How To Run A Great Conference

How can you make your program great? That’s a question we have been asking various conference leaders for several years. Below, are a few pointers. If you have any ideas, or a question, contact our Conference Center Director for more information.

Intentional welcoming of new Shoalers

Welcoming new folks and making them feel that they are a part of the conference is one of the most important things you can do as a conference leader. Star Island can be a strange place on the first day, and it’s easy to feel excluded, especially when folks around them are so happy to see one another after a year apart. Please take the time to create a plan to make new folks feel included. Here are some examples of successful things that conferences do:

  • Pair up a New Shoaler with an Old Shoaler (or new family with Old Shoaler family): Have the Old Shoaler get in touch with the New Shoaler by email in advance of the conference. Suggest that they meet in Portsmouth and have lunch together before the ferry. The Old Shoaler should be as attentive as possible in the first 24 hours of being on the island to answer questions and make sure things are going well.
  • New Shoaler Tour: Some time on the first day, have a dynamic member of the conference bring the new folks on a quick tour of the island to point out important spots (social hour, youth program, snack bar, workshops, etc.)
  • New Shoaler Meeting/Group: Find a time early in the conference (such as dinner the first night or the first morning of the conference) to get all of the New Shoalers together for a quick meeting hosted by a dynamic and welcoming member of your conference. New Shoalers can use this time to get to know one another and ask questions.
  • Give them a Role: You or an assigned conference volunteer should reach out to your New Shoalers in advance of the conference to ask if they would be willing to help set up social hour or bring something to donate to the auction, or have their kids perform an act in the talent show.
  • For more, please read the New Shoaler Guide provided by Star’s Beloved Community Project.

Volunteer jobs for everyone

Build a stronger program by delegating tasks to your conferees. This could be anything from making name tags to leading a workshop. This will make your job easier, and will help to build a sense of ownership with the other conferees. Giving new folks a job will help them to feel that they are part of the community.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out the following conferences’ volunteer jobs lists:

Lots of programming and events

Fill your schedule with activities so there is something for everyone. Old Shoalers will feel comfortable taking a break to chat on the porch, but newer folks might not know anyone to chat with yet, and would feel more engaged with scheduled activities.

Encourage community building

Challenge conferees to sit with someone they don’t know very well for at least one meal a day. It’s natural for folks to always sit with their closest friends and extended families, but this can be isolating for new people, or individuals who came to the island alone.

Music everywhere

Encourage your Shoalers to bring their instruments, and encourage opportunities for spontaneous and planned music (such as asking people to play during social hour, holding concerts, musicales and talent shows.)

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