May 18, 2015
Learning to work with a new personality for each conference can be a challenging experience, but with the right frame of mind and some tips from the pros, working with volunteer conference chairs can be an enjoyable learning opportunity. Here are some suggestions to help you work with your Chair at your next conference:
- Listen to the Chair. Always listen and validate what the Conference Chair tells you, regardless of whether you agree. The Chair is a member of the organization, so they understand what their fellow members expect and want. He or she is plugged into their specific industry in a way that meeting planners are not which means they have technical insight into the field that we do not.
- Get to know them. Forming a working relationship of some sort is key. Understand what they’re hoping to get out of the experience, and find some kind of common ground. If you make the effort to build a relationship, it makes you more of a person than just “staff.”
- Give the Chair all the information they need. They are the ones who ultimately make the decisions, but as staff, you can help them to make the most informed choices. Show the Conference Chair how you provide value by:
- proactively keeping him/her informed and prepared to lead the committee
- asking him/her for opinions/insight
- providing recommendations, with reasoning behind those recommendations, for key decisions
- Learn his/her priorities. Make a strong effort to know how he/she feels ahead of time so that you are on the same page when on calls. You don’t want to contradict him/her in front of the committee or hotel contact.
- Be there for him/her. Make yourself available to him/her whenever needed (within reason) so he/she knows he/she can depend on you. The Chair probably has a day job keeping him/her busy, so there may be moments when he/she feels overwhelmed by the volunteer responsibilities. During those stressful times, help put him/her at ease.
- Communicate regularly. Ask questions, communicate and never assume.
- Get them involved. Some Chairs are more interested in the nitty-gritty details than others. Determine how much your Chair wants to be involved in, and invite him/her on calls and site inspections when appropriate.