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Guidelines for Planning an ICMCI Conference

These guidelines are intended to assist a host association in planning for an ICMCI conference. Although convention may suggest a rigid format, ICMCI welcomes innovation and fresh ideas. Consider the following as thought-starters.

Roles and Responsibilities
It is ICMCI’s responsibility to plan the business content of the conference. It is the host association’s responsibility to provide the logistic arrangements, a social program and a special program for guests and spouses. To be considered as a conference host, your proposal should include:

  • Location, facilities and estimated costs, including sleeping room costs
  • Travel arrangements to the facilities from the nearest international airport
  • Time of year
  • Potential attractions for visitors and estimated costs during the conference and for an extended stay
  • Events to be sponsored by the host organization or country
  • Program to promote ICMCI in the local and national media
  • Advance program to recruit ICMCI members in the host’s region
  • Ideas to promote attendance at the conference

Upon acceptance of its proposal, the host association completes negotiations with hotels, caterers, and event planners, etc. and submits a budget for ICMCI Executive Committee approval.  During the conference the host manages the social activities to at least break even. The ICMCI office provides and mails invitations, receives and manages registrations, and pays vendors for services that have been approved by the host.

In addition to planning the conference, we ask our hosts to do two other things: (1) Reach out to the community of consultants in their larger region and invite members of other IMCs not yet affiliated with ICMCI, and those who might be able to develop institutes of their own, and (2) Publicize the event in the local (national) media.

Social Program
It has been customary for delegates and guests to come together the evening before the two-day business meeting for a reception and informal dinner. In Baltimore delegates and guests took a water-taxi to a Mexican restaurant. In Singapore, they took a bus to the top of a skyscraper for a Chinese banquet. In Vienna they boarded an old-time streetcar and went to an outdoor “wine-tasting” Austrian buffet.

The second or third evening the participants generally go out to some special place for a more formal banquet, though formality is not necessarily important. In Baltimore they went to a famous German restaurant. In Singapore they dined at a private club. In Vienna they had a dinner catered in the old City Hall.

ICMCI full Congresses meet every other year on the odd-numbered years. In the in-between even years we have a more or less “working committee” meeting. Baltimore and Vienna were such meetings. Singapore and Cape Town are Congress meetings with a full two days, so if you want to plan for some dinner or other activity the second night, it would be appropriate. Unless you have planned something of particular local (or national) flavor or character on Sunday, you might want to think of something like that for Tuesday evening.

In addition to the evening meals, we will need luncheon provided for the delegates on the two days of meetings. Unless the hotel has breakfast included in the room charge, you may want to provide a continental breakfast in the meeting room before the sessions begin.
Spouse and Guest Program
You will want to design a program for the spouses and guests. Experience indicates that a mix of things to do and see is best. Not all spouses like to shop, but they like getting together with the other spouses and guests for luncheons – particularly with those from the host country. The best events are interesting things to see in the area, especially if there is a good docent so they can learn something new.

Some things, of course, are more fun to do with the larger group of delegates. For instance, when you have an interesting national speaker address either the guests or delegates, the other group would also want to be involved. If you had such a speaker, the ICMCI Congress planning committee would make space for him or her on the agenda.

Something Special
For a truly memorable meeting, plan a surprise somewhere in the program. That is, plan some event that is not advertised and spring it on the group during the meeting without any advance warning. So long as all the people are included, it gives one a feeling of getting more than expected and makes them feel all that better about the conference.

For instance during a reception of the US IMC in the San Francisco area, the participants told they could have dinner “on their own” after the opening cocktail reception, or (and this was the surprise) they could board the vans in front of the hotel and have dinner at the house of one of the hosts. Over 80 people came to the informal dinner.

The surprise could be a guest speaker or a local entertainer. (At a meeting of an international family of consultants in the US, the surprise was a wedding of one of the Swedish participants and his guest in front of their consulting friends. People were told to be dressed for a cocktail party, and to be on time or early. After everyone arrived they were ushered to a penthouse where the wedding took place. This, of course was a highly unusual surprise, but it does illustrate that there are few limits to what could be done.)
Budget Management

It is very important to watch the budget very closely. It is all too easy to have budget creep. There are three critical points in the process here. The first is in planning the costs. You need to lock in the costs early on and get firm understandings with the various caterers and others you will be using. Remember to include not only meals and conference room costs, but break service in the morning and afternoon.  Budget for visual aids such as flip charts and an overhead projector and screen.

For the social activities, include not only the banquet but transportation and entertainment, if any. The cost of alcoholic beverages can be outside the budget by asking each table to settle up separately for drinks. That’s perfectly acceptable since some people don’t drink alcohol and others have more modest price tastes. You can have a cash bar at receptions before dinner, or you can give people tickets for one or two drinks and let them buy additional tickets.

It has been customary for the host country to host one event, depending upon their resources. Singapore paid for the closing banquet. Vienna paid for the opening reception. It isn’t ICMCI’s intent to put stress on the limited funds of any host organization, so don’t let this be a problem.

The second critical point is setting the registration fees, one for the delegates and the other for the guests. Both should be at projected cost. If there is any subsidy, let the delegates subsidize the spouses and guests rather than try to make a little on the spouse and guest program.

Set the registration fee on a low break-even, such as twenty-five delegates and ten spouses+guests from outside the host geography, plus whatever you estimate will come from the host and and neighboring countries. (Be sure to count non-paying dinner guests in the fixed costs to be covered, and save a little for petty cash during the meeting.) Keep the break-even low, but reserve a larger block of sleeping rooms.  As registrations exceed the break-even mark, plan to spend the additional funds on the extras you wanted but couldn’t afford. Here is where you could bring in the surprise event. ICMCI will give your budget manager a weekly update on registrations once they begin to exceed break-even.

The third critical point is during the conference when we are all too busy with events to take care of the changing head counts for meals.  It’s generally easier to underestimate meals and add to them at the last minute than go back to the caterer and try to cut the number. However, the best course is to give an accurate count and be alert to change it 24 hours ahead based on what is happening with the group.


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