NAISA Host Committee Handbook
Guide: We have divided each chore into five sections: task, timeline, summary, challenges, suggestions.
Table of Contents
Exhibitors and Vendors
UT Contact: James Cox or Shannon Speed
- We were responsible for securing the A/V for all the sessions and special events at the hotel.
The hotel had an in-house company that did all the events on site. We worked with them to make sure all the sessions had a screen, projector, and audio.
Other special sessions required additional A/V support for films, music, and internet. NOTE: We did not pay for wireless for all the breakout rooms because the cost was very high. Instead, we arranged for all sessions that required internet service to present in the same room.
The Welcome Reception, Business Meeting, Presidential Plenary, and Presidential Reception / Awards Ceremony needed additional A/V support as well.
During the conference, we kept in close contact with the A/V company. They also provided three techs for the entire conference to help with A/V problems.
- The A/V contract gets signed along with the contract for the hotel. Fortunately, the A/V company at the Austin conference was very flexible and allowed us to make adjustments in the months and even days leading up to the conference.
- The availability and flexibility of the A/V company was crucial to making this part of the conference go smoothly. We had very few complaints, and the techs were quickly on hand to help with them.
- In certain cases we had to make an educated guess about how much sound we needed, particularly in the big rooms. If we had it to do over again, we would not have had the reception in the hallway (called the “prefunction area” by the hotel). The words of the people who were speaking got lost in the huge space and overwhelmed, too, by the crowd noise.
- We recommend cultivating a friendly relationship with your contacts.
We reached out for estimates from 5 national companies to get estimates. We wanted on-site group care, as opposed to in-hotel room care individually set up by participants. In order to gauge need, we generated a survey on Survey monkey that NAISA sent out to all members. More people said they would want childcare than actually used it. We chose a national company called KiddiCorp because they allowed us to set the pricing for the childcare. This means that you can set it to a minimum level and cover your contract costs (paid to them) or set it higher to generate revenue to support the conference.
Important things to be looking for: child to careperson ratio; activities; snacks; age group separation; background checked and bonded caretakers; space needs (this will have to be negotiated through INMEX.
Also, KiddiCorp requested two rooms at the conference hotel for their employees. Others may do the same. If so, you need to let Council know so that the rooms can be set aside.
NAISA tries to provide housing that is less expensive than the conference hotel. At the 2014 NAISA, the host committee reserved rooms at one of the dorms on campus. The dorms were about one mile from the conference hotel. The host committee also reserved transportation to and from the dorms to the hotel (see Transportation: Shuttle Busses).
UT contact: Shannon Speed or Colleen Eils
- Colleen worked with Shannon Speed and Nick Fomin (from the university’s Division of Housing and Food Services) to coordinate dormitory accommodations. Shannon arranged the original contract with Housing; Nick answered questions and took care of issues with specific reservations in the Housing reservation system. Colleen kept track of inquiries about the rooms and, once it was available, directed people to the official registration page.
- Information about the availability of dormitory housing for the conference went up on the website in early February but the reservation system did not go online until early April. Between February and April Colleen kept a spreadsheet of the 56 interested parties who contacted me. The spreadsheet recorded email address, date contacted, and whether they wanted a single or double room. Once the site went live in April, Colleen sent everyone who had contacted me a link to the reservation site a few days before it was emailed to the larger group. After the reservation site was online, Colleen responded to all new inquiries about rooms with the reservation link and information about how to negotiate the site.
- Shannon made the arrangements with Housing. Colleen was listed as the contact person for dorms on the website, so she fielded questions and coordinated the distribution of the link for reservations when the time came. We assume NAISA sent out the link for reservations in an email to conference participants, as Colleen received questions from people staying at the dorms with whom she hadn’t had prior contact. We don’t believe the link ever went up on the conference website (though this would be a good idea in the future). Colleen’s other role as part of this was as an Austin contact for people traveling into town, particularly those staying in dorms. She created several form emails (form emails that aimed to sound personal!) with information about transportation from the airport, transportation around town, places to see and eat while in town, etc.
We ran shuttles (2 shuttle busses; see Transportation) from the dorms to the conference site at the Hilton from 7:15-9:15AM and from the Hilton to the dorms from 6-8PM Thursday through Saturday. The dorms were a little over a mile from the conference site, and several attendees staying in the dorms made the walk through downtown or used B-cycle, a public bike rental service in Austin.
- Having an affordable option for people coming into town for the conference was a wonderful idea that people really seemed to appreciate. The morning shuttles to the Hilton were widely used, although some people were frustrated that they didn’t run later into the morning. According to the bus drivers, the evening route saw fewer riders. We had several requests for all-day shuttles between the sites, but that would be very expensive.
We posted information about the shuttle routes and schedules on our website and made it available at the dorm front desk and conference registration desk. It was still a point of confusion for many folks, however: in the future, it might be helpful to have a print-out of shuttle times, as well as internet passcodes and a map to the conference site, available at check-in for those staying at the dorms.
The process would have gone smoother if we had the reservation system running earlier (ideally, February, when attendees are purchasing plane tickets) and if the system had been more flexible; people could only stay Wednesday – Sunday nights, which was inconvenient for those people coming from other countries (or those on a budget needing to fly out on cheaper Monday flights). These are issues caused by the intractable bureaucracy at the University of Texas at Austin, so perhaps it would not be a concern elsewhere.
- We reserved 60 single rooms (30m/30f) and 70 double rooms (35m/35f). We had a total of 116 people stay in the dorms – to our knowledge, we still had single rooms available at the time of the conference, which means people are willing to split rooms with strangers to save money. Rates were $40/night for a single, $50/night for a double ($25 per person).
UT Contact: James Cox or Colleen Eils
- Colleen organized the pipe and drape rental for the exhibition hall.
- As required by the University of Texas at Austin, Colleen collected quotes from four companies (two national, two local) during the first two weeks of February. We decided on Lone Star Decorating because it was substantially cheaper than the national companies, and after some discussion contracted with them for pipes, drape and signage – but no tables. The Hilton provided tables for each of the 35 booths. These tables were free. We made this decision to save some money. Ideally, though, or if it’s affordable, the pipes, drapes, and tables should come from the same place. The more people involved, the trickier the logistics become.
We also arranged for the set-up time at 4 PM on the day before the conference, once the space was available to us, so that vendors knew when they would be able to start setting up. In April, we confirmed set up/take-down times (take down was at noon on Saturday) and the drape color (white). Luis Guevara, who was working with the vendors, provided the drayage company with the names of the vendors in late April so they could generate a layout map to be included in the program.
- See above. The Hilton suggested Freeman and GES as drayage vendors, but they were substantially more expensive than the local companies.
- This was an easy task to have completed early on. The only trouble we ran into was some confusion about wastebaskets. The Hilton eventually supplied some wastebaskets, but perhaps we should have included those in our drayage order. Also, know that almost all of the vendors want two tables; some wanted three. We opted to have the Hilton provide all of the tables. They were initially going to provide one, but we were advised against working with two different groups to arrange the tables (again, it would have made the logistics even trickier than they already are).
- See quotes in the Appendix. These are the two quotes we decided between. One includes two tables; the other is just pipes, drape, and signage.
Exhibitors and Vendors
UT Contacts: James Cox, Luis Guevara, Polly Strong
- The Exhibition Committee consisted of a faculty chair and a staff coordinator who worked closely with the conference co-chairs and the NAISA Council. We coordinated with exhibitors, primarily university presses. This year, there were 35 booths available.
We chose for all booths to be the same size for simplicity’s sake, but we recommend that future committees consider having both smaller and larger booths, as exhibitors’ needs vary. If smaller, less expensive booths were available we might have been able to attract local booksellers. It would also be good for the organizers to know well in advance if Scholars Bookshelf plans to exhibit, as presses with only a few books to exhibit could be referred to them.
- The timeline for this task ran from August 2013 through the end of the conference May 2014. The organizers of the Mohegan Sun conference gave us a long list of presses and contact information and three letters that they sent to the presses on the list. We used revised versions of those letters as well. The first was a save-the-date letter, and the second was a reminder. The third letter had to wait until the registration page was live. In this letter, we provided the information the presses needed to register for a booth, to order A/V from the hotel, and to deliver their books to the UPS center at the hotel.
- The save-the-date letter went out to the presses via e-mail in August. The reminder letter went in January, and the final letter in March after the registration page for the conference went live. We received many inquiries from presses indicating several issues: presses would like to be able to plan well in advance. We suggest making the registration page live, at least for exhibitors, several months earlier. Another issue to consider: presses would like to have all information available in the letter as well as on the web page. This year some of the information came out
piecemeal, and there were two web sites with different information. This caused considerable confusion. Also, the letter to vendors should include information on who to contact at the hotel to arrange for receptions.
Once the registration page was live, we checked regularly to track the number of vendors who had registered.
In early May, the vendor booths were assigned using a floor plan provided by the hotel and a map was created for the conference program and for event planning purposes. An email was sent to the confirmed vendors (mid-May) with reminders about how to ship materials to the conference hotel, order IT and electricity. The email also included information on the booth assignments for the vendors to review.
Polly Strong: This timeline is not a good one to follow. Booths should be assigned well in advance, as some exhibitors want to know the booth numbers for their advertisements and for mailing. Some will also ask to be placed next to particular presses, so time need to be arranged for juggling.
The placement of vendors is a sensitive one. We suggest that the vendors who have most regularly exhibited at NAISA be given spots closest to the doors and central aisles.
There was confusion over who had ordered tables, chairs, and wastepaper baskets for the vendors. The hotel, once asked to provide these items, did so. The vendor who provided the piping and draping offered to do so as well. [NB: This confusion was the result of poor communication between members of the committee.]
At the start of the conference, most vendors were very professional and settled into their booths. There was confusion, caused by one vendor, who took the spaces of another vendor without consultation and permission. This issue was resolved by the vendor in error as they moved their materials well before the start of the conference. We had one vendor who was not accounted for in the 33 that were confirmed as attending for planning purposes. He admitted his publishing house had registered late and we scrambled to provide him a booth (a switch was made with the free booth provided to UT Austin). We also offered to comp him the booth. We think he was fully satisfied.
Luis took the time to visit with all the vendors during the conference to see if they needed anything, to remind them of opening and closing times, and to update them on shipping materials at the close of the event. Polly secured the information and form from UPS on what the vendors needed to do to ship their remaining materials. That should have been done at the outset, and forms provided with all the relevant shipping and billing information.
- We suggest contacting the vendors with a confirmation email four weeks before the event; then sending them assignment information (and shipping, IT, and similar information) no less than two weeks before the event. Actually the more time the better. Finally, having the information on
post-conference shipping procedures would be helpful for the organizers and the vendors. This could be provided to the vendors via email in advance or once they arrive.
We suggest no changes to the stated exhibit hall hours (hours were extended one night by two hours) and while most vendors appreciated the gesture, one vendor did not and suggested we stay with the stated hours in the program. There is a security issue if the room is open and the vendors are not present.
- Please see appendix for press list and letters.
UT Contact: James Cox or Shannon Speed
- UT was tasked with raising $50,000.
- The fundraising began before we submitted our proposal to NAISA Council in November 2012. By November 2012, we had met with the heads of many administrative and academic units at UT and received commitments for $35,000.
We continued to fundraise on campus but extended our efforts to other institutions in Texas. Texas A&M, Southern Methodist University, and Texas Christian University were the only three other Texas universities to contribute to the conference. We were pleased to have their support but disappointed that we couldn’t get any other university to contribute. When NAISA Council released its support of the academic boycott of Israeli institutions, Texas Christian University withdrew its pledge.
We also considered fundraising from the federally recognized tribes in Texas but decided against it. The tribal nations in Texas are small and do not have many resources. The State of Texas is also openly antagonistic to gaming.
Also, we are a young program, and we didn’t think it was wise to ask the tribal nations for support when we have not had the opportunity to establish proper relations with them.
- The fundraising at our home university went well, despite the tough economic situation and the squeeze on UT’s budget by the state legislature. Perhaps if we had had more time to work with our colleagues at other universities that part of the fundraising would have been more successful.
- Fundraising does not come naturally to many of us. Our colleagues at other universities in particular seemed uncertain about how to proceed. We wrote them a letter that we suggested they use to raise funds on their own campuses. My sense is that this approach did not work well.
- Please see examples of fundraising letters in the appendix.
UT Contact: James Cox, Colleen Eils, or Shannon Speed
The host committee is responsible for putting together the program and getting it printed. We completed the program in the first week of May and sent it to the printer about three weeks before the conference began. This year, we also arranged for NAISA to allow participants to request only a digital copy.
My paid a minimal amount to an artist in solidarity with the conference for artwork for the cover.
In addition to the schedule of sessions, special events, and meetings, there are many small parts of the program, including:
- a) the welcome letter from the president
- b) the welcome letter from the host committee
- c) list of host committee members
- d) list of co-hosts and other sponsors (can include logos)
- e) list of volunteers
- f) map of the conference site
- g) local map with restaurants and sites of interest
- h) map of the exhibitor/vendor space
- i) advertisements (mostly presses)
- j) index
- The host committee is responsible for assigning a room for each panel, roundtable, and film screening. The host committee must also assign rooms for the Welcome Reception, Business Meeting, Presidential Plenary, Presidential Reception, and other special events (at the 2014 NAISA, the Abya Yala Working Group held a lunch meeting, for example).
- The Hilton provided us a list and layout of the rooms reserved for the sessions, while Tsianina provided us a draft of the program: all the sessions organized and numbered. We
did the room assignments in mid-April about six weeks before the conference. We spent
considerable time proofreading it over the next few weeks and updating the withdrawals and special event information up to the time it went to the printer at the end of the first week of May.
- This task will go smoothly with the help of patience and organization. We had to assign panels with special A/V requests to specific rooms and then make sure the A/V
company knew about these special requests. Most of the rooms were the same size, but
there were three large rooms. We put some of the panels with topics of local interest in
these large rooms. We’re not sure this was the best policy. Though the panels were well-
attended, there were many panels in smaller rooms that were overflowing.
- It was difficult to estimate what panels would draw the most people.
- See the program from 2014.
Track Withdrawals and Errata Sheet
- I kept track of withdrawals from the middle of April until the conference date, incorporated those withdrawals into the program, and produced an errata sheet once the program went to press.
- Tsianina Lomawaima (past-president of this conference) kept track of withdrawals until the middle of April. I started keeping track after that point, incorporating changes into the program until May 9, when the program went to press. From May 9 until May 26, changes became an errata sheet. Three withdrawals after May 26 were just noted in the withdrawal document.
- In mid-April, Dr. Lomawaima sent James Cox and me an excel spreadsheet with the existing withdrawal information, including date of notification, name, reason for withdrawal, and panel information. From that point on, she – or others notified of withdrawals – emailed Dr. Cox and/or me and I added the withdrawals to the list. I periodically updated the program to reflect the changes until the program went to press in early May. Dr. Cox and I also revised the program (the bulk of which Dr. Lomawaima generated, including panels, schedules, and basic layout) to include panel locations, additional events such as lunches, and for formatting. Once the program went to press, I compiled the withdrawals onto an errata sheet, which was finalized the morning of May 27 when it was sent to the printer (dropped off and picked up by Lakota Pochedley).
- We had a number of inquiries at the registration desk about where to find room [S23] or [P12] – – people were confusing the NAISA panel/session codes with room numbers. If those numbers aren’t necessary once panels and sessions make it into the final program, future organizers might consider cutting those codes for clarity.
- We had 98 withdrawals; most notified us in March and, especially, April, though we also had some last minute withdrawals.
Transportation (Shuttle Busses and Charter Bus for 2014 NAISA)
UT Contact: Colleen Eils or Shannon Speed
- Colleen organized the shuttle busses (2 Sprinter vans) between campus and the conference site at the Hilton and a coach bus (49-seat) from the Hilton to a field trip event in San Marcos, TX.
- As required by the University of Texas at Austin, Colleen collected quotes from several companies around town starting in February. We contracted the charter for the field trip in March, and the shuttle vans in April.
- We used a transportation company associated with the University of Texas for the shuttles and charter, in part because we enjoyed a 17% discount on their rates, but also because their prices included insurance approved by UT. We used a shuttle service rather than rental vans with volunteer drivers to shuttle between campus dormitories and the conference site because we were sure the shuttles would be covered under this insurance and were unsure how to insure volunteer drivers in rental vans.
Shuttles ran from the dormitory to the Hilton from 7:15-9:15am and from the Hilton to the dorms from 6-8pm from Thursday – Saturday. I met the shuttles at the dormitory the first morning to help people find the shuttles and to post signs in the vans (2 Sprinter vans) identifying them as NAISA shuttles and listing the shuttle schedule. I met the shuttles at the start of the evening run, as well, to confirm that the busses were where they were supposed to be and that people could find their way there. After the first day, the shuttles ran on their own without any problems.
The charter bus went smoothly; we had a graduate student volunteer escort the group down to San Marcos and back.
- We had the shuttle schedule on our website, at the front desk of the dorm, and at the registration desk, but people were still confused. Perhaps this info could be available in handout form at dorm check-in, or included in the program.
Timing: The morning shuttles were heavily used. People requested that the shuttles run later into the morning (or all day). The evening routes seemed well timed; a few people wanted them earlier, a few wanted later, but most people found their way back to the dorms on their own after eating or going out downtown.
- See the appendix for the quote for the shuttles and charter.
Website (with a note about advertisements)
UT Contact: Matt Cohen
- Matt was in charge of getting the local website going and maintaining it, and receiving advertisements for the program.
- We started on the website about 13 months ahead of the conference start, which was a good time. Matt set up a web share for receiving advertising images about seven months ahead of the conference. He set up a separate gmail account for the web site. The work was ongoing; by mid-summer we had the web site running and there was a few months’ lull until we started getting more specific information (lodging, rates, submission information) and then another month’s lull before the program, exhibitor, and advertiser information was available in January/February.
Advertising communication peaked close to the deadline, but noticeably began to ramp up in February.
- Our infotech group has free website creation services, and after an initial consultation with them, Matt arranged for my GRAs to do the site population and maintenance. We took material for that from the previous conference’s site where possible, posted information that we already knew (Austin travel and local information; descriptions of NAIS at UT; etc.) and created a structure for those things (exhibitor info, program info, special events) that we knew would be coming down the line. We used a WordPress platform that’s easy to maintain (though it does limit in certain ways your display options).
- Dividing up the labor was a good idea, and doing as much of the creation of the structure of the site ahead of time was a lifesaver when we started getting info simultaneously from all corners of the conference planning. With the website it’s not a ton of work, it’s just that when information is available it needs to be posted immediately, so making that possible is key. Looping in the website coordinator on all the major milestones is important. We kept our ambitions low as far as the site’s design flashiness went, and that was also a big help. Unforeseen matters included the fact that the website email account was contacted by many folks who weren’t sure who to write to about their problems: it may be that more clarity about that on the NAISA and host website would help, but the web coordinator should just be ready to field or pass on those emails. Advertisers vary widely in both alacrity and technical savvy, and we were crunched on the gap between ad submission and program layout. But part of that was as a result of the website glitches in early spring, which narrowed the window for ad submission–many of the advertisers were ready in January to reserve and send in ads.
- How the website gets built is likely to be different in different institutional environments, but whatever the arrangement is, it’s got to be possible to update it rapidly. On the advertising, having a web share made it easy to collect and share the ads. Lakota helpfully put together a spreadsheet to track the relationship between advertiser payments/reservations and our receipt of the ad copy; there might be a way to streamline that part of collecting ads (for example, if the event registration interface might be modified so that after an exhibitor or advertiser makes a reservation and pays for it, they’re prompted to upload the ad copy, with size, format, and quality standards listed right there).