Conferences are an important part of our professional lives. We attend them to gather information, establish networks, and maintain friendships. When conference quality is poor, we complain, and when the conference is great, we applaud. We want to attend those conferences with dynamic speakers, a wide range of topics, and informative vendors with new products. We enjoy a conference that flows smoothly with a logical program, an efficient registration, and clearly marked facilities. We are impressed when all of this occurs within a calm, friendly, professional ambiance. When tasked to put on a conference, this is the type of event we want to run.
We don't want to settle for mediocrity, we want to have a world-class conference. This is a realchallenge for ASSE chapters. They don't have the resources that national organizations do, but they do have intelligent, energetic, and dedicated members who can plan and organize the best conferences. With a little imagination and hard work, chapters that focus on four key principles will succeed.
The four key principles for success are: defining a purpose; detailed planning; strong flexible organization; and taking care of the "extras." These keys will help provide answers to the: who, what, when, where, why, and how questions about putting on a world-class safety conference.
For whom are we putting on a safety conference? (The term safety is inclusive of the SHE - safety, health and environment profession throughout this article.) The higher level needs of safety professionals are cared for at the national level, but at the local level, we need to help those who are less experienced in safety. To this end, chapters and regions should organize local safety conferences that meet the needs of their community. This paper will address the leadership perspective gained from the hands-on experience of planning, organizing and executing a world class-safety conference.
The primary function of leadership in any endeavor is to create and effectively communicate a vision to the executive staff of an organization. To do this with a voluntary group, whose life will be only about a year in length, is challenging. Most anybody can talk about the why we do conferences and for whom, but the difference between an ordinary and a world-class safety conference is the vision. If you can see it, you can be it. Without the vision, you won't hit the mark. With a good vision, you can step up and make it world class.
The 2004 Hawaii Governor's Pacific Rim Safety and Health Conference vision was emulated in the theme that came from our first visioning meeting: "E Ho'o Lokahi I Ke 'Ola Mau," a Hawaiian saying which means COMING TOGETHER TO PRESERVE LIFE FOREVER.