It’s Your Turn to Lead a Conference!

You’re a leader for Global Brigades on your campus, you’ve been on a brigade, led one or even multiple and you’re working to continue to grow the movement. You live #GB365 by taking action as a global citizen and want to meet fellow leaders and volunteers committed to the same goal, so you say, “why not host a Student Leadership Conference?” You know the what of the conference, the where and when would be easy to figure out, but you’re asking, “how, and why?” Dive deep into these questions, and check out this TED Talk by Simon Sinek that explores how great leaders inspire action.

The how involves the steps to planning a conference, which Global Brigades provides resources for on our conference planning page. The first steps are to set dates, fill out an application and get in touch with your Global Brigades Chapter Advisor who will work with you to plan the event. The why is important to keep in mind as you identify who the conference is for. Are you looking to connect empowered volunteers with each other for an event filled with learning about GB programming and discussion about global health and development? Do you want passionate leaders to come together to further develop their knowledge of GB programming and leadership skills while sharing recruitment and fundraising strategies?

Now that you have worked out part of the why, talk with your Chapter Advisor and leadership team about what goals and objectives should be accomplished by the conference. A goal could be “attendees will develop an understanding of how they can support Global Brigades beyond participating on a brigade.” An objective could be “identify two speakers to discuss the Global Brigades budget and program development funds.” These will further develop the why and give you a platform to build on as you work on the how.

At this point you’ve selected conference dates, had a conference planning call with your Chapter Advisor, set goals and objectives with your leadership team all to implement the why. Next you should work with your leadership team to organize the agenda, what topics do they want to cover? Are there topics they’re excited about that they want to present on or facilitate a discussion of? Do they have people in mind that could serve as keynote or guest speakers? What activities do they want to see available, are there any they want to facilitate or organize? Is there interest in networking or social events outside of the conference agenda?

Now you know the why, the goals and objectives, and the agenda of the conference, it’s time to select a venue. Start with your own university, they probably already have a space for events that is available to student organizations. When researching potential venues, if possible, speak with the venue staff and see if you can arrange a viewing in-person, and if it’s available for your requested dates. Ask what kind of accommodations can be made, is there space for breakout sessions, for presentations? Are you allowed to have food in the space? Will there be someone available to contact during the planning of the event, and the day of the event? Having backups available or even touring a couple options will allow you to select a space that would be most conducive to creating the atmosphere suitable for the why of the conference.

One thing that may come up is cost, there may be a fee to rent the venue and broaches the next step, costs for the conference. There may be costs from facilities, conference equipment, meals and snacks, getting guest speakers, etc. One option you might consider is a registration fee between $5-$15, but we encourage you to look to your university as there typically are several funding opportunities. There may be funding or grants available for student organizations, student bodies. Talk with different departments, offices for student organizations, or anyone that may have knowledge of applicable funding and grants, they can often contribute ideas!

The next step just may be the hardest, assigning the tasks. We recommend that you consult your leadership team or executive boards for how this should be handled. The best thing is to identify what those involved are skilled at, as well as what they’re most excited by, it creates a more organic environment for accomplishing the tasks. Keep in mind, you can establish responsibilities for the preparation of the event, and those for the event itself (e.g. Marketing Chair for marketing campaign, Small Groups Director for small groups run during the event). Setting deadlines is critical, start with the big deadlines, such “book the venue by X date,” then work backwards setting smaller ones, such as “research potential venues by X date,” “contact venue space management by X date.”

The goal is to remember the why with the action steps to do the how. Putting forward the values of Global Brigades, including empowerment and sustainability, will make this process more enjoyable and valuable. Support those helping with the execution of the planning and the event, be flexible and empathetic while empowering them to do their best.
You are making a huge commitment to growing the movement you are a part of, the potential for impact is huge and we at Global Brigades and your attendees are so excited and thankful for your hard work!

Global Brigades