Small IEEE Logo Region 3 Newsletter
Volume 15 Number 3
Page 10

October 2000

Conference Committee Report
Fall 2000

Charles Lord, P.E. CQE
IEEE Region 3 Conference Committee Chair

The year 2000 has been one of transitions for conferences in Region 3. SoutheastCon continues to survive, with some small, hard-working groups working dilligently to make sure it is a success. Hats off to the 1999 and 2000 committees, who produced successful conferences and came out ahead financially - despite lagging attendance. JamCon, the Area 9 conference held in Jamaica, had a successful 2000 venue in beautiful Ocho Rios in the middle of hurricaine season with nary a cloud in sight. Southcon and the North Carolina Symposium and Exhibition (NCSE) have not been so fortunate, however. Although there was a Southcon 2000, there will not be a 2001 show and the future of the trade show - in the form it has taken in the past - is in serious doubt. After 44 straight years of annual symposia, NCSE did not take place in 2000. Flagging numbers for conferences and trade shows are an industry-wide trend. Ever decreasing time and travel funds as well as competition from the Internet have lead to the demise of a number of conferences and trade shows in many industries. How can we in IEEE make the best of these factors and provide better services to our members? Let's look at the goals set forth for our committee by the R3 Strategic Planning Committee:

II. Membership A. Leadership Development
h. Develop Region 3 training program specifically for conference treasurers.

This is a critical function that we have not yet approached. I think we need to go further and provide training for all aspects of planning and running a regional conference. If Southcon does indeed go away, SoutheastCon will be our one remnaining conference and must be a success every year - with a new group of volunteers each year. Of course, success means much more than financial; we must provide the maximum benefit to the maximum number of our members. However, if the conference is not financially viable, it too will not survive.

III.Services & Technology C. Conferences
a. Review horizontal conferences in Region 3. Consider possible new areas/sites as well as CEU credits for tutorials.

CEUs (continuing education units) and PDHs (professional development hours) are a critical selling point for tutorials and other continuing education offerings - including conferences. IEEE HQ has a program that can be used to provide CEUs for conference tutorials and technical sessions. PDHs are typically governed by each state's PE registration authority. I want a 2001 goal of our committee to be to develop a kit that conference organizers can use to assist them in applying for PDH certification in their state.

b. Review vertical conferences. Provide Sections information on how to formally solicit Technical Society Conferences.

Our committee is looking at ways of getting better ties with the technical societies and helping R3 entities to pursue and host society technical (vertical) conferences. We hope to have a manual for sections, areas, and councils in 2001.

c. Examine professional management for conferences.

We have talked to some management groups, including IEEE Meeting Planning Services. We have not located a good "package" for the professional management of regional conferences such as SoutheastCon. This has been an ongoing problem for the Southcon show. There has been a suggestion that we convert the SoutheastCon conference to a professionally (or at least centrally) managed conference to eliminate the need for local entities to bid for then run the conference. As long as there is a pool of sections that have interest in hosting SoutheastCon, we would much prefer to support those sections with as many resources as possible so that they can carry out that task and be successful doing so. For that reason, another 2001 goal should be a major revision of the R3 Conference Training Manual as well as possible face-to-face training for would-be and newly-formed SoutheastCon committees.

Our region faces many challenges for making conferences work and making them work for the majority of our membership. Many opportunities exist, including the use of the Internet and distance learning technologies for a wider delivery of conference-quality information to more of our membership. Our committee will work hard in 2001 to help meet those opportunities head-on. Come join us!

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