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Future Directions Handbook

Conferences and Events

Conferences require lead time and heavy planning, so it is important for an initiative to decide whether it  wants to run its own flagship conference (financially) or to leverage from an existing conference.  Regardless, it is critical to start early with a strong organizing committee that includes a solid team of local volunteers who will be able to dedicate the necessary time and effort to make the event a success.  A Conference Chair with enough contacts in the industries/academia must be selected early on.  Tools and processes for running an IEEE Conference can be found at this link, with one of the initial steps being submission of a conference application.  A preliminary budget should also be developed, submitted, and continually reviewed.   Roles and responsibilities for the various positions (conference chair, program chair, publicity, etc) should be clearly defined. Additionally, corporate support of the conference is helpful from a financial perspective – corporate sponsors and contacts must be established early on in the process – this may include building off of any existing relationships that the local organizing committee may have.

Most flagship conferences have a few keynote and invited speakers, with the rest of the conference program built on accepted papers.   For these conferences with paper submissions a strong editorial board is necessary to manage and review papers for acceptances to the conference.

Entrepreneurship Forums and Start-Up Contests are good ways to foster greater engagement and offer leadership development.   

There are a number of programs to encourage involvement from students and young professionals:

  • Young Review Program: Young professionals and students review papers for flagship conferences under mentorship of Senior IEEE members, engages IEEE Young Professionals, creates pipeline for training new volunteers
  • Student Conference Grant Program: If student’s paper is accepted at conference, student will be assigned a job/role at the conference (for example, at the registration table) to help provide the student with volunteer/leadership opportunity
  • Pre-university/Community Outreach Program: exposes pre-university and community members to STEM and IEEE activities (TTM as example – high school students)

The involvement and engagement of young professionals and students is critical to the growth of the initiative and IEEE in general.

Another means to attract attendance is to sponsor convergence events or ‘mini-conferences’ that involve speakers/topics from multiple initiatives prior to or after a flagship event, to either encourage upcoming participation or continue the momentum achieved at a prior conference.

An Overall Conference Activities Board must be established to:

  • Review past and future conference activities and operations.
  • Create overview on conference paper review and selection processes.
  • Create overview on conference editorial boards.
  • Provide supplementary materials to conference organizers to help maintain continuity and uniformity across the portfolio of conferences.

It is important to maintain a repository of the conference data (for possible audits) which includes:

  • Budget information
  • Summary information on submissions, attendance
  • Hotel contract information
  • Forms/promotional material

There will be processes and procedures to follow to close the financials for each conference. This includes submitting payment for all the conference expenses, closing of conference bank accounts, distributing surplus funds, preparing financial reports and final audit  This must be done within 6 months of the event.

Additionally, conference lectures and plenary sessions should be archived for future use.  These recordings can be offered on the FD Resource Center for future viewing. Note that any recordings will require permission from the individuals.  A post-conference survey should be produced and sent out to obtain feedback.

If possible, offer Professional Development Hours (PDH) or Continuing Education Units (CEU) credit for attendance.  Credits might be a good way to attract participants.

In the absence of an initiative run flagship conference, an initiative can host panel/talk sessions at existing related conferences.


In comparison to conferences, workshops are smaller events and typically do not have paper submissions.  They tend to be a 1-day or 2-day events where speakers are invited. The goal of hosting a workshop should be to produce content (e.g. white papers, blogs, pictures). From a financial perspective, co-locating the workshop with an existing conference can help bring in more participation and reduce cost. If possible, offer Professional Development Hours (PDH) or Continuing Education Units (CEU) credit for attendance.

Challenges and Competitions

Challenges and competitions provide a good way to connect with the young professional and student community. These are usually well-defined, hands-on events, to allow participants to gain experience with hardware and software products.  Local support for the challenge is crucial to its success. If the challenge is a standalone event, look for a free venue from universities and companies. For financial support, sponsorships and donations from local companies or non-profit organizations should be pursued.  Offering awards is a good way to attract participants.  Even for those who do not win an award, participants appreciate IEEE recognition via a Certificate of Participation.

A nominal registration fee for participation is a good way to manage no-shows.

Roles and Responsibilities

An IEEE volunteer’s role on a Conference Organizing Committee is to actively recruit their peers to submit a paper for presentation so they can share their insight, best practices and lessons learned about a particular technology area or topic with diverse audiences, or encourage them to attend. Active volunteers are needed to help develop the program and make the conference a success for IEEE, and to ensure its sustainability as an event year-on-year.

Measures of Success

The long term financial goal of any conferences and workshops launched by an initiative is to have an income from the event.  It is not unusual to be at a net loss in the early years, but it is important to see growth in the number of attendees and patrons/sponsors from year to year, which should set a path for net positive in the future.  Another measure of success is to look at the diversity of the participants, for example, whether a conference or workshop draws non-traditional IEEE members, or a mix of students and professionals, or from across the academia/industry/government sectors.