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People & Processes By Dave Lutz, CMP


Take Away


Six Improvements forYour Conference Committee


Have you ever hung up the phone after an hour-long call with your conference committee and thought, ‘Wow, that was a total waste of everyone’s time?’ That probably means you need to breathe new life into your volunteer committees.


When it comes to the traditional volunteer committee model, there seems to be plenty of room for improvement. (For more on this, see the cover story on p. 46.) Here are a half-dozenways tocreate amore rewarding experience for your vol- unteers and better results for your organization: 1. Stay out of the weeds. If your committee


charter includes selectingwhat kinds of cookies to serve, choosing future venues, or tweaking the con- ferencewebsite, you need to get yourcommittee to


panels so that every stakeholder is represented on stage.Andthe problemwithpanels is that theyoften lack deep learning and takeaways. 4.Walkintheattendee’sshoes.Many confer-


ence committees evaluate potential sessions and speakers using a lot more information than the actual attendee will have. Attendees make the decision to attend based on session title, session description, and learning objectives. Embrace a blind-review process. It will help eliminate person-


Instead of training committee members on procedures, help them understand adult-education principles and best practices.


focusonmore strategicmatters.Organizations ben- efit from volunteer members who can provide insight on big-picture industry issues, and volun- teers appreciate having the opportunity to learn from each other about the important stuff. 2. Focus on problems to solve.Many confer-


ence committees are tasked withrecommending and/or selecting session topics and speakers.Abet- ter approach wouldbe to identify the primary three or four audience segments that youwant to grow and then get the committee’s input on the most burning issues that those segments need to address. Pinpoint those challenges before you openyour call for proposals or begin confirming sessions. 3. Provide professional development. Most


committee members are not experts in adult edu- cation. Instead of training themon processes and procedures, it would be a wiser investment to help them understand adult-education principles and best practices.Too often,committees recommend


al agendas and challenge the committee to evalu- ate the program as a paying attendee would. 5.Makecommitteemeetingsmorehigh-tech.


“Ding!Whojust joinedus?Letus repeatwhat you missed.” Boy, howmanyconference calls havewe all been on like that? If you aren’t familiar with Google+ Hangouts, it’s a very cool way to make free video calls with screen-sharing. Look into it and consider using a technology like this to add some personality to your committee calls. 6.Improvetheagendaandfacilitation.Com-


mittee meetings or calls should be very light on information-sharing and updates. Those can be sent out in an email or posted on your intranet or community channel.Makesure that every agenda item either 1) requires a decision or change to be made,or2) identifiesnewtasks orprojects andsets deadlines for a future decision or change. Ensure that you have a good facilitator to keep the com- mittee on task. 


ON_THE_WEB: If you had an opportunity to blow up your existing committee structure and reassemble it, would it look the same? Check out management consultant Jamie Notter’s thought-provoking post on committees versus task forces at http://bit.ly/Notter-committees.


40 pcmaconvene February 2012 ILLUSTRATION BY BRAD YEO


Volunteers Need to Observe Committee meetings are often scheduled at the same time as conference educa- tion sessions. How can those volunteers recommend what’s best for conference attendees if they themselves don’t experience the ses- sions? They not only need to be in the audience, but should be given guidance on what to look for. Often they can learn more by observing the attendees than the speaker. Are attendees paying attention? Participating? Multi- tasking because they’re bored? This feedback is critical for continuous improvement.


Dave Lutz, CMP, ismanaging director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting,www .velvetchainsaw.com, a business-improvement consultancy specializing in the meetingsand eventsindustry. Hiscom- pany assists organizations in realizing top- and bottom-line growth by delivering customer- focused solutions in business development, best-practice and process improvement, strategic planning, and training.


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