Guidelines for ADSA Conference Convenors

Compiled by Bree Hadley, 10 July 2012

– for further advice on successful conferences see also 2009 Membership Survey.


Stage 1 – Initiating an ADSA Conference

The annual ADSA Conference is held by a Drama, Theatre or Performance Studies Department at a different University in Australia or New Zealand each year. Departments that host ADSA Conferences do so because it offers a chance to showcase their strengths in teaching, research and practice, host colleagues, and create new networks, connections and opportunities.

If you are interested in hosting an ADSA Conference, then, your initial steps are to –

·        Discuss the idea with the colleagues within your Department, your Head of School, and your Dean, to secure in-principle support for the idea from your University

·        Discuss who might be part of the Convening Committee for the ADSA Conference

·        Discuss possible themes for the ADSA Conference

*** In recent years, a number of ADSA Conferences have been co-hosted by two or three Universities. This can make good sense – more staff, more opportunities to secure University support, and, eventually, more delegates at the Conference itself. If you are interested in co-hosting an ADSA Conference with another University, you would also need to have this conversation with colleagues at that University during this period. ***

If there’s clearly interest in hosting an ADSA Conference, the next step is to put yourself forward to ADSA as a potential future ADSA Conference host. This is usually done at the ADSA Annual General Meeting two years prior to the year in which you would like to host the ADSA Conference. For example, at the ADSA Annual Conference in 2012, the President will ask the ADSA 2013 Conference Convenors to launch their Conference, then ask others to put themselves forward to be Conference Convenors for 2014. You are, of course, welcome and warmly encouraged to discuss your interest with the President and other members of the ADSA Executive prior to the ADSA Annual General Meeting, who will be happy to help you with initiating an ADSA Conference. As part of the process, it is a good idea to prepare a preliminary summary of theme, speakers, schedule and budget to give the ADSA Executive a good sense of what the Conference would look like – advice on things to consider is available in the ‘Planning’ section below, and the President and Vice President are always happy to help in preparing preliminary proposals of this sort for presentation to the ADSA Executive.


Stage 2 – Planning an ADSA Conference

After your ADSA Conference proposal has been accepted, planning can begin.

The Conference Theme, Schedule and Budget should be prepared as early as possible, so that here is time to present it to the ADSA Executive, and time to accommodate any necessarily changes.

Conference Theme

ADSA Conference themes are usually a paragraph or so length, offering provocations to excite potential presenters, followed by a list of specific topics presenters might like to address, instructions on how presenters can propose a paper, panel or performance for the Conference, and the due date for proposals (see past conferences). The due date for proposals usually around 30th March, about three months before the Conference. Themes will reflect your University’s interests and strengths in teaching, research and practice, but should still be open enough to be inclusive of all ADSA members, who work across a range of historical and contemporary forms of drama, theatre and performance practices.

Conference Schedule

ADSA Conferences usually take place in the first week of July each year, but can shift backwards or forwards a few days depending on activities at the University hosting the Conference, and the dates for major international Conferences in drama, theatre and performance that year. ADSA Conferences usually begin on the Tuesday with a Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Day (see Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Day). Later on the Tuesday, there is usually a Conference opening with drinks and finger food, which can include; a welcome from a prominent or newsworthy person, particularly if the Convenors are hoping to secure coverage in the local press; a welcome from the President of ADSA; a welcome from the Conference Convenors and their Head of School, Dean or Vice Chancellor as principal supporter of the Conference; introduction of Conference staff; information about the flow of the Conference, and sets a welcoming tone. The Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are usually devoted to keynote presentations, followed by papers, panels, performances and workshops in parallel sessions. On the Friday, the Conference usually concludes with the ADSA Annual General Meeting; a Conference closing at which Prizes are awarded and Conference staff, special guests and supporters are thanked; a Conference Dinner.

Conference Budget

ADSA Conference budgets are the sole responsibility of the University hosting the Conference. Whilst ADSA can provide a small subvention – up to $AU3000 – to assist with cashflow, this is returned after the Conference, so the University is responsible for ensuring the Conference breaks even, responsible for loss if it the Conference has one, and retains all profits from the Conference if the conference make money. Typical budget items for ADSA Conferences over the last five years include –


  • ADSA Subvention – $AU3000 (to be returned after the conference)
  • Conference Registrations – $AU19,000 to $AU23,000 (depending on delegate numbers)
  • Contributions from University – $AU5,000 to $AU10,000 (depending on delegate numbers, keynotes costs, and willingness to apply to secure contributions from Government or Charitable Foundations per the below)
  • Contributions from Government & Charitable Foundations – $AU5,000 to $AU10,000 (depending on the number of national or international keynote presentations likely to secure this sort of funding from Governments/Philanthropics)


  • ADSA Subvention – $AU3000 (to be returned after the conference)
  • Conference Administrator Salary – $AU7,500 to $AU10,000 (depending on conference size / complexity)
  • Airfares – $AU6000 to $AU7,500 (depending on number of national or international keynotes)
  • Accommodation – $AU3000 to $AU5,000 (depending on number of national or international keynotes)
  • Honorariums – $AU1000 to $AU2500 (depending on number of national or international keynotes)
  • Transfers, Taxis, Buses = $AU500 to $AU5,000 (depending on need to bus delegates to venues or not)
  • General Costs (Incidentals) – $AU500 to $AU1,000
  • Printing Costs (Posters, Flyers, Programs) – $AU500 to $AU1,000
  • Website (Design, Domain, Hosting) – $AU300 to $AU500
  • Venue Hire (Papers, Panels, Performances) – $AU2,500 to $AU5,000
  • Equipment Hire (Papers, Panels, Performances) – $AU500 to $AU1,000
  • Conference Catering (Morning & Afternoon Tea, Lunch, Launch) – $AU10,000 to $AU15,000
  • Conference Dinner Venue & Catering (Close) – $AU3,500 to $AU5,000
  • Conference Proceedings (ISBN, Website, Assistant) – $AU1000 to $AU2000
  • Bank Account Fees & Charges – $AU1,000 to $AU3,500, or more if Credit Card registration charges are high
  • University Fees & Charges – $AU500 to $AU1,000, or more if many services are run on a Cost Recovery basis

The exact budget items will depend on the way Conferences are run at your University – for example, whether you can pay the University’s Conference Services to look after administration, resources, rooms, equipment, registrations and delegate relations, or whether you need to employ a Conference Administrator within your own Department to do this; whether you can use the University’s resources for free or whether you will be charged on a Cost Recovery basis, etc.  In general, past Conference Convenors have told ADSA that if the University has Conference Services, using them is by far the easiest option, as they can look after most administrative matters. If your University does not have Conference Services, you will need to employ a Conference Administrator, usually for a few hours a week in the year prior to the Conference, a day or two a week the six months prior to the Conference, and full time during the Conference itself.

Many of the budget items are variable, so you will need to make choices about what you want to provide as part of your Conference, based on the Conference Theme.

One highly variable budget item is Registration. In general, attendees at ADSA Conferences appreciate an effort to keep Registration costs as low as possible (see Member Survey). All presenters must be members of ADSA, at a cost of $AU90 for full membership or $AU60 for concession membership (as outlined in the Membership Form), and this should be made clear to all potential presenters in the call for papers. Typically, ADSA Conferences then offer an Early Bird Full Registration for around $AU350-$400 til the end of April, a Full Registration for around $AU400-$AU450, a Concession Registration for around $AU200-$AU250, as well as day rates. Typically, the day rate is set at around ½ of the full rate, to encourage delegates to join ADSA and come to the whole Conference. In budgeting for the Conference, it is worth remembering that a sizeable percentage of delegates – perhaps 60% – may claim the Concession Registration rate. This can impact on the budget, and past Convenors have found that setting the Concession Registration rate too low, or allowing people who are not strictly speaking eligible for the Concession Registration rate but have expressed concern about their ability to fund their trip to use that rate, can make it difficult to break even. The Conference Dinner is usually an optional extra event for a cost of around $AU75. In the past, Convenors have found that only around half of conference delegates will attend the Conference Dinner – the cost of the Dinner, together with the cost of staying an extra night to attend the Dinner, can be prohibitive from some delegates, so they chose to leave on the last afternoon. Be aware that delegate numbers also vary depending on the location of the Conference, due to the location of ADSA members, and due to the travel costs – a Conference in a regional area may draw 50-75 delegates, a conference in a major metropolitan area may draw 100-125 delegates or more if many ADSA members live in the area and many low-cost carriers service the area with regular flights (see Member Survey).

Another highly variable budget item is Airfare, Accommodation, Transfers and Honorarium for national or international keynote presenters. In general, it is a good idea to have at least one or two International keynote presenters, at least one or two Australian or New Zealand keynote presenters, as this can be important in attracting delegates to the event. It can also be worthwhile to invite a major practitioner, particularly a major international practitioner, to give a paper on their writing / directing / design / acting practice – this can attract both academics and industry professionals to the conference. Typically, suitable keynote presenters will require airfare, accommodation and an honorarium, and will have busy schedules that mean they need to know the date as early as possible to be able to come, so it is worth arranging this as early as possible. As registrations set at low rates can only cover the conference assistant, conference venues and conference catering, together with some printing of programs, convenors typically seek funds from their University or a government or charitable fund to cover keynote speakers.

Another highly variable budget item is Catering. In general, attendees at ADSA Conferences appreciate good catering throughout, so a large proportion of the Registration fee usually goes towards catering during the opening and closing, as well as at lunch and morning and afternoon tea (see Member Survey).

Conference Account

As part of the preliminary planning for the Conference, you will need to set up an account to cover administration, rooms, resources and delegate registrations. If your University has Conference Services, they will be able to do this. If not you will need to set up an account in your Department.


Stage 3 – Implementing an ADSA Conference

Attracting Delegates – Keynotes

  • In some cases, delegates are attracted to attend a Conference based on a keynote presentation from a major national or international speaker. This being the case, it is worth starting conversations with your desired keynote speakers as soon as possible – both so they are more likely to be able to fit the Conference into their schedule, and so that their attendance can be announced in all the marketing, publicity and promotions. Contracting keynote speakers as soon as possible can also assist with budgeting – it is clear how much the airfare, accommodation and honorarium will cost, when they will arrive, what they will do, and this can be used to approach the University or Government and Charitable Bodies to try to secure support towards the cost of bringing the person to the conference.

Attracting Delegates – Marketing, Promotions and Publicity

  • Create a Website to promote the Conference to potential delegates.
  • Create a Poster, Flyer, and Call for Papers to promote the Conference to potential delegates.
  • Ask your University’s Marketing Manager for assistance with, for example, permissions for photos and logs on the marketing collateral, printing, postage, and distribution.
  • Ensure that collateral highlights any special attendees or activities that are likely to interest delegates – for example, a major international guest presenting during the conference.
  • Ensure that collateral provides clear, correct and relevant information – for example, the title of the Conference, the time of the Conference, the types of presentations encouraged at the conference, and the deadline for proposals for the Conference.
  • Ensure that collateral makes it clear that all presenters must be members of ADSA.
  • Circulate the information approximately a year in advance – advertise the Conference the ADSA email list, via Drama, Theatre and Performance Departments at academic institutions, via theatre organisations, and via international lists and noticeboards like SCUDD, ATHE, ASTR, and PSi.

Attracting Delegates – Communications

  • Clarify how the Convenor and the Conference Administrator will manage communications
  • Create a database to assist the Convenor and the Conference Administrator in tracking all communications with potential delegates – for example, an excel spreadsheet with headers including: title; name; surname; preferred name; position; department; institution; email; address; phone; paper/presentation title; paper/presentation format; paper/presentation time; paper/presentation room; preferred time; preferred tech requirements; registration paid; adsa membership paid; student; dinner paid; dietary requirements; notes.
  • Encourage delegates wanting to propose alternative presentation formats – for example, workshops, work-in-progress showings, or performances with technical requirements – to discuss this with you well prior to the Call for Proposals closing date. You may wish to set an earlier due date for proposals which involve performance components. This allows you to determine whether you have the space, resources and staff to accommodate the proposals at your venue, and have room for them in your program, before accepting or declining. In the past, interest in presenting and attending performances at ADSA Conferences has been mixed. In general, whilst Senior Scholars are not interest in presenting performances, PhD students and Independent Scholars are interested in doing so (see Member Survey), but Conference Convenors have found that delegates are reluctant to stay on after a long day to see performances in the evening so they work best if part of the parallel sessions.
  • Inform delegates as to whether their proposal has accepted or not as soon as you possible can after the Call for Proposals closing date. In many cases, delegates will need to secure support from their University to attend the Conference, as well as make arrangements with colleagues, friends and family to be away during this period, so these delegates need to know if they have been accepted or not two or three months prior to the Conference.
  • Include information on the Conference, and on travel, transport, accommodation and activities associated with the Conference, on the website as soon as possible. Ensure that the set up and the schedule is clearly communicated. It can be frustrating for delegates to fly in on the Monday thinking the Conference will start at 9am on the Tuesday, only to find that the only thing scheduled for the Tuesday is the Conference opening from 5pm-7pm. Similarly, it can be frustrating for delegates to arrive planning to show their presentation in a particular format only to find that this format is not in fact supported at the venue.
  • In addition to clarifying this information on the website, it worthwhile to email it to delegates – together with details such as maps, timetables, and instructions on how to get to the Conference Registration Desk – about three weeks before the Conference. That way, even if delegates have not read the website, they will receive all the relevant details.

Arrangements for Delegates – Travel, Transport and Accommodation

  • Ask your University’s Conference Services, or your Conference Administrator, to compile information on travel, transport and accommodation for delegates. This includes details about how to get to the City; how to get from the Airport to the City Centre; how to get from the City Centre to the University; how to get around the University; advice on accessibility; advice on where to stay; advice on where to eat; advice on what it is likely to cost; advice on what sorts of other activities – for example, tours, or visits to theatres, galleries and events – they can build in to the trip; advice on what the weather will be like, etc.. At this stage, it is worth arranging corporate rates with local accommodation providers to ensure there is affordable accommodation for delegates in the low, mid and high price ranges readily available. You may also wish to make arrangements with local arts, cultural and entertainment organisations for discounted tickets for delegates etc.

Arrangements for the Conference – Venue, Schedule and Resources

  • Book the venues for the Conference as soon as possible – for example, large lecture theatres for keynote presentations, seminar rooms for parallel paper, panel and performative presentation sessions, studios for workshops and performances with specific technical requirements. Booking the venues early will assist in determining how many proposals you can accept as part of the Conference, and what sort of space, staff, resource and equipment costs you will need to factor in to your budget.
  • Keynote presentations usually require 1.5 hour sessions in larger lecture theatres. Keynote presentation require a chair – usually a Senior Scholar who has been invited to introduce the speaker, facilitate the session, facilitate the question time, and respond to the provocations in the presentation – together with technical support.
  • Keynote presentations in the mornings can be a good way to get delegates to venue for the Conference early, and disseminate essential Conference housekeeping information – for example, changes to the Conference Program, or calls for Nominations for the ADSA Executive – so it can be a good idea to allow time for housekeeping at the conclusion of the keynote presentations.
  • Parallel paper, panel and performative presentation sessions usually require 1.5 hour sessions, allowing for three 20 minute presentations, each followed by 5 minutes question time, and 5 minutes changeover time. Parallel sessions each require a chair – usually, the Conference Convenor will invite scholars with an interest in the area to do this as they are finalising the Conference Program – to introduce the speakers, ensure that the presentations run to time, and ensure that each speaker receives feedback, response and questions following their presentation. Technical support staff should be available to assist with the presentations, and student volunteers should be available to assist with facilitating the session, for example setting up tables and chairs, filling water jugs, etc.
  • Parallel sessions work well if the rooms are close together – this means people can easily find the session they wish to attend, and easily switch between sessions if they want to.
  • Workshops, work-in-progress showings and performances may require 1.5 hour sessions in a studio, with a facilitator and technical support staff as appropriate.
  • Extra activities – for example, a bookseller display, or a book launch – may require space in Foyers, and some time in the schedule, often at Morning Tea or Afternoon Tea.
  • The ADSA Executive Meeting requires a 2 hour session, and is usually scheduled as a Dinner at a local restaurant on the second or third evening of the ADSA Conference.
  • The ADSA Annual General Meeting requires a 2 hour session in a larger lecture theatre, and is usually scheduled on the final day of the ADSA Conference.
  • The Prizes are usually announced at the end of the Conference – at the last Afternoon Tea, at drinks after the last session, or at the Conference Dinner. The Convenors of the Prizes for the relevant year will need to know when this will happen. The Convenor of the Veronica Kelly Prize for Best Postgraduate Paper will need particular information – they will need a list of all Postgraduates attending the conference around two weeks prior so they can email them and tell them they need to nominate themselves if they wish to be considered for this Prize, they will need a list of the times and rooms for the papers by Postgraduates, and they will need at least an hour between the last paper by a Postgraduate and the Prize announcements to determine the winner of the Prize. It would be helpful if a private room could be set aside to allow the Convenor of the Veronica Kelly Prize for Best Postgraduate paper to meet with his / her judges during the conference and, in particular, after the last paper by a Postgraduate, so that they can do this.
  • Interest groups – for example, AusStage, Postgraduate Delegates, New Zealand Delegates – are usually scheduled at convenient times, often as lunches or dinners so that delegates can attend without missing out on other parts of the conference.
  • Extra activities – for example, plenaries on topics of interest to Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies scholars such as practice-led research, publishing, or responding to Higher Education policy agendas (PBRF, ERA, TEQSA), or mentorship sessions, or bookseller displaces – can add value and have been popular features of prior Conferences (see Member Survey).
  • When scheduling activities, it is a good idea to avoid scheduling paper, panels or performances on clear special interest topics – for example, Indigenous Theatre, or New Media Performance – to clash, as it can be disappointing for delegates to miss out on hearing a paper in their area because they were also speaking at the time.
  • When scheduling activities, it is a good idea to ensure that Morning Tea, Lunch and Afternoon Tea are long enough to make up overruns in the schedule without forcing delegates to miss out on the chance to connect and chat with colleagues.
  • When scheduling activities, it is a good idea to see if you can arrange for access to a computer, access to a printer, or access to internet, can be arranged for delegates who wish to print off a new version of their paper or check their emails.
  • When scheduling activities, it is a good idea to let delegates know if there is a pub, bar or coffee shop that is going to serve as the location for informal get togethers during the Conference. Those who are new to ADSA Conference, in particular, will appreciate knowing where they can make connections or share a drink and a meal with colleagues.

Arrangements for the Conference – Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts

  • All delegates will require a Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts
  • In some cases, Conference Convenors have kept the Program and the Book of Presenter Abstracts separate – either because they want to be able to continue to make changes to the (shorter) Program after the Book of Presenter Abstracts has gone to print, or because they want to make the Book of Presenter Abstracts available separately online, etc. Other have kept the Program / Book of Presenter Abstract together for convenience.
  •  In all cases, the Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts should include – a welcome, a program of activities (including times, titles, speakers, and venues) usually in tabular format, information on the keynote presenters and their presentations, information on the general presenters and their presentations, and the logistical information that all the delegates will require (city map, campus map, building map, contacts for conference convenors, contacts for campus security, logins for internet if available, details for buses, trains, trams and taxis if delegates need them, details for shops and dining options, details for arts, cultural and entertainment options, etc.).
  • Although the Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts format is fairly typical, and doesn’t change a lot from Conference to Conference, putting it together can still be time consuming. The Conference Convenors will need to decide which proposals have been accepted, put them together into panels, put them in the schedule, and, unfortunately, will often have to ask the Conference Administrator to proofread information from presenters that is unclear, has spelling, grammar or formatting errors, or has changed. Accordingly, it is worth leaving quite a lot of time in May to devote to this task.
  • Although Conference Convenors always try to do their best to present an accurate Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts, late changes – after it has gone to print – are unavoidable. In some cases, delegates become ill and can no longer attend. In other cases, unfortunately, delegates simply change their mind about coming to the Conference. There are a few strategies Conference Convenors can use to minimise this. First, Conference Convenors can, when they accept proposals, ask the presenter if there is a particular day or time they prefer – that way, the presenter will not be able to turn up asking to be moved because they are flying home early and cannot present in the Friday session they have been put in. Secondly, Conference Convenors can, when they accept proposals, inform the presenters that they need to pay their registration for the Conference by a specific date or the will not be scheduled – that way, presenters will be less likely to simply not show up for their session. Thirdly, Conference Convenors can consider the use of new technologies – whilst a printed Program cannot be changed, a Program delivered through a website or an app can be.
  • If you have, as part of the Call for Proposals, asked delegates for permission to share their contact details, you may include this at the back of the Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts – this can assist delegates in staying in touch after the Conference.

Arrangements for the Conference – Conference Proceedings

  • In the current climate, scholars in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies are encouraged by their Universities to publish as much as possible, and this means that some ADSA Conference Convenors, and some ADSA Conference delegates, are interested in pursuing published Conference Proceedings. In order for a Conference Proceedings to be most useful, it needs to meet government definitions for research publications – it must include original scholarly articles, selected by an editor, which have been subject to a peer review process, in a format this is readily available to the public, and is registered via an ISBN or ISSN. Accordingly, arranging a Conference Proceedings – whilst valuable, and encouraged – adds a significant amount of extra work for Conference Convenors.
  • If Conference Convenors wish to create a Conference Proceedings, this needs to be decided early, so that arrangements regarding the responsibility for editing, the format, the timelines and the funding for the publication are clear, and are including in the Conference budget.
  • If Conference Convenors wish to create a Conference Proceedings, there are a number of options available. Convenors may collect papers as part of their own stand alone online Conference Proceedings. The advantage of this approach is that it can be done in tandem with, or after, the Conference, and is quite simple, cost-effective and convenient. Alternatively, Convenors may ask a scholarly journal if they can collect papers to publish them as part of a Special Issue of that journal. The advantage of this approach is that the journal has an existing audience. Here, however, the Convenor would want to be aware that they may need to approach several journals, there may be a long way til the Special Issue for the journal can appear, and the journal may charge for producing a Special Issue. Alternatively, Convenors may ask a publisher if they can collect papers to publish them as a book. However, here again, Convenors would need to be aware that they may need to approach several publishers, there may be a long wait to secure a contract, and the publisher may require them to secure funding for elements of the publication. In general, then, the experience of prior ADSA Conference Convenors has been that it may be easier, more cost-efficient, and more likely to be eventually successful, to produce a Conference Proceedings as a stand alone online publication (see, for example the proceedings of the ADSA Conference 2006 “Being There: Before, During and After” or the ADSA Conference 2012 “Compass Points: The Locations, Landscapes and Coordinates of Identities”). This is not to discourage Convenors from pursuing any Conference Proceedings options. It is simply a reminder that Conference Proceedings are the Convenor’s responsibility, and that promising this may leave the Convenor working in the role of Editor for several years after the event.  It will be their responsibility to secure a publication contract, solicit, select and review the articles from the authors, edit the collection, and fund any costs associated with it (publishing, publication assistances, purchase of web space, webmaster time, or an ISBN). Accordingly, it is important that this is well planned and budgeted, so the Convenor does not solicit articles from authors only to find they have to tell them there will be a long delay, or, worse, after a long delay have to tell the authors that some part of the process (staff, publisher, funding) has fallen through and the Conference Proceedings will not be published after all.
  • If Convenors are interested in pursuing a Conference Proceedings as a stand alone online publication, the attached framework for a simultaneous Conference Proceedings model may be of assistance in planning and implementing this process.  The Convenor would, of course, need to ensure that they had secured space on their University’s website, and an ISBN, as well as the required peer reviewers for the papers, to follow through with an online publication.

Arrangements for the Conference – Catering

  • As indicated earlier, attendees at ADSA Conferences appreciate catered Morning Tea, Lunch and Afternoon Tea, together with drinks and finger food at the Conference opening and closing. Accordingly, securing a caterer, discussing what they can provide and what it will cost per head, and whether any additional equipment will be required (e.g. bringing a bay marie to the venue to serve hot food) will impact on the cost, should be done as soon as possible. In general, if possible, it is a good idea to cater for a variety of dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian, halal, kosher, gluten free) at meals, and provide water, tea and brewed coffee throughout the Conference. It also a good idea to consider where delegates can eat – for example, is there a dining room at the University, or will delegates need to sit in a Foyer, or sit outside, or stand – as early as possible.


Stage 4 – Hosting an ADSA Conference

Security & Essential Services

  • Ensure security and facilitates staff at the University know the Conference is happening – tell them that delegates have been given their details and may contact them if there is an emergency, and give them the timetable, schedule, and staff contact details for the Conference. If there are accidents, or insurance claims, these staff will be a critical part of dealing with those issues so it is important that they are accross what is happening during the conference.

Registration Desk Resources & Services

  • Ensure the Registration Desk set up in a convenient place and staffed
  • Ensure the Registration Desk has a list of delegates, based on the database, and that staff have been told to confirm that delegates have paid their Registration, and if presenting have paid their ADSA Membership, and have all the information they require to participate in the Conference
  • Ensure the Registration Desk has Name Tags, and Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts – usually placed into a bag with promotional material for publishers or universities – available for all delegates
  • Ensure that the information in the Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts – for example, day’s schedule, the maps, the contacts for Convenors, the contacts for Campus Security, the contacts for travel, transport and accommodation – is displayed on a Noticeboard near the Registration Desk
  • Ensure that the Noticeboard, or another nearby Noticeboard, has space for delegates to leave messages for each other during the Conference
  •   Ensure staff have booking sheets for sessions during the Conference where numbers are limited – for example, workshops open only to a maximum of 10 participants
  • Ensure staff know where to access any services delegates may require, and have a supply of things that delegates tend to require (water for keynotes, USBs for those who forget the dongle for their MAC and need to transfer their presentation onto another drive to put into the universities PC system, flyers for shows and tourist attractions, etc. etc.).
  • If you have, as part of the Call for Proposals, asked delegates for permission to share their contact details, you may post this near the Registration Desk so they can connect with each other

Running the Conference – Chairs

  • Once the Conference is underway, and the delegates have received all the relevant information from the Conference Administrator at the Registration Desk, you will be relying quite a lot on your Chairs to facilitate the parallel sessions in which delegates present their work. Accordingly, it is important that Chairs are allocated, and have been given instructions on how to run the parallel sessions.
  • In general, parallel sessions will have  three 20 minute papers, and will follow a format in which a 20 minute paper is followed by 5 minutes question time, and 5 minutes changeover time. In general, parallel sessions will follow the presenter order published in the Program / Book of Presenter Abstracts. This will ensure each delegate gets the full attention of the group, and ensures that any delegates who wish to move between parallel session can do so. This format should be changed only in cases where presenters have proposed an alternative – for example, they have, during the Call for Proposals, curated their own panel with four or five speakers – and with the agreement of all presenters.
  • The Chair should be given a folder at the start of the Conference with their Instructions. This should include the general instructions for parallel session format outlined above, together with instructions to make sure they arrive at least 15 minutes before the session to meet and assist the presenters, introduce the speakers, and ensure the speakers receive some questions – it may be worth providing some tips, for example, Chairs ot have a couple of questions prepared so they can take the prerogative if the assembled group does not have any immediate comments for the speaker. This should include the title, time, date and location of the session they have been asked to Chair. This should include the names, titles, abstracts and biographical details for all the presenters in the session they have been asked to chair. This should include the names and contact numbers of technical support staff, and student helpers, who have been allocated for the session. If the Chair has this information at the start of the Conference, they can be clear what they need to do, what the session make look like, and can connect with the presenters prior to the session. Whilst this sort of support may not mean much to Senior Scholars, many presenters at ADSA Conferences are PhD students who are presenting a paper for the first time, and they will appreciate a friendly and helpful chair to facilitate their session and calm their nerves.
  • During the session, the Chair should introduce the session, then introduce each speaker in turn, facilitate the discussion after each paper, and, if time permits, facilitate some discussion drawing out the common themes in the papers towards the end of the session. The Chair should time each paper, and give a 5 minute, 2 minute and 1 minute signal to the speaker – via a sheet of paper or a hand gesture – so they know how they are going for time. The Chair should politely stop speakers who go over time, or shorting the discussion following their paper, so that they do not take up time allocated for other presenters. At the end of the session, the Chair should thank the speakers, and the delegates who have come to hear them speak.
  • If the Convenors, or anyone else, wishes to take photos or video during a session, this must be by the agreement of the Chair and all the speakers in the session.


Stage 5 – Acquitting an ADSA Conference

After an ADSA Conference, there are always a number of acquittal and reporting requirements that need to be attended to – both within the University, and with ADSA. After the Conference, it is a good idea to send a thank you to delegates, and, if possible, let them know how they can stay in touch with any activities (groups, publications, projects) that have come out of the Conference. After the Conference, ADSA will require the Conference Convenors to reconcile the account, and provide both an acquittal of the budget, and a report on the conference, to the ADSA Executive. Typically, this includes attending the next conference to report in person at the Annual General Meeting. ADSA will also require a list of delegates so that they can be added to the ADSA mailing list. If you have taken photos or video during sessionals at the Conference, ADSA also always appreciates these both for the ADSA History Project which remembers the work of our association, and the website.


Other advice…

When Conference Convenors report on what happened at their Conference, there are always a few common themes that come through –

·        Budgets. Convenors consistently note how important it is to budget carefully, and to factor all sorts of hidden costs – for example, the GST component of registrations, the bank charges, the University fees, the percentage of delegates likely to claim a Concession rate, the percentage of people who change their minds, pull out at the last minute, or simply fail to show, etc. – into the budget. Whilst these variations each of these things produces may be small in and of itself, the overall impact on the Conference’s bottom line can be big. For example, budgeting for 75 full registrations at $AU400 and 25 concession registrations at $AU200, then finding out it’s actually 25 full and 75 concession – which is actually closer to the reality ADSA conferences – could mean $AU10,000 less in income. Or, charging $AU350 for a full registration to make the Conference as cheap as possible, then finding out $AU35 of that has been taken in GST, or Bank fees, or University fees, can leave Convenors wishing they had budgeted a little higher to be sure they were able to cover their own costs. A number of Convenors in recent years have noted small shortfalls – $AU300, $AU500, $AU1000 – based almost exclusively on these sorts of budgetary issues, so they are worth considering in advance to give the Conference the best chance of breaking even.


·        Delegate Communications: Convenors consistently note how time consuming receiving, answering and confirming emails from delegates can be. This is because there can sometimes be high percentages of delegates who will email quite frequently with late proposals, updates of their proposal, particular requests (to, for example, provide feedback on their proposal, change the title of their presentation, change their bio, change the time of their presentation, test their presentation slides on the PC system, print their presentation, etc.), or problems – which, of course, means it is not one email to receive the proposal, one to accept it, and then the rest of the communication can be via the bulk list to all delegates. It is, unfortunately, difficult to stop some delegates from doing this if they feel strongly they should be able to change their title, change the date of their presentation, or argue for a reduced registration rate or extra technical support. In general, then, it seems that employing a good Conference Administrator is – as outlined further below – the best means of dealing with the workload in this area.

·        Schedules. Convenors consistently note how challenging it can be to work with a schedule that is constantly changing, and note that preliminary planning – for example, asking people to register before they are actually put into the program, or making sure postgraduates are not scheduled late on the last day then have to be moved when they suddenly nominate for the Veronica Kelly Prize – can avoid a lot of headaches during the Conference itself. Clearly, emergencies do happen, and late changes to schedules are to be expected in unexpected emergency situations. Unfortunately, though, it has also come to ADSA’s attention in recent years that there are some people who will propose a paper, let it appear in the draft program, and all the way through to the printed program, with no real intent to present – including people who will not email or phone the convenor to say they’re not coming til the day they’re due to present, or at all, leaving the convenor with both a late change and a lot of printing, catering and associated expensese for that person they still have to cover regardless. Whilst an emergency might happen once, most ADSA members find it difficult to believe an emergency would happen on the same day every year for two years / conferences, three years / conferences, or more in a row, so this has become a source of frustration for many members of the ADSA community.  To clarify members’ feelings, ADSA has recently introduced a clause in its Constitution relating to rights, responsibilities and professional ethics of ADSA Members. This means that ADSA conference convenors have a right to refuse to program people with a poor track record of professionalism – for example, people who dropped out or did not show up for their presentation more than once – into future conference programs. It is hoped this will assist with the challenge conference convenors face in scheduling papers, panels and performances for their event.

·        Support Staff. Convenors consistently note the importance of a good Conference Administrator who can manage thinks throughout the year and during the Conference itself, and a good IT Support Officer who can fix problems with files that will not open and computers that will not work during the Conference. Whilst some of the problems that arise cannot be foreseen, good support staff can remind a Convenor to communicate clearly to all presenters what will and will not be possible at the venue, and deal with problems at the venue, making sure everything runs smoothly.

·        Local Issues. Convenors often report various local issues that have impacted on the Conference – for example, costs associated with providing buses to the venue if it is not in the City, late arrival issues if there are not many taxis in the City to transport delegates to a venue, etc. Again, good support staff – in particular a Conference Administrator with experience in events, event production and event production in the particular city – can help with a lot of this.

·        Convenor Communications. Convenors sometimes report on difficulties with bringing the Convening team together for meetings – whether it is occasionally in the preliminary planning phase, monthly in the year prior to the Conference, or weekly as the Conference draws close – due to the demands of academic workload. They note, again, that a good Conference Administrator, brought into the process as soon as possible, can assist a lot with this.

·        Planning Time.  Convenors sometimes report on difficulties securing, for example, desired keynote presenters because they have not left enough time to negotiate it with the people in question prior. Again, good planning, and a Conference Administrator participating in the planning as early as possible, can assist.

·        Paradoxes. Convenors sometimes report on paradoxes in delegates’ response to program elements – for example, delegates will ask for performances, or workshops, or the presence of particular themes (for example, Indigenous Performance), but will not attend these when they are actually scheduled into the program. The Member Survey notes some of these interesting patterns. In general, the time the activity takes, and the time the activity is scheduled, seems to be a key factor – if a performance is scheduled during the day as part of the parallel sessions, and takes no longer than a normal paper or panel, then it is likely to draw attendees, but if it requires a greater time commitment, a time commitment over multiple days, or a commitment to stay at or come back to the conference venue after hours, it is not likely to be well attended.

Obviously, there can be other issues that effect the success of a Conference – for example, economic downturns and natural disasters – but because the ADSA Conference primarily draws local delegates recent ADSA Conference Convenors have not had any major issues, and usual event risk management practice should be enough to deal with these issues. If you are planning to draw delegates from outside of Australia and New Zealand, it is worthwhile ensuring that clauses relating to these delegates – for example, the fact that they need to purchase their own Travel and Health Insurance in case they become ill or are injured whilst at the Conference, or the fact that the University hosting will not be responsible for this in cases where the delegate has not purchased their own Travel and Health Insurance – in the information on the Conference website.

In the past few years, it has become habit for the President of ADSA to visit the Convenors a few months prior to the Conference, to provide advice if any of these issues should arise.