Early last fall, Sayeed Choudhury was charged with coordinating a three-day conference that would attract nearly 300 people from all over the world to Johns Hopkins. No small task. As director of the MSE Library's Digital Knowledge Center, not only did he have to create the content of the program, he had to sweat all the small stuff, too: accommodations, food, meeting space, equipment needs, parking. Put simply, his to-do list swelled to epic proportions.
"I was in a bit of a panic," Choudhury says.
Fortunately, he discovered that help was only a campus phone call away.
He contacted a new service that helps Hopkins faculty and staff plan and coordinate both one-day and multiday meetings and conferences. Choudhury learned that the service could organize all his conference's arrangements, everything from catering and lodging to brochures and name badges.
His champion was Meeting Management Services, introduced in October 2001 and offered through the Department of Housing and Dining Services at Homewood. According to Toni Decker, the new program's administrator, Meeting Management Services can handle an event from start to finish, or just take care of one small detail.
"Whatever people need for us to rent or to get for them in order to have a successful meeting, we'll do that," Decker says. "We can coordinate everything and let others just focus on the important program details. We can take away most of the headaches."
Choudhury says the service did exactly that.
"On my own, it was hard to know where to start. Eventually I would have learned who to contact, but it would have taken me a lot longer," says Choudhury, whose information technology conference, Web-Wise 2002, took place last week. "This service allowed me to worry about the intellectual focus of the conference. I left all the logistics up to them."
The new service is an offshoot of the existing Conference Services, which coordinates the housing, dining and meeting room needs for summer programs at Hopkins. Established in 1991, Conference Services coordinates 40 to 50 programs per summer, ranging from youth lacrosse camps to medical conferences.
Decker says the success of those programs led many employees to contact her office regarding meeting planning during the academic year.
"But at the time they called, we were solely concentrating on the summer programs and didn't have either the staff or pricing structure in place to offer them any assistance," Decker says. "That is why we came up with the idea of offering meeting planning services year-round."
Meeting Management Services has already helped coordinate five conferences, Decker says, with Web-Wise 2002 being the largest to date.
"We would typically handle any event with 50 or more people," Decker says, "but no conference is too small if it's a service to the university."
Meeting Management Services is currently focusing on the Homewood campus. However, Decker adds that "we welcome anyone who is part of Hopkins to use our service."
In addition to working with university service departments such as Plant Operations and on-campus vendors such as Sodexho, Meeting Management Services can coordinate off-campus services and negotiate reduced rates at area hotels. Service packages range in price from $2 to $17 per person, depending on the services that are required.
Decker says she anticipates that the new program will increase the number of conferences held at Hopkins.
"We are certainly encouraging people to take on the responsibility of running their national conferences here, because now there is help," Decker says. "It's a big task making a conference go well, but that is what we are here for."
For more information, contact Toni Decker at 410-516-3962, or go to www.jhu.edu/~hds/conf.