Student Conference Planning Guide

Please use this Conference Guide as one of your conference planning resources. The Guide contains policies, procedures, and recommendations that will help you to put together a successful conference. You should prioritize planning early and often, as last-minute planning rarely results in a smooth conference.

Note: There is an application period for conference proposals in the spring semester. All conferences hosted by YLS students or student groups must have prior approval by OSA.

Submit conference proposals to OSA here.

Sample Conference Planning Timeline

(For conferences held in the spring semester)

ASAP

  • Select your date
  • Add conference as an event on YaleConnect
  • Send save the dates
  • Update invitations/publicity with speaker
  • Create Conference Organizer Chairs
  • Create a conference e-mail address
  • Designate conference organizer for travel
  • Submit event to master calendar

SUMMER

  • Create plan for publicity
  • Create template for communications to potential donors/sponsors
  • Write a narrative about the conference for Office of Public Affairs
  • Open registration page on YaleConnect
  • Send speakers a detailed schedule/topic list
  • Maintain budgets in YaleConnect portal

FALL

  • Advertise and open registration for registrants
  • Building Services will reserve and secure place holder rooms for your conference
  • Coordinate with Building Services to finalize room set ups for each room
  • Recruit Volunteers/ Assign duties for volunteers
  • Distribute travel policy to speakers
  • Secure tentative conference speakers
  • Create run-of-show with panel timing
  • Submit food-related requests
  • Submit comprehensive AV needs to AV team
  • Submit speaker travel requests to OSA/Worldtek
  • Submit media release forms signed by speakers

SPRING

  • Weeks out:
    • - Close registration
    • -Scehdule meeting with volunteers to go over tasks and resoponsibilities
    • - Finalize head-counts and registration numbers. Make sure all food orders match up to the registration count
    • - Create/Design/Print Signage Materials
    • - Meet with AV staff to discuss support needs.
    • - Building Services will finalize the room numbers before the conference, depending on registration numbers and other ongoing conferences and events.
    • - Prepare and gather all other necessary materials
    • - Designate timekeepers for panels
    • - Ask Building Services to borrow easels for signage
  • Day of:
    • - Set up registration room. Drop off materials into each room
    • - Set up speaker/panelist room
    • - Meet with all volunteers prior to launch
    • - Send reminder e-mails to students and attendees
    • - Set up easels
    • - Work with AV to test audio/visual in each room
  • After Conference:
    • - Remove all materials and items from conference rooms
    • - Write up summary and send to OSA so we may add to our yearly reporting
    • - Lost and found: return any left items to security
    • - Optional: Send post-conference survey to attendees

Conference Planning Guide:

  • Selecting a Date for Conference

    • Please keep speaker/panelist availability, projected weather conditions, and competing events in mind when selecting dates for the conference.
    • The following events/holidays should be avoided: Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur; Yale College Family Weekend; YLS Alumni Weekend; YLS fall recess; YLS Thanksgiving recess; Rebellious Lawyering Conference (typically the third week of February); Yale University spring break; YLS spring recess; Admitted Students Weekend; 1L Blue Book Exam (typically in April); Passover; Good Friday; and all other major events and holidays that could significantly affect attendance
    • Make sure to reserve rooms as placeholders with Building Services immediately upon securing a date.
  • Master Calendar

    • Your conference should be listed on the YLS Master Calendar. To do so, make your event in your YaleConnect portal, and then tag it as "YLS Website". This will feed it automatically.
  • Communications with the Office of Student Affairs (OSA)

    • Plan to meet with OSA, five months, three months, one month, two weeks, and one week before your conference to discuss updates.
      • All conference planners are required to attend the benchmark meetings, whether by phone or in person.
    • Feel free to reach out to the Office of Student Affairs in between any benchmark meetings.
  • Conference Organizers

    • Recommended Roles for the Conference Organizers:
      • Budget Chair
      • Hotel and Travel Accommodations Chair
      • Keynote Speaker/Panelist Chair
      • Website Design and Registration Chair
      • Publicity Chair
      • Volunteer Chair
    • Regardless of the role(s) assigned, each conference organizer must be willing to assume responsibilities outside of their designated role if there is a need.
  • Finance

    • Budgets
      • Conference organizers are responsible for maintaining an up-to-date budget spreadsheet, which tracks budgeted and actual revenue and expenses in real-time.
    • Fundraising
      • Conference organizers must make every effort to stay within budget. However, if it appears that fundraising will become a necessity, contact the Office of Students Affairs prior to any outreach.
      • All fundraising solicitations must be reviewed by OSA and the Development Office prior to distribution.
      • Communications to potential donors should describe the overall goal(s) of the conference, explain the specific reason(s) for your fundraising efforts, and thank the recipient(s) for their time and consideration.
      • Remember to acknowledge co-sponsors (including funds, organizations, and student groups that contributed to the conference) on all publicity.
    • Registration Fees
      • Registration is free for members of Yale University as well as the University of Connecticut, University of New Haven, Quinnipiac University, and the surrounding New Haven community.
      • The registration fee is typically $35 for all other attendees, but conference organizers have the discretion to increase/decrease the fee, or to eliminate it altogether.
      • If the conference’s registration fees and other conference income supersede the cost of the conference, the excess funds will go towards the support of current and future YLS student conferences.
  • Keynote Speakers & Panelists

    • Selections & Outreach
      • Securing your keynote speaker(s) and panelists should be the top priority at the onset of conference planning.
      • While considering high-profile speakers/panelists, keep extra costs in mind (e.g., security personnel, expensive accommodation requests) in order to stay within budget.
      • Yale Law School faculty, administrators, and alumni have been excellent keynote speakers and panelists at past conferences.
      • Consider reaching out to interested faculty members and the Office of Alumni Affairs for keynote/panelist recommendations and potential connections.
      • Honoraria should be offered in rare and unique instances.  Please reach out to osa@yale.edu to discuss.
    • Recording
      • If any aspect of the conference is recorded, all speakers/panelists are required to sign media release forms as provided on YaleConnect. Submit all forms to publicaffairs.law@yale.edu.
      • For in-person conferences: There are fees associated with recording conferences and a special process for the release of recordings. For more information, click here.
      • For virtual conferences: You may use the Zoom recording function to record, so long as speakers have signed their media release forms.
  • Panel Logistics

    • Panel Length and Numbers
      • Panels should be one hour fifteen mins long at most, with no more than three panelists and one moderator per panel.
      • Designate a timekeeper to sit in the audience and use time cards to keep moderators and panelists on schedule.
      • The maximum conference length is one and a half days.
    • Structure
      • Well-moderated panel discussions/debates can be the most interesting part of a conference, so plan to build in time for such programming.
      • Build in time for an audience Q&A, if possible. Note that audience members sometimes ask very long questions, so consider assigning volunteers to hold/monitor the microphone in order to help control timing and overall flow.
      • Prior to any panel discussion, provide each speaker/panelist with a detailed schedule, topic list, and panel transition plan (preferably in person).
  • Publicity

    • Advertising
      • Once you secure your keynote, send out “Save-the-Dates” to the Wall, peers at other schools, professors, past conference attendees (if applicable), related publications and blogs, and social media.
      • Post your conference as an event in YaleConnect - this will automatically feed it onto the YLS Master Events Calendar.
      • Update all invitations/publicity with speaker, panelist, and other substantive information upon confirmation of participation.
      • Contact Loriann Seluga (loriann.seluga@yale.edu), Student Computing Manager, to create a conference e-mail address and designate a forwarding recipient.
      • Collaborate with the Office of Public Affairs to write a narrative about your conference. OPA will post the description to the official YLS events page and other YLS-related promotions.
      • NOTE: All publicity materials must include the following language: “This conference is supported by the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.” (This does not apply to Reblaw.)
    • Signage
      • You may print paper copies of your advertising at Yale Printing & Publishing Services, or TYCO.
    • Signage Tips
      • Print all materials at least three business days before the conference. (This is very important, as printing mistakes do happen.)
      • Always order extra blank name tags.
      • Groups may post notices and posters advertising Law School conferences on the stone and brick walls of the first-floor hallways and main staircase leading to the Library.
      • Each group can post up to 12 11x17in sized posters/fliers per event (including one poster for the Grove Street Entrance Wall featuring “This Week at the Law School”). Posters in excess of the limit or size will be removed.
  • Materials

    • Collect everything you will need for the conference
      • Example materials for the conference may include:
        • Directional signage (sign holders can be requested from Building Services)
        • Name tags
        • Registration lists
        • Program agendas, guides, or info packs
        • Branded collateral for attendees
        • Pens and any other office materials you may need
  • Audio/Visual

    • One month before the conference, visit av.law.yale.edu to submit a comprehensive audio/visual request form that provides an hour-by-hour breakdown of each room’s audio/visual requirements (type and number of microphones, multimedia requests, recording requirements, etc.).
      • At least one week prior to the conference, schedule a mandatory, in-person audio-visual meeting with AV (av.law@yale.edu) to determine support needs.
    • If any audio/visual equipment is to be used outside of normal YLS business hours, an on-site support person is required to be in attendance at the conference. For more information about audio/visual fees click here.
    • Captioning & Web Accessibility:
      • If you record any video and it will be posted on a YLS platform (the website or Vimeo channel), the conference organizers must pay for ADA required captioning. Zoom auto-captioning does not meet ADA requirements. Captioning takes four business days to produce, after editing/branding is complete.
      • We do not allow sharing of the raw video file for any reason with outside entities. Internal circulation of a recording link should only be for review purposes.
    • If your conference is virtual:
      • Determine if you will be hosting a meeting or webinar. Your Yale Zoom account can accommodate up to 300 participants in a regular meeting.
      • If you wish to make your event a webinar, submit for a webinar key from OSA for webinar capabilities that can host up to 500 participants well in advance of conference.
      • Ensure that you assign co-hosts for webinar in advance.
  • Food

    • Contact the YLS Dining Hall to make them aware of your upcoming conference.
      • Schedule a time to meet with the Dining Hall to discuss your food needs.
      • Submit your order using the YLS Catertrax after meeting with Dining Services.
      • NOTE: Due to COVID-19, we are currently not permitted to serve food at conferences. This may change, so if you are planning a conference, you should schedule a time to meet with YLS Dining to discuss what options are/will be available.
    • Costs:
      • Most one-and-a-half day conferences choose the YLS bag lunch option for Saturday afternoon which includes typically includes a beverage, snack, sandwich, and small dessert for about $12.95 (prices vary).
      • There is a $500 fee to use the Dining Hall on Saturdays and outside caterers are typically charged between $1,500 and $2,000 to use the Dining Hall. Outside catering for events should not be considered, as the Dining Hall is responsible for catering many of the YLS facilities.
    • If your conference is virtual:
      • We can supply GrubHub credits to participants of up to $25.00 per attendee per meal.
      • Currently, we can provide GrubHub credits to Yale Law Students only.
      • Submit a GrubHub Request Form in advance of conference so that we may distribute credits to attendees.
  • Conference Websites

    • Conferences will need to create a portal in YaleConnect so that you may publish a public-facing website for registrants.
      • Create an event, and make sure to set up registrant fees (if applicable).
      • Registrants should be able to include any dietary restrictions, shirt sizes, etc in their registration.
      • YaleConnect will create a unique QR code for each registrant to use when they check in to the conference.
  • Conference Volunteers

    • OSA suggests the following roles to assign volunteers:
      • Registration: Room 122 typically serves as the registration room. Volunteers can process registration and distribute name tags/programs.
      • Hall Monitors: Even with adequate signage, attendees will ask for help finding the restroom, dining hall, and panel rooms.
      • Room and Lunch Monitors: It is important to have volunteers who will direct audience members to the front and center of the rooms and usher them out of the Dining Hall at the appropriate time.
      • Timekeepers: By sitting in the audience with time cards, timekeepers help moderators, speakers, and panelists stay on track.
      • Planning Volunteers: Conference organizers are highly encouraged to recruit other interested classmates to join your conference planning committee.
      • AV Volunteers: Make sure that a volunteer is in each room to help set up PowerPoints, mics, Zooms, etc. for a smooth transition from session to session. Volunteers should receive training from the AV staff prior to the event date.
    • If your conference is virtual:
      • Registration: Check in volunteers either using the YaleConnect portal, or, have registrants use the "self-check in" function.
      • Zoom Co-Hosts: Volunteers to help facilitate breakout sessions, recordings, PowerPoints, etc.
      • Timekeepers: Volunteers can use digital timekeepers so that panelists may stay on track with time.
  • Travel & Accommodations

    • The Office of Student Affairs uses Worldtek, an international and domestic travel management company, for conference speaker and panelist travel arrangements.
    • Travel policy
      • OSA suggests establishing a pre-booking travel policy to share with conference participants. By doing so, you are protecting your budget and establishing reasonable travel parameters. Please see below for a list of travel policy recommendations:
        • Distribute the policy to speakers once they confirm participation.
        • Encourage speakers to book travel early to reduce costs.
        • Alternatively, provide speakers with a date by which you would like for them to book their travel.
        • Consider including a section on lodging to inform them of their lodging coverage.
        • Determine whether you will cover parking fees.
        • Determine if there is a maximum reimbursement amount.
        • Spouses and children are not typically covered.
        • We cannot pay for a rental car in advance. Rental cars and mileage can be reimbursed after the event.
    • To secure travel for your speakers:
      • Step One: Designate one conference organizer as the point-person for travel arrangement review and confirmations.
      • Step Two: Upon securing the conference participants, please email osa@yale.edu a list of their full names and indicate whether you have placed a monetary cap on travel for each speaker.
      • Step Three: The names and travel parameters (if applicable) will be sent to Worldtek, at which time the travelers are free to contact Lisa Pepe (lisa.pepe@worldtek.com), the primary Worldtek agent for YLS conferences, for travel.
      • Step Four: Once a speaker/panelist selects an itinerary, the designated conference organizer will receive an email from OSA with the final itinerary and cost information; it is the responsibility of the designated conference organizer to review the itinerary and to confirm, within 6 hours, the accuracy of travel times, names, and destinations.
    • Reimbursing Travel for Speakers
      • Please use the reimbursement procedures as outlined on Yale Connect to process all speaker reimbursement requests.
      • Travel by car is reimbursed at a rate of $0.545 per mile. The cost of gas is not covered unless the traveler is using a rental car, in which case they would be reimbursed for gas and not mileage.
      • In order to be reimbursed for mileage, the conference organizers must submit a reimbursement form on behalf of the visitor on Yale Connect with a print out from Google Maps.
      • Reimbursements are limited to expenses related to travel, accommodation, and food. Spouses, children, and meals outside of the conference are not reimbursable.
      • Contact OSA at osa@yale.edu for any reimbursement questions.
    • Accomodations
      • OSA has negotiated discounted room blocks with area hotels (The Courtyard Marriot at Yale, The Omni, and The Study). Room rates are typically in the $150 - $170 range.
      • OSA will advise at the start of the academic year the location and specific rates of your room blocks, if applicable.
      • Submit the speaker/panelist hotel accommodation spreadsheet to OSA 30 days before the conference start date so we can secure rooms for your guests. Submitting accommodation requests after this deadline may result in penalties/fees.
  • Day of the Conference

    • Arrive early to set up the registration room, speaker/panelist break room, Dining Room, audio/visual tech, easels, and all other conference-related logistics.
    • Plan to meet with all participants (planners, speakers, volunteers, key YLS personnel) prior to launch to go over all aspects of the conference.
    • Send reminders to students over the Wall and to other attendees via email/conference website/social media.
    • Work with AV to test out the audio/visual in each room.
  • After the Conference

    • All student conferences must submit a write-up on their conference.
    • There are no rigid guidelines for the content of the write-up, but past groups have included a conference summary, a list of speakers and panelists, advertising methods, reflections, and next steps. Please submit the write-up within the two weeks of the conference.
    • Consider submitting a post-conference survey and a transition document for future organizers.