Conference Planning Guidelines

Familiarize interdisciplinarians and others at your institution with AIS, its publications, and annual conference. If you find sufficient campus interest to mount a conference, contact the AIS President, or the Conference Liaison, Roslyn Abt Schindler, about your interest. Submit a proposal to the President that provides some background on your institution and programs, makes a case for hosting the conference on your campus, and indicates the level of institutional support in terms of both fiscal contribution and campus resources.

If your proposal is accepted, your chief academic officer or the relevant campus officer will receive a formal letter of invitation from the AIS President. Once the invitation has been formally accepted by your institution, from that point forward you will be working with a designated liaison from the Board on matters of program, logistics, and budget. The collaborative working relationship between AIS and your institution will help to promote continuity and to advance and expand the themes of interdisciplinary studies fostered at previous conferences.

To facilitate conference planning, the AIS Office Manager will handle arrangements for the placement of ads and the Call for Proposals in selected publications and will contact publishers’ representatives and sources for other AIS-related texts in preparation for a book display. The Office Manager will make available an archive of planning forms, sample letters, and materials used by previous conference hosts.

Conference host institutions should consider using the ADTRAV service or a comparable service for the development of the registration website, etc.

Sample Proposal 1
Sample Proposal2

Send representatives to the AIS conferences for at least two years prior to your planned conference (to meet with the Board of Directors). Encourage membership and conference attendance within your planning team so that your institution has a visible presence at the conference and so that you can develop a core of active, informed participants to assist with local arrangements.

Work with the conference liaison to the Board as you prepare the preliminary report on conference planning that will be presented at the Fall AIS Conference.

Sample Two-Year Report 1
Sample Two-Year Report 2

Maintain a comprehensive binder and/or electronic file in which you include at least the following sections: Correspondence; Call for Proposals – Development and Revision; Program-Development and Revision; Budget; Timetable of Activities – Development and Revision; Committee Meetings – Minutes and Other Notes; Hotel – Logistics and Negotiations; Transportation Logistics (from and to airport, etc.); Special Excursions; Technology Needs; Other Matters.

To facilitate conference planning, the AIS Office Manager will handle arrangements for the placement of ads and the Call for Proposals in selected publications and will contact publishers’ representatives and sources for other AIS-related texts in preparation for a book display. The Office Manager will make available an archive of planning forms, sample letters, and materials used by previous conference hosts.

Prepare information on availability and cost of transportation from the airport to the conference (and between hotel/ motel and conference center, if appropriate); availability, cost, and accessibility of hotel or motel; nature of conference facilities [e.g., plenary session room(s), breakout rooms, availability and cost of A-V equipment, access to the Internet in the plenary room, as well as in the breakout rooms, etc.].

Identify a tentative theme or several alternative themes, and sub-themes for the conference (some are also appropriate for a pre-conference workshop, for example (see below). Consider the following ideas, among many others, as themes and sub-themes, empirical studies, best practices, theoretical studies, a “sense of place” as important to the overall conference themes as a teachable moment, an assortment of current thematic interdisciplinary studies topics (applying IDS to contemporary problems, issues, or topics: environmental studies, urban studies, suburban studies, atrocities/genocide studies, the “new economy,” women’s studies, international studies, etc.), a focus on graduate interdisciplinary studies programs, paradigm shifts, engaged practice, demographic profiles of students in IDS programs, etc.

Identify a potential keynoter or keynote program.

Identify tentative dates for the conference, preferably the first or second weekend in October, but certainly between the end of September/beginning of October and late October/early November. Conference days are generally Thursday (afternoon) through Sunday (Noon), with the Board meetings at the conference site on the Wednesday prior and on Thursday morning. The Board may meet at other times during the conference as necessary.

Typically, there is a Pre-Conference Workshop on Thursday morning.

Identify logistics and costs your institution will assume. The AIS does not provide financial support for the conference. All costs must be covered by the conference registration fee and college/university subventions (minimum: $10,000). However, AIS does not want to discourage smaller institutions from hosting a conference.

Host institutions typically cover part or all of at least the following:

(1) support of AIS program committee participation in previous and current conference;
(2) all local arrangements, including any shuttle service necessary between hotel/ motel and conference center (and between conference site and airport if commercial service is unavailable);
(3) honorarium and expenses for keynote speaker;
(4) expenses for spring on-site visit for the Board liaison to participate in program planning, screening of proposals, and conference support; and
(5) development of a conference website to be linked to the AIS webpage. Some institutions have subsidized participation of graduate students. Form your local program committee consisting of administrators, faculty, staff, and students/alumni, if possible. Representation from all segments of your operation will encourage the kind of team spirit and involvement which will make the implementation of the conference successful and enjoyable. If your institution has a Special Events Coordinating Office, you may be able to acquire additional support or assistance with planning and implementation. As soon as possible, identify and clarify benefits to your unit, faculty, and institution related to coordinating and hosting an AIS conference.


Entertain bids from local hotels, motels, and conference centers for the conference site. Work with the hotel to incorporate as many “green,” environmentally friendly options in the planning (e.g., recycling containers, recyclable notepads and pens in conference rooms, compostable items, use of large containers for water and items that typically are served or presented in small containers or packaging, etc.), including donating leftover items as well as surplus food. Do not hesitate to bargain with bidders for sleeping room rates, meal costs, complimentary rooms, etc. Be imaginative in negotiating with hotels. They want to make a profit, but they can only do that if they get your business. Let them know you are discussing options with other hotels. You should not have to pay anything, normally, for ballrooms and breakout rooms because of the large number of sleeping rooms and meals you will arrange for. You may negotiate a free hotel suite for AIS Board Meetings, free rooms for the conference coordinators, etc. Moreover, you certainly should not assume that the first prices they quote you are necessarily their lowest prices.

Book a block of rooms, perhaps100 total (50 singles and 50 doubles), as well as the meeting and banquet rooms at the site you choose. Do not sign a contract with room price “estimates”; that may rise later. You want a firm price that is locked in and guaranteed not to change, and you want a contract that will allow you to cancel without penalty up to a reasonable time before the event. Check on required cancellation dates for meals and rooms. Block a small number of hotel rooms for Wednesday night (approx. 25) for 12 Board members, other “early birds” and Pre-Conference Workshop participants. If the hotel typically fills, you may wish to identify a second location for overflow and secure special rates there as well. Make sure you reserve a sufficient number of meeting rooms for both individual and plenary sessions. Typically, five breakout rooms have sufficed, plus banquet facilities, display and coffee break areas (and possibly a breakfast buffet/conversation area), a location for Board meetings, and a location for the keynote session (if it differs from the banquet hall). Check on prices for computer and A-V equipment rental/usage. Use university/college equipment if possible to keep costs down, but, if you do so, make sure you have on-site arrangements for equipment troubleshooting. You may wish to arrange for one event on your campus; i.e., a reception, pre-conference workshop, computer session, or tour, if you can work out the transportation.

Conference Budget

Develop a conference budget early in the planning; revise as necessary along the way. AIS hopes that some funds will be returned to the organization from the conference and asks conference planners to set their registration fee accordingly.

Tentatively set the final registration fee (member; non-member; student; “early bird”) and propose it to the AIS Board. The host institution should: recommend a registration fee to the Board that is manageable and appropriate within the goals of the conference planning; attract participants for the duration of the conference (no single day rates); engage in careful budget planning; maintain and keep accurate budget records for the duration of the conference and future reference as well; plan to return some funds to AIS. Set the registration fee for non-members higher than for members, so that it includes the AIS membership fee. The new membership income thus collected should be forwarded to AIS after the conference with the names and addresses of new members and should not be used to cover conference expenses.

The fee should include most catered meals (at least one evening meal is generally “on your own”) and beverage breaks (coffee/tea/soda/bottled water), all charges for local arrangements and registration, the cost of one trip by the Board liaison to meet with the program committee, as well as the keynoter’s expenses (if these are not covered by your institution’s subvention). Be sure to set the registration fee high enough to cover emergencies and to compensate for an attendance somewhat lower than anticipated and build the possibility of dropouts into the conference budget. If you are using university transportation to get people to and from the airport, make sure you reserve the vans or buses now. If you are relying on commercially-operated or hotel-sponsored transportation, make sure you have all the details.

Transportation Arrangements:

Explore the possibility of an official airline for the conference as well as added car-rental packages, since this can result in favorable rates.

By the winter meeting of the Board of Directors, you should be prepared to submit a draft of a Call for Proposals, Proposal Submission Form, and Letter of Invitation to the conference liaison for review by the Board. The Call should be as detailed as possible: theme, sub-themes, guidelines; minimum information re: costs (registration fee, hotel, etc.). The Proposal Submission Form should request a proposal, abstract for program, contact information for convener and participants, bios, computer and A-V needs, etc. Include also the conference coordinator’s complete contact information (address, phone, email, fax), and the conference and AIS websites. Indicate that proposals may only be submitted electronically. If the conference is in early October, the deadline for submissions should be no later than April 1. Accompanying the Call and Submission Form should be a warm, encouraging, and informative Letter of Invitation from the conference coordinator, inviting active participation and attendance (samples of the Call, Form, and Letter are available. Your conference liaison will represent you at the winter meeting, typically in March. Be prepared to submit your preliminary report on the progress of conference planning in sufficient time to allow for the liaison to contact you to anticipate areas that may need more elaboration prior to the Board meeting.

Sample Letter of Invitation 1 (2018)
Sample Letter of Invitation 2 (2017)

Sample Call for Proposals 1 (2018)
Sample Call for Proposals 2 (2017)

(1) No later than one week before the conference previous to yours, send to the conference hosts a sufficient quantity of conference flyers for the following year (one side the Call for Proposals and the second side the letter of invitation from your campus). These should arrive in sufficient time for the planners to insert them with other materials in the conference folders.

(2) Attend the annual AIS meeting, along with others on your planning committee. This will be your opportunity to see the logistics of the conference at close hand and to acquaint yourself with the membership and tone of the sessions.

(3) You will normally make a formal presentation to the Board early in the conference, most likely the Thursday morning before the official conference opening day. At this point you should have firm information on costs (housing, proposed conference fee, other expenses, etc.) and all local arrangements, including airport and local transportation, the keynote, and special events. You will also have an opportunity to briefly announce the conference to participants during one of the meals.

Sample One-Year Report 1 and One-Year Budget 1

Sample One-Year Report with Budget 2

(Note: Budgets will vary depending upon year, location and institution.)

November to May

The AIS Office Manager will contact you in advance of the October 20 and March 20 deadlines of Integrative Pathways to request any updated conference information (The Call is published in the December newsletter and a story about conference events in the May issue). The Office Manager will also contact you in early January about submitting information to the Chronicle of Higher Education which publishes upcoming deadlines (Call for Proposals) and upcoming events (the annual conference), published online and in print prior to the event.

You should circulate the Call with an appropriate welcoming letter to other groups with which your campus has an association. Local institutions within higher education, school districts, and professional associations may take a particular interest in the opportunity to interact with the AIS membership. Consider approaches to promoting the conference among graduate students as well. The AIS has actively welcomed graduate students as part of its effort to prepare students to participate in the scholarship and pedagogy of interdisciplinary.

Host institutions should place AIS conference information on their campus website and create a link to the AIS website by notifying the Office Manager that the website is ready to go live. The conference proposal submission form should be on the campus website and should specify electronic submissions only. Registration for the conference, etc., should all be done through the website, and evaluation of the conference should be done by way of a survey by direct email after the conference is over.

Make sure all random inquiries about AIS are sent off to the AIS Executive Director or the current AIS President.

The AIS Office Manager will contact publishers with interdisciplinary interests and associations with AIS authors to seek flyers, books, or representation at the conference. You may wish to contact local publishers and your local bookstore as well as campus authors who might have a special interest in the event. Some bookstores may welcome the opportunity to have sales at the conference book table. As the conference approaches, the Office Manager will contact you to communicate publisher interest so that you may make arrangements for shipping, display, and processing sales. Your planning committee should include a book table/display table subgroup to manage these activities.

Make sure that the telephone number that is advertised for the conference leads to an office where someone is available from 9 to 5 to answer routine questions. Then, be sure to instruct those who assist you as to where to send questions they cannot answer. Many email inquiries should be expected. Have a plan for routinely and promptly responding to email questions and to the arrival of proposals.

As proposals begin to arrive, respond to them promptly. Indicate a realistic date for communicating acceptance or rejection based upon the timing of your site visit and proposal review (normally by mid- to late May). Typically each year the Board mandates several sessions associated with Board initiatives–e.g., assessment, publication, research projects. You should expect proposals to be submitted for each of these sessions in the same format as other proposals. If proposals are incomplete, now is the time to communicate with proposers.

Make a separate file for each presentation/proposal submitted. That way you’ll have all pertinent information, correspondence, notes about phone calls, and actual proposals in one place. This will become increasingly useful later in the process when you will need to tag folders for various categories of information. Start a database that can be used for labels and lists, including your participant list.

You will also be asked to submit a status report to your Board liaison prior to the Board’s mid-winter meeting. This is an opportunity to receive feedback on the status of your planning, to problem solve regarding decisions to be made, and to receive input from the Board on any Board-mandated sessions or themes that will help to shape the conference program.

Sample Six-Month Report

By late May

Once the schedule has been firmed up, communicate the specifics to individual presenters, including the day and session time, the equipment specified, and, if possible, the names and email addresses of others who will be part of the same session. This might also be a good time to insert a brief preview of the conference plans. Make sure that the time allocation in the final program allows for a sufficient number of breaks, and enough time for discussion in each session. Make sure that punctuality with regard to time allocation for each speaker is observed. Try to include as many students as possible in the conference as presenters, staff, etc.

If you cannot send complete information on local arrangements and schedules at this time, give people an approximate idea and a reliable phone number to call for further information.
Seek moderators/chairs of sessions, if you wish, who will also be identified in the final program. They should be provided with a detailed instruction sheet to emphasize that time limits of presentations are firm and that discussion should be encouraged.

People whose proposals are rejected might be invited to serve as respondents in some sessions or to be in a special group session. They may also be asked to serve as moderators/chairs of sessions. Local faculty or (graduate) students may also be asked to serve in this capacity. AIS Board members and other AIS members may be called upon to assist you.

Confirm that your proposed registration fee continues to be adequate to cover your expenses. Make yet another check on local arrangements.

Consider including ads in the final program to increase revenues, and begin to make contacts at this time with external vendors.

Sample Acceptance to Presenters 1
Sample Acceptance to Presenters 2

By late June/early July

The AIS Office Manager will contact you in preparation for submitting a conference announcement and contact information to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Fall Gazette section.

The Office Manager will also confirm with you what publishers will either attend the conference or ship books for display purposes. You will need to follow up with the publishers to provide final arrangements for receiving shipments, displaying books, and returning 

By late July/early August

E-mail conference registration information with all appropriate and necessary forms included as links/attachments. Be sure to include part-time faculty status in addition to members, non-members, and students for registration fee options. Provide as much detail as you can about the presentations, the keynote address, and special features of the conference. Be sure you include a form on which people can indicate any special requirements, including vegetarian meals, handicapped facilities, and child care referrals. Stipulate that no more than two persons from an institution with institutional membership may register at the member rate; all others from the same institution, if not individual members, must pay the non-member rate. Indicate that presenters must pay a conference registration fee, and persons who want to attend only part of the conference must still pay the whole fee (member, non-member, student). You may wish to indicate a deadline by which presenters must register to be included in the program.

Sample Registration Form

AIS policy on dropouts (and refunds) should be in the registration information. If attendees drop out (and seek refunds), a refund (minus a $75 processing fee) is permitted until 21 days before the conference, with no refund after that (except in special circumstances). While the latter is AIS policy, institutional policy about such matters would trump AIS policy.

Order recyclable conference bags or folders, name badges, and lanyards for hanging badges (preferable to pinned or clipped badges), and any other materials needed for the conference.

In September

Plan to print your final version of the schedule/program (to go into the conference folder) as close as possible to the conference dates to reflect last-minute changes. Be sure to include not only names, titles, and affiliations of presenters but also names, etc. of respondents and moderators; include session titles, abstracts, and meeting rooms. Include on the inside front cover a directory of the current AIS Board and a list of AIS institutional members; include (on the last page) “See you next year in __________!”

Also include the following in the conference folder: an alphabetical list of names, addresses, fax numbers, and email addresses of all pre-registered participants, badges/name tags with large print, local restaurant guide, local cultural and other events, visitors’ map and guide to city/town, welcome letters from key institutional administrators and from the planning committee, conference evaluation form, notepad, pen or pencil, University campus map/guide (if relevant), AIS information brochure, special AIS events planned, flyers for AIS syllabi project, etc. Arrange to provide special badges or supplementary ribbons identifying Board members and campus hosts, as well as first-time AIS conference participants and attendees.

About two weeks before the conference, hosts should send a note to all attendees highlighting special speakers and other events and providing such practical information as might be useful– re: the weather.

Electronic Evaluation Survey
Summary of Evaluation Survey
Sample Evaluation Form 1  
Sample Evaluation Form 2

Review final arrangements:
a) local housing and transportation – Be sure to communicate with the hotel or campus location about where mailings can be sent several days before and during the conference.
b) equipment and room needs, including signs at rooms with session titles, videotaping, A-V equipment, etc. Hosts should have a bank of computers on site so that members can renew memberships, suggest topics for future presentations/panels/workshops and submit papers for Issues in Integrative Studies.
c) catering, including exact counts for meals, cancellations and substitutions; breakfast/lunch, and dinner menus; beverage breaks, etc.
d) moderators for sessions, including distribution of instruction sheet, bios of presenters, and a training session, if possible, prior to the conference
e) availability of display tables for registration, AIS memorabilia, book and journal display, and display of member institutions program materials; message bulletin boards; hospitality area for breaks, preferably near display tables. Hosts should have a box at the registration desk where attendees may submit papers for Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies (or statements that they plan to submit papers).
f) staffing of registration desks (clerks, receipt books, AIS membership forms, etc.) with designated work shifts; who will be problem-solving during off hours?
g) provision to distribute names and addresses of participants who register late/on-site
h) provision for distribution of evaluation form (if not in conference folders); some incentive for participation in the evaluation session; e.g., a prize
i) volunteers to serve as hosts, drivers, etc.
j) campus groups and city/campus dignitaries who will play a role in welcoming or entertaining attendees
k) publicity for conference in university student and other publications; local/area colleges and universities
l) a breakfast and/or lunch session with special interest tables (conference sub-themes and/or professionally related themes: IDS curriculum, administration, assessment, job-seeking, publication, SOITL, etc.) with a moderator/host assigned to each table to facilitate and focus discussion
m) arrangements for brief presentations at meals: hosting campus’ welcome; business meeting with introduction of the Board, including announcement of new Board members by the President of AIS, announcement of subsequent year’s conference by its host; your own thank you message and recognitions; updates on conference logistics.
n) conference photographer – Hosts should arrange for a photographer(s) to cover all events.

Submit a final report on the conference by January 1, including your final budget, all data related to the conference, such as states and countries represented, final number of attendees from each, final number of presenters from each, etc., an assessment of the outcomes in terms of logistics, quality of proposals, programming, the planning process, the budget and any other issues that arose during the course of conference planning and the conference itself. Copies of the report should be submitted to the conference liaison, the AIS President, and the Executive Director.

Submit a lively post-conference article for the December issue of Integrative Pathways by October 20 (or no later than 5 days after the conference, if in late October/early November). Send a list of names and addresses of all attendees paying the non-member rate to the AIS Office Manager by November 15, so they may be added to membership lists for the December newsletter mailing and for the following year.

Final Conference Report (2012)
Final Conference Report (2016)
Final Budget Summary 1
Final Budget Summary 2
Post-Conference Article

(Note: Budgets will vary depending upon year, location and institution.)

Send new membership fees (including a list of new members) and the conference income (contributions, registration income, and the sale of AIS memorabilia) above and beyond your institution’s expenses (keeping in mind the institution’s subvention commitment) to the Executive Director of the AIS. Make sure all income associated with book and journal sales has been dispersed appropriately and any unsold books returned, if requested.

Congratulations on accomplishing the daunting task of coordinating a conference! We hope that you found the experience to be invigorating and satisfying and that you will continue to play an active role in the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies. We welcome your continuing input into the conference planning process, and we hope that you will encourage colleagues at other institutions to host an AIS conference. You are now among a select group of colleges and universities that form a part of the history of AIS.

Contacts for Conference Information

AIS contacts for conference, questions, concerns are listed below. They will be happy to provide you with additional information.

Roslyn Abt Schindler, AIS Conference Liaison, (313-577-3002),

Listed below are a few more samples to help you in developing reports for your institution’s conference. Please note budgets will vary depending upon year, location, and institution.
Three-year report (2009 conference)
Two-year report (2008 conference)
One-year report (2007 conference)
Final budget (2007 conference)
Evaluation form (2007 conference)