Plan a Regional Conference Using This Simple Template

By Linda Harris
City of Decatur, GA

It is a given that Regional Conferences give 3CMA members a chance to connect on a local level and feature targeted topics related to each particular region. They offer a way to experience the value of sharing ideas and networking with colleagues without having to justify spending a big chunk of an already limited budget. Plus, they are fun.

But how about hosting/planning a Regional Conference? What does that give you and how can it possibly be fun? I can tell you from personal experience that:

  • 3CMA has a template and a supportive staff available to deal with the not so fun but critical logistics like registration, sending out announcements, creating a conference brochure and social media posts, generating attendee name-tags, talking to and securing potential sponsors, and offering ideas during planning committee conference calls. And they can design a logo if you don't want or have the capacity to do so. They stand ready and willing to lend a hand and their constant support.
  • All you need to do is pull together a 3-4 member planning committee, secure a location, arrange a light breakfast, lunch, and fun snacks, brainstorm a theme, create sessions and secure speakers around that theme, and you're off.

I guarantee it is an excellent way to showcase your community, highlight your unique food options, and let other 3CMA colleagues experience the amazing communication professionals in your region both as speakers and attendees. Simple, right?

If you need a little more down and dirty, nitty gritty details, here you go… At the Annual Conference find three or four like-minded colleagues in your area. Relax over a happy hour beverage or dinner while you weigh the pros and cons. Do you have an accessible location; access to a comfortable or cool facility that will hold 30-40 people; time for two or three planning committee conference calls; and a group commitment to secure the speakers related to your theme (brainstormed during one of the conference calls)? If so, you are halfway there.

When you return from the Annual Conference, set up a conference call with Scott to decide on the best date and ask any questions you may have about best practices related to past Regionals.

Four months before the proposed date, schedule a conference call that includes your planning committee and Scott using the 3CMA conference call-in number. Spell out your Agreements (ours were Be present; Be engaged; Value every voice; Listen; Use "What I like about that is…AND") before brainstorming possible session topics and/or speakers. Before delving into the theme and topics, define the takeaways you want attendees to walk away with, your goals and your "must-haves" (ours were interactive, relevant, fun, something they can use when they get back, concrete things they can implement, and the southeast region is innovative, cutting edge, and we work well together – collaborative). And you're off.

When your theme emerges, your sessions will follow. From there it is just a matter of assigning committee members to write up the details of each session and letting them contact one proposed speaker and/or panel members. Then create the logo using the 3CMA graphic contact or your own.

The rest is easy. There is one more follow-up conference call to confirm details and slot in any missing speakers. Order a light breakfast from a local vendor and lunch from a restaurant that is unique to your town – that way attendees get to experience the local vibe. We used Chick-fil-A (fast food franchise that originated in Atlanta), Farm Burger (grassfed beef, chicken and veggie sliders, a big salad, and homemade potato chips), and Steel City Pops (gourmet popsicles made from all natural and local ingredients). The good news is 3CMA pays for the food.

Our biggest takeaways were getting to know colleagues from the surrounding area, discovering new social media tips to use when navigating through a crisis, and learning ways to reach those who are missing from the table – and we got to show off our city.

If you are considering planning a Regional and still have questions, feel free to reach out to me or my Decatur colleague Renae Madison. Or, if you know the folks from Roswell including Julie Brechbill, Darnisha Green, and Karen Zitomer or Suzanne Forte from DeKalb County, contact them for another perspective.

Use this simple template to showcase your region with a 3CMA Regional Conference and have some fun along the way. See you in Denver in September – we can talk about how to plan an Annual Conference next!

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