Organizing a conference
a PORT for Modern Languages tutorial
1.12 Things to do after the conference
A conference is only finished on the last day of its programme for the speakers. For organizers its conclusion simply marks the beginning of a new series of tasks to be carried out. You must take care in particular of three bodies: your institution and any other sponsor, speakers and the research community.
Your institution and any other sponsor
All institutions which have supported your conference with financial assistance have obviously the right to be informed about the conference itself and, above all, to check if and how you spent their financial contributions (not to mention that many sponsors do not make their funds available until they receive these items of information). You have therefore to let them have as soon as possible:
- your final report (taking into account both informal feedback and evaluation forms)
- the final budget of the conference.
Major academies and graduate schools may have their own forms to fill in, which means that you cannot simply send the same documents to all your sponsors, but you have to adapt your data to the format specifically required by each institution.
A special group is constituted by conference speakers and chairs. If you undertook to cover their travel (or other) expenses, it is a good rule to refund them quickly. Do not forget to ask them for receipts, since you have to present those documents, in your turn, to your sponsors.
A completely different kind of obligation to speakers is the publication of their papers, since it does not only concern the people who took an active part in the conference, but the research community as a whole. However, all your efforts to keep single speakers informed of any progress of the proceedings will be greatly appreciated.
The research community
By organizing a conference you may incur one or both of the following obligations.
- If you are not yet finished with your PhD, you could start thinking about the publication of the proceedings, eg A newsletter, bulletin or internet publication. However, conference proceedings in the UK are very difficult to place with publishers and the whole exercise can be very frustrating even for established scholars. The habit of spending years and years to complete the publication of proceedings is unfortunately widespread and must be avoided at any price when you are still involved in writing up your thesis. Set a clear deadline for the speakers and when it is getting close remind them of their commitment. At the same time verify the availability of the publisher, so that the publication of the proceedings can start as soon as you collect all the contributions. From this point of view an effective solution can be represented by the publication of the proceedings as a special issue of a periodical dealing with the conference subject. This will reduce printing costs and speed up its process in its entirety.
- If you have just completed your PhD, you will be in a better situation to organize the publication of your conference proceedings (so read the above paragraph), but you may also want to think about promoting a possible follow-up conference. This will allow you to consolidate the results of the first one (especially from the point of view of networking), and a fair chunk of your previous sponsors are likely to be ready to renew their support for your project.