before the conference
- theme/topic: general scientific topic but focus on a particular question that students are interested in (eg. academia vs. science, future of the field, etc.) or pick a particular scientific topic that is just emerging (see BioSysBio)
- date and location: either long before or after other major conferences in the field or as part of a major conference, teaming up with a larger event will save the delegates a lot of money. Locations should not be easy accessible (train and plane, also local public transport) and budget accommodation should be within reasonable distance.
- invited speakers: chose carefully - top senior scientists in the field, young PIs, ie. find a good mix and people that are committed to the student community. Young PIs can give good insight into what it takes to get faculty or postdoc positions. Top senior scientists usually have a great overview of the field and can comment on developments that are to be expected in the future and how current topics fit into the bigger picture.
- planning time: 9 months to a year. Why? Submission deadlines need to be considered, production deadlines as well, confirming invited speakers and other aspects of the agenda, spreading the word (ie. marketing), fundraising, etc.
- involve local organizations: eg. by inviting a local speaker. will help to give easier access to venues, local organizing team, etc. Sponsors from the local area might be easier to target.
- organizing and program committee. Wide set of skills required: website and printed materials, reviewers from a wide range of areas, finances and fundraising, organization, marketing, evaluation
- include social activities and time for networking
- give credit where credit is due: recognize contributions by sponsors, speakers, OC, PC, etc.
- sponsors: approach them early, make clear how they will benefit
- incentives: fellowships for people who could otherwise not come, awards for outstanding contributions, publication of abstracts in a journal, etc.
at the conference
- meet everyone from the OC the day before the event: inspect the facilities, discuss responsibilities if you haven't done so before (contact point, registration, speaker liaison, etc.)
- have contact information for all relevant 3rd party people (caterers, building manager, conference organizer if you are having your event as part of another conference)
after the conference
- wrap up: particularly important if you are planning to have a similar event in the future - make evaluation publicly accessible, submit abstracts to journal, upload photos of the event to the website (videos too, if you have any!), post names of winners of awards and travel fellowships on the website
- send one last email to all delegates informing them about the things that have happened since the conference and include announcements for the next event if you are planning one