Interested in organizing a ProZ.com event? Here is an overview of this unique adventure.
See also: Local Organizers FAQ
Organizing an event is not for everyone – it requires a great deal of time, responsibility and dedication. It is a heavy investment in time and energy both for the organizer and ProZ.com staff, as well as a financial investment (and therefore a risk) for ProZ.com. There are a few mandatory requirements for being a conference organizer: being a paying member of the site, being ViDed (for more information on the identity verification program, see the FAQ) and having a clean admin record on the site. In the case of an outsourcer/company wishing to organize a conference, no Blue Board record below 4 will be accepted. Having already attended at least one ProZ.com Conference, attended at least one powwow and/or having organized powwows are a plus, but are not required. Please note that forum postings, KudoZ activity and overall interactivity with colleagues on the site – not their quantity but their quality, adherence to rules and maintaining good online citizenship – will impact the final decision for accepting or rejecting a candidate organizer.
The relationship between ProZ.com and organizers is based on communication, transparency, trust and mutual respect.
The relationship between organizers and ProZ.com is first and foremost a business relationship. ProZ.com staff does not work for the organizer; rather, organizers are employed by ProZ.com to organize a conference. Organizing an event is not volunteer work – organizers are compensated for their work by their share on the profit generated by the event, as well as brand exposure for organizers. This does not prevent a friendly and open relationship – organizers are always welcome to discuss their points of view and defend their ideas. As locals, organizers know better than staff on many points – which is exactly why ProZ.com works with local organizers. During the planning of the event, organizers and staff work very closely together. Transparency is a key component of this relationship. Organizers inform staff of everything they do and always consult when they have the smallest doubt – and vice-versa: Staff always keeps organizers informed of activities and deadlines. Organizers report monthly to the conferences staff, and weekly during the final month before the event takes place. It is crucial that both parties know what the other party is doing and that everybody is up-to-date with the latest information on the event to be able to help third parties (attendees, sponsors, speakers, partners, service providers, etc.) in the most efficient way. If an organizer does not provide information to the Conferences Coordinator, ProZ.com cannot provide the information to the ProZ.com support team, who will not be able to help an attendee that submits a support request about the event. This is team effort, and the team does not only consist of the organizer and the conference staff. Poor communication will affect the whole team and impact on the event itself.
What are the qualities of a good organizer?
Reactivity, responsiveness, reliability and communication are key qualities of a good organizer. Being responsive, not only with ProZ.com staff but also with third parties, is a key factor of successful, smooth and relaxed planning and gives a professional image both of the organizer and of ProZ.com.
Other key qualities include: patience, listening skills, negotiation skills and flexibility. Technical skills are a real plus as organizers are encouraged to maintain the conference website themselves.
Organizing a conference is a large commitment
Planning and organizing an event is a time commitment. Expect to spend 80 to 100 hours or more in conference-related activities (planning, communicating, actual event, post-event procedures). Organizing an event indeed has an impact on your work as a translator – plan accordingly. This may sound daunting, but organizers are never left alone by ProZ.com staff, who knows very well that organizers have their businesses to run and that there are times when the conference becomes secondary. When an organizer expects a heavy translation project, he/she is expected to communicate with the Conferences Coordinator as early as possible so that the latter can take over potentially urgent tasks that have to be dealt with while the organizer is busy. This is exceptional and should not exceed a few days.
The general rule is to plan in advance. An early start of the event’s planning enables more flexibility and helps minimize the impact on organizers’ translating activities. Early planning equals a more relaxed, more constructive, more efficient preparation, but also ensures the event is well prepared and that everything goes smoothly – before, during and after it has been held.
In all cases, whenever organizers know they will not be available for a certain period of time (professional or personal reasons), they should inform staff as early as possible so that measures can be taken to ensure that the planning will not suffer from this absence, especially during ‘critical’ time for the event.
ProZ.com’s goals when planning an event are straightforward: profitability while being rich in learning, networking, opportunities and fun. In short: Give attendees a great time. ProZ.com Conferences’ motto is “Learn, network, have fun.” These objectives are not incompatible with making the event profitable. In other words: The biggest challenge and the commitment of organizers, jointly with conferences staff, is to coordinate an event that offers networking opportunities (through social events, for example), informative and quality lectures and fun, while helping to reinforce the image and presence of ProZ.com in the host country. To enable access to ProZ.com events to as many members from the community as possible, conference fees are to be kept reasonable – hence conference costs should be kept as low as possible.
If the event is at loss, organizers do not receive profit share but are never expected to cover any of the losses. Regarding the financial planning of the event, communication is again a key value. Organizers do not incur any expense without prior approval of ProZ.com conferences staff. ProZ.com staff may refuse and disapprove of spending at all stages of the planning. At any time, staff can cancel the event, after having discussed the issue with the organizer.
A very rewarding experience
All the above may sound scary, but in fact organizing a ProZ.com conference is a truly unique and rewarding experience. It is a fantastic opportunity for organizers to be challenged to do something different, to lead and interact with people from all around the globe – networking within the translation community but also within the local community. Organizers will learn new skills, make contacts with companies, associations and other major players in the industry. Furthermore, organizers may find that the exposure gained by organizing a conference enhances their translation business and ProZ.com profile.
What are the tasks /responsibilities of local organizers?
Below is a non-exhaustive list of a few of the tasks and responsibilities of a local organizer (full details will be provided in a further step). Organizers report to ProZ.com conferences staff at any of the stages and the latter will provide support to organizers whenever they need.
Before the conference:
- Budgeting and financial planning
- Finding a suitable venue
- Creating and maintaining the conference website
- Developing the program
- Communicating with attendees and speakers (answering e-mails, composing mailings, etc.)
- Providing photos for conference website
- Translating materials into the local language (conference page, mailings, visa invitation, etc.)
- Preparing conference materials (printing, cutting and insert into name badges, folders, etc.)
- Contact local companies for sponsorship opportunities at the conference
- Promoting the event (local universities, professional organizations, organize local powwows, using online networks where ProZ.com Conferences are present, like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
- Providing information on travel and accommodations (maintain appropriate pages and forums)
- Organizing social activities (pre-conference powwow, other social activities)
- Miscellaneous (e.g. investigate options for day care facilities)
During the conference
: (whether a ProZ.com staff member is attending or not – the following are the responsibilities of the organizer)
- Preparation – putting up registration desk/ProZ.com stand, hanging banners...
- Coordinating with speakers, sponsors and guests (airport pick-up, etc.)
- Helping with registration on day 1 to ensure an accurate final list of attendees (recruit volunteer helpers beforehand)
- Operate or staff the ProZ.com stand
- Liaising with non-English-speaking staff and attendees
- Respecting the schedule – making sure sessions start and end on time, letting speakers know when their time is running out, making sure the transition between sessions goes smoothly, ensuring attendees leave/enter a room
- Coordinating coffee breaks and meals with the hotel/catering company and coordinating with hotel’s technical staff, wait staff, etc.
- Communicating and informing attendees of any ‘last-minute’ changes, in a visible spot (for example a whiteboard/paperboard at the coffee breaks spot, or at the ProZ.com stand, etc.)
- Handling conference petty cash and keeping track of any expense/income made by cash or check to the organizer (examples of expenses: taxi fare for a speaker, or any unexpected small cash expense for the event – examples of income: attendees paying the conference fee with cash directly at the registration desk upon arrival, T-shirt sales, etc.)
- Helping attendees with anything they need (tourist information, travel issues...)
- Coordinating and organizing social activities (powwow, networking dinner, group picture, sightseeing...)
After the conference:
- Providing ProZ.com staff with full final accountancy and all receipts/invoices for expenses
- Providing ProZ.com staff with the final list of attendees
- Sending thank you e-mails to partners, sponsors, speakers and attendees
- Post-conference analysis and feedback on improvements to conference materials for future organizers
Brief overview of the process
ProZ.com’s conference manual, user interface and staff will provide support and information, best practices and guidelines during all stages.
After having read this article, potential organizers are invited to click on the ‘I am interested in becoming a conference organizer' button below, where they will be taken to the first stage of the selection process.