In the summer of 2014, I joined a planning committee at the MSU College of Arts and Letters to design and produce the international HASTAC 2015 Conference, which took place from May 27-30, 2015 at the MSU Kellogg Center. Through this project, I gained experience in event management by planning conference programming and logistics.
HASTAC is an alliance of humanists, artists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning. The HASTAC community shares news, tools, research and insights about pedagogy, technological innovations, and digital humanities. The HASTAC Steering Committee chose MSU’s College of Arts and Letters to spearhead and host the planning and implementation of the 2015 annual conference.
Connecting with HASTAC’s interdisciplinary mission, we titled the conference “The Art and Science of Digital Humanities.” The 2015 conference featured a HASTAC Scholars “unconference,” a digital conference streamed via Youtube, a reception at Abram’s Planetarium featuring a custom-designed Pink Floyd laser show, three early-career keynote speakers, and a reception at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. To read more about the design of these unique features, check out this article that I wrote for the Summer of RCAH blog or keep reading about my experience below.
An important first step in producing this event was developing a timeline and checklist for the project. This helped our team gain a sense of the work that had to be done and when it needed to be done by. We used the project management app ‘Basecamp’ to keep track of important discussions, documents, and to-dos. I populated the app with important files and kept our checklists up to date. Additionally, I drafted agendas and reminders for our team’s biweekly meetings.
The conference program included various types of submissions such as papers, panels, workshops, and performances that were submitted by HASTAC members and accepted by the review committee. I assisted with the process of accepting proposals after they had been peer-reviewed and rated. I also helped schedule proposals and sessions to specific rooms within the Kellogg Center. I kept the mobile app updated with current information as changes to the schedule were made.
I researched a number of potential sponsors for our conference by researching previous HASTAC conferences and other similar events. I compiled a list of potential sponsors and assisted in the development of the sponsorship prospectus, a document that outlines the benefits and terms of sponsorship. Additionally, I attended meet-ups with potential sponsors and partners. During the conference, I ensured that the appropriate sponsors were recognized during specific sessions.
Conference Website and Communications
Before developing the website, I researched the layouts, content, and registration prices of similar national conferences and previous HASTAC conferences. I helped prepare the information that our web developer used to create an online registration and payment system. I also compiled information for accommodation, travel, transportation, and FAQ pages. I assisted in developing a plan for the website’s upper-level navigation and learned how to use WordPress, which powered our website. I created pages for various aspects of the conference based off of the information I compiled and regularly drafted posts about conference news and updates on our site’s homepage. I also answered questions and posted updates on the conference’s Facebook group and Twitter account.
Information that I compiled and created into webpages:
Posts and tweets that I made announcing conference updates:
Based off of features that were suggested by our team, I researched conference-schedule apps that we could use to keep our schedule digital-based rather than print-based. We wanted to find an app that would allow for a customizable experience for each attendee. I compared the features and prices of potential apps and presented my suggestion to the team. We chose to use Sched, an app that allowed attendees to personalize their agenda, search the attendee and sponsor directory, and create their own profiles for networking purposes. I coordinated the creation of our personalized native app with the Sched team and our graphic designers. I regularly updated the information on the mobile app to reflect schedule changes.
I researched potential swag options and provided pricing information to the team. I assessed our volunteer needs, drafted position descriptions, and created a sign-up form using Google Forms. I communicated with our volunteers, updated them on their assignments, and gave them a brief orientation when they arrived on site. Within the final weeks of the project, I met with our contacts at reception locations to finalize details for our evening receptions. I created signage for room assignments, schedule information, sponsorship acknowledgments, and conference information. I helped created welcome packet documents and helped prepare welcome folders. During the conference, I manned the registration table to give out packets, answer questions, update social media, and troubleshoot logistical problems.
Materials that I both curated and created for the welcome packet:
The call for volunteers and position descriptions that I wrote for volunteer management:
Conference signage that I created using a template designed by the college’s design team:
What I Learned
From working on the planning and implementation of the HASTAC 2015 Conference, I learned a lot about conference and event management, including:
- How to develop a timeline and task list for new projects
- How to manage the process of asking for, reviewing, and scheduling proposals
- The process for writing a sponsorship prospectus and approaching potential sponsors
- How to create a WordPress site through pages and posts
- The considerations for the swag, signage, food and drink, and other logistics for an event
- How to place a call for volunteers and manage them