The Mission of the Committee is to hold in the Spring of each calendar year the Michigan Historic Preservation Network’s largest gathering, the Annual Statewide Preservation Conference. The conference has been held each year since the MHPN’s founding on May 30, 1981. Since that “first” statewide conference at Historic Fort Wayne, there have been consistent increases in the quality of the conference’s speakers, the breath of its audience, the timeliness and excellence of its programs, and, since 1995, its ability to earn undesignated dollars for the MHPN’s operational support. The goal is to be constantly improving the conference.
The Role of the Conference Coach:
For the 2008 Conference in Dearborn, the MHPN formalized the role of the Conference Coach who serves as part of the Development Committee and at the direction of that Committee’s chair. This role was created in an effort to assure that in spite of the conference being held in a different community each year and with a new group of volunteers, the conference will consistently meet MHPN standards for programmatic quality, staying within budget and earning money, meeting all production deadlines, and showcasing both the host community and the MHPN. While the entire board and staff of the MHPN participate in selecting the communities in which the conference will take place, the role of the Conference Coach is to facilitate a successful event.
The Conference Coach and Local Committee Shall:
- Assure that members of the local planning committee are an inclusive representation of the host city and its preservation community.
- In a collaborative effort between the board and staff of the MHPN and the local planning committee, choose a title for the conference and develop a clear statement about the focus of its program. Strive to give them ‘curb appeal’ that makes a potential participant open an e-blast, read a press release, decide to come. Use them as direction for developing the tracks and sessions; choosing the speakers, projects, and keynote speaker; deciding on venues; and even approaching contributors. A great title and focus make the conference a cohesive whole.
- As early as possible in the conference planning process, create a budget that is the guideline for all expenditures and, as far as possible, assures that the ‘net’ for the conference set in the overall MHPN budget is met. With every line-item, ask if it is the best value for the dollars paid. Be bold in asking for price reductions, in-kind goods and services, and things for free.
- Work systematically through the “MHPN Conference Sample Timeline” so that all conference tasks are completed on time and without volunteer burn-out. In broad-strokes, this means the Coach and Committee shall:
- Choose the conference headquarters, hotel, and event venues, and through the MHPN office, confirm all arrangements with signed contracts.
- Produce a strong program of sessions, speakers, and projects.
- Provide adequate and appealing refreshments and meals.
- Advertise the conference through as wide a variety of electronic, web-based, and traditional print mediums as possible. Consider, but do not be limited to, taking conference brochures, announcements, press releases, and radio, cable, and TV pieces to local, state, and even national markets by these means.
- Secure a keynote speaker with broad appeal.
- Assign a timeslot in the conference for the annual membership meeting and elections.
- Hold special events that appeal to various audiences – i.e. a VIP reception that honors donors, a Community Open House and Vendors’ Showcase that welcome the public, an Awards Evening that showcases preservation efforts in the state.
- Manage all logistics such that speakers have adequate technical support for their presentations, registration runs smoothly, tour buses leave and return on time, hands-on sessions are safe, etc.
- Provide opportunities for networking.
- Complete the conference cycle by thanking all who participated in the conference, paying the bills, collecting the statistics that allow the MHPN to track progress and change in the conference over the years, and share the participant evaluations with those who will plan the following year’s conference.
- Use every opportunity to raise money through the conference, tapping long-time donors, welcoming new contributors, working with group gifts, seeking corporate and foundation support, tapping government partners, etc.
- Use every opportunity to maximize earned income through the conference, employing such means as the Silent Auction, Preservation Marketplace, Raffle, sale of Vendor Booths, etc.
- Assure that as one year’s conference is being created by the Coach and Committee, the entire MHPN staff and board are confirming where next the conference will be held.
- Ideally, have conference dates two years out, with at least one of them confirmed sufficiently to be included in the current conference’s brochure.
- While seeking to take the conference to all regions of the state, recognize that it will most often be held in centers of population.
- Showcase communities with successful preservation programs, but do not shy away from the ability of problem situations to be educational tools.
- Just as every effort is made to keep conference programming current, seek every opportunity to use web-based technology for the conference to broaden its audience, increase access, and modernize logistics. Transforming the traditional conference brochure to a web-based document, offering on-line registration, “streaming” the keynote address, etc. are just a few of the ideas that come to mind. There is a limitless array of others.
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