Scheduling is NOT Conference Management

This month, we welcome Laura Lafferty as our guest blogger.

While working in conference services, she used an academic scheduling system to manage her conferences and events. After all, she was just scheduling events; it's the same thing.

Read on as you take a coffee break to learn more about her experience in how effective the system was for her needs.

Scheduling isn't the same as conference management

Leading Lady vs Best Friend

One of my favorite chick flicks is The Holiday. In it, Arthur Abbot has a great line to one of the main characters, Iris Simpkins. He says, “Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.”

When I was working in conference services years ago, I always felt like the best friend. We were a fairly new operation on campus. People didn’t quite understand us, what we did, why we even existed. We had to continually justify our place on campus and explain our value.

I also knew I wasn’t alone. As I attended various regional and national conferences, I quickly learned that many of my peers in the industry felt the same way.

Scheduling is NOT the same as conference management

When I started as Director, I was handed a software system that had recently been purchased for the campus. Great – off to a solid start, or so I thought. What I was handed was an academic scheduling system that "could manage conferences and events."

I soon learned, there is no such thing.

Could it book meeting spaces? Yes. 

But in terms of managing conferences, that is where the usefulness ended. And as we all know, conference management is about more than just booking meeting rooms.

IMG_2958.jpgI was a one stop shop, but how am I supposed to book catering? What do I do about housing? Where do I put what A/V equipment is needed when and where? Where are my contracts, my invoices? And so it went. 

Before I knew it, we were using the academic scheduling software to book meeting rooms, Excel spreadsheets to manage bedrooms, word documents for proposals and contracts, and a File Maker Pro custom database to manage invoices.

Then there was yet another spreadsheet for catering orders and to keep track of all billable items for the conference. A paper form for submitting reservation requests. (At least by year two we made some progress by moving our reservation request form from paper to a fillable web-form that then became an email that had to then be manually input into the software.)  

This was madness and this was not conference management software.

But that's how it is. Right?

Believe it or not, there are software products out there that will do everything listed above in one system. One of which is, of course, our product, Kx. 

Depositphotos_23871883_xsALT.pngOk, great, but what about the link to academics? This is one of the main motivating factors for using a scheduling system for both events and academic scheduling; everyone needs to see data.

System interfaces can provide an easy answer. In the case of our system, we can link up Kx with the academic scheduling system through an interface so the two systems can cross-populate the scheduling of meeting and classroom spaces. It can work one way (from academics to Kx or vice versa) or two ways (where they each share data with the other).

This was my answer. I could see what spaces were available and book them, along with all the other moving pieces of managing a conference. Academics could see what spaces were available and book them and manage their class schedules.

It was a win-win.

The whole purpose of the campus buying one system was so the meeting spaces would have shared visibility. However, it left me with a system that could not manage conferences and events.

With the interface, it not only still fulfills my needs, it also meant that Academics could keep the system that worked for them and I could get a system that worked for me.

Work to become the star of the show.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Why should anyone continue to work in a system that doesn’t meet your needs just because it meets the needs of a different department?

We in conference services are leading ladies and deserve to have the tools we need to succeed. It is time we all started acting like it instead of settling for being the best friend.

Laura Lafferty

Written by Laura Lafferty

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