Thinking of hosting an NCPTW conference? We welcome proposals from anyone who participates in the conference and seeks to support NCPTW’s mission: NCPTW promotes the teaching of writing through collaborative learning and offers peer tutors the opportunity to contribute in professional and scholarly ways to the larger writing center community.
The first step in developing a proposal is to contact NCPTW Treasurer Andrea Efthymiou and Secretary Julie Christoph to express an interest. They will send you copies of successful proposals from recent years so you can see what we’re looking for. You can reach Andrea at email@example.com and Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout the process, share drafts of the proposal with Andrea and Julie for feedback. Julie will then submit the proposal to the steering committee for a decision. If approved, you may then begin making plans. Previous conference hosts are ready and willing to assist you, as well!
Here are some more steps to consider as you develop your proposal:
- Investigate possible dates. NCPTW is usually held in October or early November. Also consider:
- IWCA conference dates (if not a joint conference, leave at least two, and ideally three weeks between the conferences)
- CRLA conference dates (especially if you want to try to get vendors who work with subject tutors)
- Any events that might be happening on your campus/in your town that might affect hotel or meeting space availability
- Keynote speaker availability
- Think about a conference theme and potential keynote speakers
- Develop rough plan for the conference
- When will you have the keynote? Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?
- How many meals will be included in registration and/or count toward event rental costs?
- Will awards be at the same event as the keynote?
- What social activities will you have, perhaps separately for tutors and administrators?
- Will you group particular kinds of presentations (e.g., workshops) at a particular time?
- How many presentations will you have during each concurrent session? How many rooms will you need to make that happen?
- What formats will you include in the program? Will you go beyond the traditional 3-person panels, perhaps to include more interactive formats?
- Will you include Special Interest Group time slots?
- Contact local hotels/venue spaces, put tentative hold, if possible, on spaces you’ll need
- Figure out who’s going to help with specific local aspects of doing the conference. Who will:
- Deal with RSVPs (This seems easy to do, but it needs to be one person who is detail-oriented and tactful. There will be a lot of details, and an occasional need for tact.)
- Coordinate logistics (contracts with ground transportation, A/V, name tags)
- Build the program
- Handle PR and advertising
- Coordinate with volunteers
- Do fund-raising and outreach
- Coordinate social events
- Develop budget
- Venue space
- Scholarships ($7500)
- Maxwell award ($250)
- Keynote speaker ($1000)
- Keynote travel
- Keynote accommodation (hotel can likely be comped)
NEGOTIATING HOTEL CONTRACT
- Negotiate! What perks will they offer, depending on how many rooms are booked?
- Useful perks to ask for
- Comped rooms (for example, the conference hotel might offer 1 free room/50 hotel rooms picked up at the conference rate)
- Wifi in hotel rooms and conference venues
- Comped venue space based on rooms (this may or may not be possible)
- Confirm that you can cross-check your conference registration list with the hotel room bookings to get the accurate number of reservations if the bookings end up being close; some people will find deals on Expedia and Hotels.com, etc. and not book through the conference link.
DEVELOPING THE WEB PAGE
You should develop the web page as soon as possible, and ideally before the previous year’s NCPTW. The NCPTW Web Editor can provide you with your own unique conference WordPress installation so that you may develop your own look and feel. The conference WordPress should be under thencptw.org domain, however, rather than developing it on an outside service. In-house websites will be new for NCPTW 2020, however, as previous iterations of the conference have been developed on independent locations. Other website management systems may be available. Check with the Web Editor.
- Develop a Web page with
- conference theme
- info about NCPTW
- Proposal date
- Travel grant information
As the conference gets closer, add more information, probably including:
- Ground transportation
- Venue information
- Hotel reservations
- Conference schedule (rough and detailed)
- Info for newcomers
It’s helpful to set dates for each of these things in advance, so that people can plan and so that you can get the information and registration funding when you need it. (Keep in mind that the majority of people will wait until the last minute, at each step in the process.)
- Conference dates (see above)
- Proposal due date, leaving enough time for about a month to review and get back to students by the end of May (for example, you may start with an April 1 deadline and extend it to April 18). This gives time to review proposals and respond to presenters by the end of May.
- Date for presenters to confirm participation
- Date for participants to register (Sept. 15 is probably the latest you’d want to go on this.)
- Date to get detailed program posted (this one is tricky because you don’t want to do too much scheduling until you know who’s coming, and some people will want to know when they’re presenting before they accept the offer to present. In general, though, if you set a deadline before mid-September, you will get a lot of people who won’t respond before then. An Early Bird registration deadline is a useful motivator.)
- Date for refund availability (i.e., partial refund of 50% offered until Oct. 28, no refunds thereafter)
- Dates for different rates, if you decide to do that (Again, a cheaper price motivates most people to register earlier, which is helpful for planning. But the people who have the hardest time paying early have the hardest time paying at all.)
- This isn’t something you control, but put dates that checks are due for everything in your personal calendar. Every caterer and venue and contract has different dates for partial and full payment, and it’s good to get those in your calendar so you know when to ask the NCPTW treasurer for checks.
SETTING CONFERENCE REGISTRATION FEES
This one is hard, and stressful. Play around with that ratio to see how low you can keep fees while still keeping in the black. There will be unexpected price changes (for me, the big ones were a rise in catering prices AND gratuity rate AND tax rate at the hotel, but I could see there being other increases) and there will also be unexpected expenses. Plan with a cushion of around $4000 beyond what you expect to be your break-even point, based on your best modeling.
Think about how you want to include your local tutors. For example, you might offer free attendance to any tutors from your center. You may recruit tutors as campus ambassadors to direct guests or to serves as moderators. Talk to prior conference hosts for ideas!
BUILDING THE PROGRAM
It’s easy to get lost in the details of chairing, but this is where the fun happens. NCPTW tends to have a very high acceptance rate for proposals. It’s many presenters’ first conference, and the experience of presenting is important in itself. BUT there are consistently post-conference reviews from attendees who wanted more substance and higher standards for presentations. I’d advocate keeping acceptance rates high, but there are ways to improve the quality of presentations through careful scheduling and feedback to proposers.
- Encourage proposal reviewers to write comments to proposers, with an eye for how the proposal might be refined into a presentation. Encourage reviewers to think about whether the proposal is in the best format as proposed.
- Create new formats! A mini-workshop might be a better mode than a roundtable for peer tutor presenters. There are often a lot of proposals that have good, practical ideas for writing centers but that aren’t really grounded in theory or scholarship. Those presentations might fit into speed-sharing-style “mini-workshops,” with timed 10-minute sessions for presenters to share content and field questions with small audiences that rotate around the room. An Idea Lab is a presentation mode that is good for proposals that raise an interesting question but really have no findings or evidence. If you have proposals without enough content to warrant roundtable status, consider ways to facilitate conversation in an “idea lab” where presenters share ideas and audience members help identify next steps for research.
- In notifying presenters, create separate form emails to accept proposals as is versus accepted for a different format. For the Mini-workshops and Idea Labs, consider offering the option of presenters choosing a format for themselves among three options: Mini-workshop, Idea Lab, and Poster.
SCHEDULING THE PROGRAM:
- Different hosts take different approaches, from working off an Excel spreadsheet to sticky notes covering a writing center’s wall. Talk to past hosts to get ideas about what works best for your process.
- Anticipate that a certain percentage (10-20%) of accepted proposals will not register for the conference. Some panels will add or remove speakers, and some presenters will ask for accommodations you didn’t expect. Be prepared to be flexible.
- Once you have responses from accepted presenters, group individual presentations into panels. You may try to group individual presenters thematically, but don’t be afraid to find your own organizing structure.
- Then group presentations into time slots, making sure to spread out presentation foci and presentation types across the entire conference.
- You may want to schedule presenters who are local to the conference site on the final day of the conference, as it is potentially easier for local presenters to travel than for those who come from farther away.
- Avoid scheduling too many large panels in the same time slot because that dilutes the audience for other presentations.
- Consider room type (round tables for workshops, theatre style for most everything else) and predict audience size.
(BASED ON AN NCPTW DATE OF END OF OCTOBER/BEGINNING OF NOVEMBER)
- Continue building conference website, adding:
- Info about who NCPTW is; consider carefully how to pitch what NCPTW is as an organization—it’s not an all-undergraduate conference, but it would be useful to signal to newcomers that the majority of presentations are by undergrads,
- Tips on how to write a good proposal,
- The rough conference schedule,
- Info on the keynote speaker,
- Info on proposal reviewing rubric.
- Solicit help with reviewing proposals (mentor tutors in your center to help, recruit colleagues in your department, and solicit from the NCPTW steering committee and board of trustees).
- Develop a social media presence, posting regularly some combination of things about the conference, the host city, writing center things, conference news and deadlines.
- Send keynote speaker a contract ($500-$1000 depending on number of speakers)
- Solicit help with reviewing proposals and coordinate with scholarship committee on soliciting help with reviewing travel grant proposals. Peer tutors have traditionally been part of the review process.
- Assign proposals to reviewers, avoiding conflicts of interest and assigning comparable proposals (i.e., each reviewer is assigned to review mostly or entirely reviews of the same presentation format)
- Don’t assign yourself any proposals to review, if you can. To the extent that it’s possible, it’s best to be somewhat distanced from all of the proposals as you build the overall program. If possible, try to reserve someone you know well to pitch in and be the backup reviewer, as there will likely be one or two reviewers who don’t come through in time and/or who aren’t able to do the reviews at all.
- Coordinate with Scholarship committee on:
- Review processes
- Communication plans (with whom will scholarship winners communicate their acceptance, and how will you share information)
- Consider having proposal norming session to familiarize new reviewers with the review process and to offer some consistency across reviewers.
- Do reviews!
- After reviews come back, average the reviews to get a sense of the lowest and highest rated overall. Accept the highest and the middle ones, and look closely at the lowest ones. Can they be accepted in a different (less time-intensive) format?
- Thank reviewers.
- Send acceptance emails.
- Work on the conference program, building in rough schedule for set pieces like panels and workshops, and playing around with tentative panel groupings for the individual proposals.
- Consider if you want to reach out to area high school teachers for their participation.
Consider looking into additional sources of revenue, from your home institution, from vendors (WCONLINE, Writing Center Journal, graduate programs, etc.).
- Send registration reminders (most likely for early bird rates) OFTEN via WCenter and the NCPTW Steering Committee listerv, as well as other professional listservs you may be tapped into.
- Respond to emails!
- Make travel plans with keynote speaker
- Contact campus leaders to get them involved in the conference. NCPTW is a big deal; make sure that people on your campus know about it. You may want to:
- Ask your institution’s President, Provost, and/or Academic Dean to offer introductory remarks at the awards ceremony or keynote.
- Make announcements on your campus, tapping into your institution’s communication’s teams and newsletters. Your Communications office may even share a press release with local newspapers.
- Solidify local plans for entertainment and food—compile dietary preferences from registrations and communicate with catering staff about specific needs.
- Place orders for swag.
- Plan decorations, if any, for the keynote and other events.
- Plan signage at conference venues and get signs printed.
- Post detailed program and ask for corrections and additions.
- Send email to accepted presenters who haven’t registered, showing the program (without their presentation listed) and offering one last chance to present.
- Communicate with presenters about technical support at the conference (What can they expect in the way of room setup? Projectors? Will there be printing available at the conference?). Communicate about expectations for universal design and accessibility. Have them confirm information for program.
- Make list of volunteer opportunities and solicit sign-ups. One example of this is through a shareable Google spreadsheet, with three tabs:
- one describing each of the volunteer job responsibilities and rough time commitment.
- one with the sign-ups for jobs.
- one with the volunteer’s name, email, and RSVPs for conference events, since I didn’t have them register through the NCPTW.info portal.
- Share draft of conference program with venue coordinators to make sure that the room setups will work.
- Publish conference program as soon as possible online, so that people can finalize travel plans. If it is a draft, make certain to watermark it with DRAFT so that people are aware that there might be changes. But try to make as few changes as possible.
- Work on publishable program—whether online or on paper, or some combination thereof. Get it posted online as soon as possible, as some people will print early versions and not be aware of changes.
- Walk through venue space and imagine it as though you hadn’t seen it before: What will visitors need to know?
- Send email to attendees, with any updates/news you want them to know.
- Try to purchase everything you will need about three weeks before the conference, and start putting things in boxes with items grouped with like things that need to go to the same locations. (Your office and/or center is going to be crowded!)
- Write up directions for volunteers at different positions, especially for the Registration/Info desk. Send emails to volunteers as soon as the volunteer descriptions have gelled reasonably well.
- Make name tags. There are lots of options for making name tags out there, most of which are pretty pricey and probably fancier than what people really need (Avery 74459 badges are a good deal!). Alphabetize the Excel list by last name, print in a laser printer, and have peer tutors separate the tags and insert them into plastic badges on an off hour in the center.
- Send emails to any vendors, letting them know what the vendor table space is like and when to set up.
- Enjoy the conference!
- Pack up after the conference.
- Write thank you notes.
- Clean up budget and share it with the treasurer for NCPTW records.
- Consider creating a post-conference survey and sharing results with board.
- Share any feedback with the board to continue to improve and grow NCPTW!