Travel and Special Events: Conferences and Special Events

The conference planning section of the SAO Travel and Special Events Group has established excellent working relationships with Boston area hotel sales staff, caterers, and transportation companies. These resources are available to assist conference administrators with planning specific meetings, thus eliminating the need to "reinvent the wheel." (The conference administrator is the person selected by the division administrator to coordinate budget and other event planning aspects of a given conference.)

Once meeting details are in place, and the budget approved by the Financial Management Department, the Travel and Special Events Group is ready to assist with the myriad details related to its actual management. The following is a listing of services available to the conference administrator.

Site Selection
  • Provide identification of potential meeting sites, by using the Department's up-to-date inventory of hotels in the Boston area, which includes hotel information worldwide.
  • If meeting date is flexible, suggest and assist in securing dates that will best suit scientists and still fall within per diem.
Hotel Negotiations
  • Work with hotel sales staff to secure best available rate.
  • Provide information on hotel particulars, such as room type, bed choice, in-room amenities, dataport information, etc.
  • Ascertain and advise on hotel policy regarding reservation name changes, charges for early departure, complimentary rooms, services for VIP accommodations, attrition charges on rooms, meeting space, food and beverage services, penalties for cancellation, and accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  • Coordinate contract reviews and signings with Purchasing.
Meeting Rooms
  • Negotiate meeting room rental charges.
  • Evaluate meeting room potential, considering preferred layout, type of function, number of attendees, necessary equipment, and hotel set-up restrictions.
  • Work with hotel sales staff in arranging meeting room set-up and registration; signage and poster board set-up; podiums and flip charts; audio-visual equipment and materials; and fax lines and computer/e-mail connections.
  • Act as liaison with appropriate catering facilities (hotel or outside vendor, if meeting occurs outside hotel).
  • Provide suggestions for unusual venues for special lunches/dinners (i.e., Harvard Club, Aquarium, Museum of Science).
  • Offer interesting and diverse menu options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee breaks, cocktail parties, and afternoon teas.
  • Arrange for special dietary meals, if necessary.
  • Coordinate details with caterers and call in guarantees at appropriate times.
Registration/Conference Materials
  • Supply general information and maps of local area for attendees. (Note: Specific meeting information--i.e., list of attendees, abstracts, meeting schedules, name tags, etc.--is the responsibility of the conference administrator.)
  • Coordinate services offered by the Public Affairs Group (i.e., special news releases, information handouts, contract photographic services.)
  • Arrange for airport transfers for out-of-town attendees.
  • Negotiate with motorcoach companies to provide transfers for meeting attendees.
  • Offer suggestions and arrange optional sightseeing for attendees (i.e., Duck Tours, symphony tickets, museum admissions, etc.).
  • Contract with vendors for any decorations (i.e. flowers, balloons, and music).
  • Act as repository for information to assist scientists in planning future meetings (i.e., sample posters, venues, programs, etc.).
  • Maintain travel office website, with general information and meeting checklists for conference administrators.
  • Facilitate the timely processing of travel vouchers, specifically for no-fee consultants.
  • Work with local Convention and Visitors Bureau to utilize appropriate services and supplies.
  • Provide final walk-through for programs handled by Travel that includes all events at the meeting site and registration area, a review of the hotel rooming list with the front desk, and a "pre-con" meeting with all appropriate personnel.
  • Conduct postmeeting review.

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