A Note from the 2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Conference Chair:
Well my name is Hope Quintana and I was the chair of the 2013 AIChE RM Regional Conference and I know from experience that many questions arise during the planning process. I hope that this note along with our summary report can shed some light on the process and hopefully answer most of your questions! I apologize in advance for my rather lengthy note, but here it goes:
My best piece of advice is definitely start the planning process early! The early you start thinking about events and food the better deals you can get (saving money is key) which will be extremely helpful keeping the conference in budget.
Picking the date is probably the most critical thing. What we did is looked up all our regions schools spring breaks and made a calendar. I tried to pick the “best” weekend possible. Also there may be some set weekend The Institute (AIChE global) will want the RM Region so that way a representative can attend. With this, the best thing you can do as a chapter is decide when is better for all volunteers, chairs, faculty, etc…. before or after your spring break. For us we returned to school from spring break and then had the conference that weekend. It was difficult since some people were away but I had others who were readily available to assist with final details. Since we had already known when the conference was going to be, we all decided that we wanted to have everything pretty much done before we left on spring break.
The next thing would be to figure out a tentative schedule. Like that workshops (if any) you’ll have, activities, or any of the extra stuff you’d like to do aside from the required ChE Car, Jeopardy, Paper competition and awards banquet. HINT: There is a Regional Planners Guide that has a lot of this mapped out already. Here’s an excellent tip: Ask Global AIChE if the Young Professional Committee will want to speak at your conference or have a table or anything like that. Bug them for an answer because one thing for us is that we were told they wanted to have a presentation and table the day before the conference started. Unfortunately we had booklets printed and rooms already assigned so the presentation didn’t happen.
In creating your agenda, think about what is unique to your school and try to incorporate that into the weekend plans. It’s awesome when you go to these conferences and have never visited the city to have that touristy aspect.
As far as problems, we really didn’t have too much conflict that I can remember. I know one thing that has come up in the past was ChE Car location. Some schools have a difficult time finding a place that would allow chemicals. My suggestion here is create a safety plan so that way you are prepared for anything that may potentially happen. Understanding the hazards and having a plan to protect against them (like plastic on the floor) and an emergency safety plan, the location will see you took the time to figure things out and will be more likely to say yes. Also here get your campus Environmental Health and Safety department involved immediately! They can help.
Double check on everything you order from vendors. Make sure there is no miscommunication and everyone is on the same page. Same thing with your volunteers, make sure everyone knows the basics of what is going on and everyone understand the ultimate goal and picture.
One thing that also is pretty common are chemicals not showing up. In our case I had several teams shipment get lost and they reordered and had them arrive on Saturday. I made sure there was someone in or near the building at all times in case the delivery truck came that way we wouldn’t miss it.
Collecting money is always a great question! For our school specifically, the College of Engineering only allowed “income” via check so everything had to be a check. My plan was to use a paypal or square on the online registration so they could pay via credit card until I found out the restrictions. It really depends on your school, everyone has their own rules to follow. So be sure to ask your admin or college if they have any limitations on this. And do it SOON, I had everything already setup for credit card transactions and then had to re-do the registration stuff. We originally wanted ONE check per school, but that is really difficult for most ChE departments to get. Some schools were able to do it easily others asked me if I would accept personal checks. In the end, if they sent personal checks it was fine made more work for me to get them deposited into our account but I didn’t mind the extra work if made everyone else’s life easier. I’m not sure how bank accounts work at your school, for us we are not allowed to have a bank account outside the university so everything goes through our accounts payable and receivable. WHICH IS A HUGE PAIN! But don’t get discouraged, delegate the small tasks (such as this) to an underclassmen to get them involved! So make sure to ask your department how money exchanges work out best and that way you know what the do’s and don’ts are for your school.
Finally the best thing I can say is things will not go as planned, so sometimes you just have to go with the flow and find a solution as quickly as possible. I’ll tell you, our sprinkler system went off at our outdoor banquet (even though I called 4 times that week and that day to make sure the program was turned off) and lucky for me I had a group of guys who just sprang into action covered the sprinkler heads and the party went on! The other thing that helped us out was one of meetings was all about “What Could Go Wrong?” Here everyone came up with scenarios about what disasters/problems/issues could happen and we had a back-up plan for most of them. Here we wanted to be prepared for anything thrown our way. It made everyone breathe a little easier knowing we had back-up plans for even the worst disasters. A boy scout is always prepared! I hope all this information helps and wasn’t too overwhelming. You can find more on attendance, cost, sponsorship and more comments in our Summary Report. If you ever have any questions, or need some more advice please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Good luck and happy planning!
Hope A. Quintana
Chemical Engineering, New Mexico State University