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Conference Guidelines

Would you like to put on a one day or half day conference?

The OR Society acts as a facilitator in the field of short conferences, promoting events and dealing with administration, finance, etc. Because the Society takes the risk on events it runs, whilst having an obligation to maintain financial controls, would-be event organisers are asked to present a business case as well as a proposed programme.

If the Society agrees to promote the event, it sets the fees which will depend on such factors as the chosen venue (which the Society books in consultation with the organiser), the level of speakers’ expenses (note that speakers do not receive fees) and other costs, including the promotional cost involved in reaching the target audience, and the size of the expected audience.

INTERESTED? Here’s what you need to do

Focus on a Topic

Focused or angled topics work better than general ones – so go for ‘The latest developments in Yield Management’ or ‘Experiences in Yield Management – what can we learn?’ rather than plain vanilla ‘Yield Management’ (NB. Most successful short conferences are of the ‘latest developments’ or ‘experiences in’ variety.)

Identify your Audience

This might be ‘People working in Yield Management who want to improve their performance’. The audience might include those outside the O.R. community – but remember that it can be expensive and difficult to attract those outside O.R.

Identify the Benefits to offer your Audience

Remember that people buy into the benefits of attending. They will ask themselves questions such as ‘How will attending help me to do my job / further my career?’ and, very importantly, ‘Will I get enough out of it to justify the time and cost involved?’ So you have to make sure your programme promises to deliver the benefits your audience is looking for.

Bounce your Ideas off the Society

Before you go any further, it’s best at this stage to get some feedback from the Society as to how favourably it views your proposal. So, set down your ideas on the topic, outline programme, audience and audience benefits and send them to the Society (see bottom of page). The Society will then provide feedback, normally within a week or so, as to whether it is interested in your proposal – but note that the Society will not make any commitment to taking the event on until it has seen your business case. If the Society is interested, we will send you a copy of the Society’s ‘Guidelines on running a successful event’. As well as giving advice, this document includes a pro-forma which defines the information that the Society needs from organisers. So you don’t get taken by surprise when the Guidelines arrive, we have summarised the main points below.

Choose your Speakers and their Topics

Choose speakers who are well known or who carry authority by virtue of their experience or affiliation. Give each speaker a specific topic, so that collectively their talks cover all the ground you want to cover, without repetition. A one day conference will typically involve 4 to 6 speakers. A chairperson will also be needed. Whilst speakers may claim reasonable expenses, they are not paid fees. This is not usually a problem, as a speaker typically stands to gain significant career and/or business benefits from exposure provided by the event and the advance publicity.

To achieve the coverage you want without repetition will involve briefing speakers in detail about: your overall objectives; what contribution you want them to make; who the other speakers are and what they will be talking about. Speakers should be encouraged to distil focused lessons. Successful talks tend to highlight, for example, ‘The ten golden rules of Data Mining’; ‘The five simple steps to better forecasting’ or ‘The seven dos and don’ts of Customer Relationship Management’.

What the Society will need from you

The main items of information requested on the pro-forma are as follows:

  • the proposed title
  • the ‘hot topics’ that the event will cover
  • the audience benefit that the event is designed to deliver
  • the programme, including timetable
  • speakers’ details, including name, job title, affiliation, subject area and other information


Remember that people’s diaries fill up many weeks ahead, and that applies both to audience and speakers. So, at least three months’ advance publicity is needed. To allow the Society time to consider your business case, find a venue and prepare publicity materials, you will need to allow as an absolute minimum five full calendar months from receipt by the Society of your business case to the proposed date for the event.

What happens next?

Once your business case is received, the Society’s Conferences Committee will decide whether it wants to take on your conference. If it agrees to do so, we will contact you to discuss possible venues and the delegate fee that the Society intends to set, which will depend to some extent on the venue. We will then deal with all the rest including booking the venue, getting publicity materials prepared and distributed, invoicing delegates and seeing that speakers’ expenses and other bills are paid. If you need further guidance or more help, please contact our Conference Organiser (below).

Queries Regarding Conferences

If you wish to put on a short conference, would like to sponsor/exhibit at a society organised conference, are having difficulty submitting an abstract online or booking a conference online (and are unable to print the booking form on the website), then please contact Hilary Wilkes. It is recommended that conference bookings and abstract submissions if at all possible are done online.

Hilary Wilkes   Address:  The OR Society, Seymour House, 12 Edward Street, Birmingham, B1 2RX, UK
  Tel: +44 (0)121 233 9300