- Late February: Committee members select "high level" topics for breakout and plenary sessions.
- Early March: The first rough draft agenda is put together. The planning committee adds/drops sessions depending on the first rough draft.
- Mid March: the first "Save the Date" email goes out. Potential sponsors and exhibitors receive their first invitation to participate.
- Late March: Sessions are given titles and descriptions; conference members are selected to manage, or "facilitate" each session.
- April: Potential speakers are identified for all sessions, from keynotes to breakouts.
- May: the first formal draft agenda is presented. The first "Save the Date" postcard goes out.
- Early June: The final agenda is approved with session titles, descriptions and potential speakers. The agenda is posted to the conference website.
- Mid June: Speaking invitations go out. This process continues until September.
- Late June: the first draft of the conference brochure is produced.
- July: Work continues on locking down speakers and finalizing the conference brochure.
- August: Hotel logistics are finalized. Committee faciliators teleconference with speakers to plan sessions. Brochure mailer is produced and mailed.
- September: Speaker materials begin being assembled.
- October: Last minute details are hammered out, including replacement speakers. Annual award winners are selected. Conference materials are drafted reviewed produced and assembled.
- First week in November: Materials are shipped to conference hotel. Plenary sessions are reviewed and blocked. Awards are shipped to hotel.
- November 7: Show time!
OK, all you proposal reviewers-how'd we do on our PMP?
For all of the logistical and marketing work we rely on Dana Benson and Amber Howell of ATMIA Conferences, LLC. For all the rest of it we rely on Council members who give unselfishly of their time, and their organizations who graciously allow them to spend many work hours on conference calls, in meetings, writing presentations and on the phone cajoling potential speakers to join us in November.
The result every year is truly remarkable. A small group of people volunteering their time so that we can all share a little bit of our time and knowledge each year to make this a better industry.
I hope to see you in November in Phoenix!