Organizing the event

People and finance

Organizing a Samvera Connect conference requires a great deal of planning.  It is recommended that the venue for each Connect should be established prior to the preceding conference so that it can be announced there.  At least six months should be allowed for the actual planning process.  Over the years we have arrived at the notion of having two planning teams: the Host Committee who are responsible for the detailed planning at and around the conference venue, and a Program Committee who are responsible for soliciting, selecting and programming the meeting's content.  Each group will ideally have a representative on the other for liaison purposes.  The work of the two groups is assisted by the Community Manager who deals with a lot of the routine administration in relation to the Samvera Community. 

Ideally, meetings should have a designated facilitator (and/or Chair) and a prepared agenda in advance. Meetings/calls should be minuted and clearly identify decisions and action points (with names) within this wiki to support transparency and allow us to learn from one another for subsequent events. Someone should be given the job of checking on the page regularly to see that the action points are being dealt with in a timely fashion. The planning team(s) should use a dedicated email list (currently to make sure every member receives every email. 

One of the earliest tasks for the host committee will be to arrive at a figure for the conference fee - one which is realistic in terms of covering the hire of rooms, refreshments, equipment hire, conference give-aways, printing and signage, badges and admin fees etc.   Matters financial are dealt with on the next page.

Dates and timing

Every effort should be made to ensure that the dates for the Connect meeting do not clash with other events that might draw on the pool of potential delegates.  In particular, the DLF Forum takes place at a similar time of year and its proximity on the calendar can be a problem for potential attendees.  It has been pointed out that late September and into October is the time of several Jewish high holidays which may prevent some of our colleagues attending.

From 2017, or thereabouts, the conference has fallen into a pattern:  Monday of the conference week is a Partner Meeting which, although nothing directly to do with the conference, requires a space with remote access facilities to take place.  Partners attending will expect to make their own lunch arrangements but would likely be grateful for pre-meeting coffee and perhaps a top-up later in the day if that can be arranged easily.  The conference proper occupies the rest of the week.  Tuesday is a workshop day, Wednesday is a plenary session in the morning with a poster reception in the afternoon, Thursday is largely devoted to presentations and panels, Friday morning is an unconference session.  The conference usually finishes at lunchtime on Friday because so many people head to the airport at that point that timetabling afternoon events may be pointless.


From the beginning, the organizers need a clear view of the structure and outline content of the meeting because this has an impact on facilities needs.

These needs fall into a number of categories:

  • General needs

    • Access to reliable high speed wireless Internet is required to enable communications and aspects of the program. Samvera folks are hyper-connected to the Internet. Many will need Internet connections to present, some have ongoing coding responsibilities during the conference, still others need to track correspondence while attending the conference.  Of these a proportion will expect to be able to use, for example, VPN, IRC, Slack, and Github without difficulty.  Organizers should not underestimate the load that a conference like this can put on local systems - many delegates will have multiple devices in play.  As a corollary: delegates will also appreciate access to power strips, if possible, to keep their devices charged whilst in Connect sessions.  The majority of delegates nowadays have an Eduroam account but organizers should also ensure there is a guest network for those who do not (or if the conference venue does not offer Eduroam).

    • Refreshments and food.  It has become the pattern that, during the conference proper (Wednesday to Friday mid-morning) the hosts offer a light breakfast and a refreshment break mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  The food and drink provided need to cater for the range of dietary needs specified in the conference registrations.  Some venues have offered lunches as part of the conference fee but, if there are adequate catering outlets in close proximity to the event, this may not be necessary.  If local catering outlets are used it may be wise to warn them that the conference could produce an unusual spike in demand.


    • Social event(s):  Early Connect conferences included an evening buffet event. This was discontinued from 2016 partly because delegates' enthusiasm for it was mixed and partly because the additional cost for them could be considerable.  More recently, hosts have provided recommendations about good places to eat in the evenings and have usually arranged voluntary sign-up lists for people who would like to make up dinner groups.

    • Conference goodies:  From the very early days, we have provided a conference t-shirt from within the registration fees.  This is now an expectation and people look forward to each year's new design.  Until 2020, the design has always been facilitated by Lynn McRae at Stanford but he indicated that 2020 would be the final time for this contribution --future conferences will need to hire a designer for the shirts.  The registration process should establish what size and gender t-shirt each person requires.

    • Hotel(s):  The conference organizers should try to arrange preferential rates at one or more local hotels.  Rather than commit to a large number of bookings, at Connect #2 we managed to arrange that we guaranteed only the first 20 bookings but then the hotel added more rooms, 20 at a time, with no further commitment. A greater commitment is usually required.  If such block booking comes with one or more 'free' rooms, past organizers have been generous in donating these for use in conjunction with the conference scholarship scheme.  In arranging discount periods, organizers should try to accommodate the needs of some delegates who will 'need' to stay the Saturday night prior to or immediately after the conference in order that they can get discounted air fares - this is perhaps especially true for transatlantic delegates.

      An alternative strategy used by the 2019 host committee is to direct delegates to a number of local hotels which offer a 'university discount' and to agree with the hotels in advance that delegates can access the lower rate.

  • Space needs

    • The workshop day will need a number of rooms to accommodate parallel workshop sessions.  Most workshops are likely to require flat table surfaces (not chairs with swing-in surfaces, or a lecture theatre arrangement) with access to power for laptops. Five parallel sessions has been known.

    • Throughout the conference it will be helpful if there is always a small 'quiet room' available.

    • The plenary session will require a large space with good acoustics and projection facilities.  Ideally it will be able to support lapel or podium microphones for the speakers and roving microphones at question times.

    • The poster session requires a good open space with pinboards or some similar arrangement for up to 50 or so posters.  There needs to be plenty of circulation space and the acoustic should deal with many people talking at once without the ambient noise becoming obtrusive.  A reception (drinks and 'nibbles') is normally provided in conjunction with this session and needs appropriate space for the food and drink to be laid out.  It is possible that a series of lightning talks will be presented at the same time as this session and if so, it will require a nearby room so that people can 'slip out' and back again.

    • The presentations and panels will require at least five rooms be available (plus the quiet room).  This potentially allows for four mainstream tracks plus a further track of lightning talks (unless they are completely covered alongside the poster session).

    • The unconference session requires a number of rooms - those available for the previous day's presentations and panels will be adequate.

    • It is likely that the Samvera Steering Group will wish to hold a meeting for an hour before the start of conference business - likely on the Thursday or Friday - and will appreciate a quiet room for that.

    • Ideally, all the above conference rooms will be able to support audio recording, if not actual streaming.  It is appreciated that local AV costs may limit what can be done in this regard.

    • There will be occasional other needs for rooms.  Samvera folks like to be able to have small meetings of, for instance, Working Group members, or to organize Birds of a Feather meetings (BOFs).  They will likely appreciate rooms being available across lunchtimes and possibly for a short time at the end of the day. 

    • If the conference is offering display tables (for instance, as a benefit of sponsorship), there will need to be tables for sponsors/exhibitors to set out their stalls.  Ideally these will be close to the conference rooms and form part of the refreshment space so that delegates naturally interact with the people manning them.  It is a much less satisfactory experience for those concerned if the tables are in a "room off".

  • Other needs

    • General sound and vision: The plenary space will need very good projection facilities and sound.  A roving mic should be available for Q&A sessions.  All presentation and panel spaces will require projectors. Breakout rooms offered at lunchtimes will ideally have a projector though this may not be essential.

      • Note that equipment and A/V support costs are usually quite high and may not be included in an initial space cost estimate

    • Poster "Show and Tell" session:  There needs to be adequate provision for people to display posters they have brought.  Communicating a maximum poster size in advance is helpful (preferably in terms of a standard paper size such as "A0" or "A1").  In recent years, we have tried to point people to local printing facilities which mean folks didn't have to struggle with poster tubes on planes.  Some venues have been able to manage the printing themselves.  If possible, the ability to leave the posters up after the formal session will be appreciated.

    • Planning the unconference sessions:  The use of the software "Sessionizer" has been helpful in organizing past unconference sessions but this needs agreeing well in advance.