If your conference does not already have a student task force, then we strongly recommend exploring this approach. This summer we worked closely with the student task force at a large international conference. Not only was it a huge pleasure to meet this group of enthusiastic, smart and hard-working young people from across the world, but we were also hugely impressed by what they brought to the conference and the association.
The student task force model usually gives students a free conference registration and pays for their travel and accommodation. In return the students provide hands-on support to conference delegates during the conference. This can include activities such as administrative support at presentation or workshop sessions, giving directions to delegates, staffing the registration desk or onsite helpdesk. Clearly this model can help conference organisers by providing extra onsite help to ensure that delegates feel fully supported at all times. But it does much more than that. The students are not just hired in help but they already have relevant knowledge of conference research area – since they are studying or researching within this domain. So the students will be engaged and enthusiastic participants in all conference activities – contributing to discussions and idea generation. This is why it is important to ensure that the student task force members have some choice over which sessions to support and/or also have free time in their schedule to attend sessions of the conference that are of greatest interest to them.
These keen students, who have travelled across the world and given up their time to come and support the conference, will almost certainly become champions for the conference and the association. They are also likely to be future leaders in their fields. So the association will benefit hugely from providing them with a great learning and network experience at their first conference.
We would like to thank the students who worked with us this summer. We hope you enjoyed participating in the conference as much as we enjoyed meeting and learning from you.