What is the timeline for proposals and site announcements?
Official calls for proposals typically circulate in the spring of odd-numbered years (e.g., 2011, 2013, 2015) and the site location is generally announced at the FemRhet conference later that year. Lately, however, we have tried to secure site hosts for two conferences at a time. At the 2015 conference, we announced the locations for 2017 and 2019. Our current call solicits sites for 2021 and 2023, and we hope to announce both site host locations at FemRhet 2019.
What makes a strong site-hosting proposal?
The site selection team generally looks for proposals that depict a clear conference theme and an ability to connect that theme to the proposed location. In addition, exemplary proposals will do the following:
- articulate clear collaboration with community partners, including local artists, local organizations doing work relevant to the conference theme, or nearby colleges in the area, wherever relevant;
- outline clear and sufficient administrative support (including carving out roles for various ranks of faculty and students to become involved);
- describe sources of anticipated and actual funding;
- offer good insight into what spaces the conference will inhabit and how those spaces and activities follow the conference theme;
- describe how they might compensate for amenities not available—for example, if the proposed site is a smaller campus or not within immediate vicinity of a larger airport; and
- be realistic about the logistics built into their planning.
Your conference theme will help determine whether your partnerships are local or cross-institutional, but we encourage you to think as inclusively as possible. Site-hosting proposals from the three most recent conferences are available upon request. [Please query our current President, Tarez Graban, via e-mail.]
What are the ideal sites?
Ideal sites are those that offer ease of access to the conference, allow conference participants to move around easily, are relatively affordable, are located in an area with reasonable proximity to inexpensive airports and hotels, and offer opportunities to engage and interact with both the campus and the local community. Perusing past programs will give you a sense of the conference’s regional spread.
When are the best dates for the conference?
As a fall conference, FemRhet is typically held sometime in October, with a few exceptions to this rule (i.e., the 1997 conference was held in August, and the 2019 conference will be held in November). October has worked well for us, but the precise dates are up to you. We ask only that you try to be sensitive to other conference dates (e.g., the Watson Conference, Western States Rhetoric and Literacy, the Cultural Rhetorics Conference, NCTE, NCA), and that you try to select a date when there will be significant availability of hotel rooms and transportation in and out of your area (i.e., at many large schools, football weekends probably aren’t ideal).
The conference typically begins on Wednesday morning and runs through Saturday afternoon, although some FemRhet conferences have operated on a more condensed schedule—from Thursday morning through Saturday noon.
How should we schedule the registration deadline?
The registration deadline should occur in the same fiscal year as the conference (i.e., no earlier than July 1, 2021 for the 2021 conference, and preferably later than that). Many of our members rely on advances from their university departments in order to pay registration fees, and sometimes they are limited in terms of how many months in advance they may request conference funding.
How many people traditionally attend the conference?
Conference registration has consistently been around 400 people. Conference attendance per day fluctuates, of course, and you should take that into consideration when you negotiate your room block with the hotels.
How many rooms—and what type of rooms—do we need?
This is entirely up to you based on the number of people that you accept for presentations. Past conferences have made use of a combination of lecture-style (rows of chairs) rooms, theaters, and roundtables, depending on the nature of the sessions. We encourage you to offer space options that not only are reasonable and feasible for your campus, but also work well with the location or theme.
Perusing past programs may give you the best sense of how various conference organizers have split their time and organized their space. For example, the 2013 conference organizers offered approximately 5 concurrent sessions each day for 4 days, with each session featuring up to 10 panels concurrently. They also scheduled 5 keynote or plenary events in a large meeting room during which nothing else was planned.
We do require at least one meeting room/conference hall that can hold all of the conference participants during the keynote(s), and in which the Coalition can confer its annual awards and make organizational announcements.
Additional space might be desirable for offering continental breakfast, setting up artists’ or authors’ exhibits, holding workshops or mentoring sessions, displaying digital projects or posters, or breast-feeding and childcare.
What kind of setup / equipment do we need in each room?
At minimum, ballrooms and lecture-style rooms should include a lectern or head table for presenters, and all rooms should have an LCD projector with screen. Internet access is desirable, although we recognize the prohibitive cost of this service on some campuses.
How many meals should the conference provide?
Shared meals are a significant part of community building and we ask that the conference provide at least one event with food—a luncheon or dinner—where the conference can come together as a whole. Beyond that, there is no rule, but please keep in mind the following:
- The number of meals you provide should reflect the ease with which people can get access to inexpensive and healthful food near the conference site. If participants must purchase a majority of their own meals, then they will need more varied and less expensive options than only the food offered at their hotels. They will also need time built into the schedule for them to eat their meals in a fairly relaxed manner without missing too many sessions.
- About 50% of conference participants are graduate students, and an all-inclusive (or mostly inclusive) registration usually helps decrease their financial expenditures, though not always. There may be ways to negotiate food costs with your conference site, by offering a buffet or purchasing boxed meals on a certificate program (where you pay only for meals actually consumed).
- Many of our conference participants have dietary restrictions: vegan, vegetarian (no fish, fish, no dairy, dairy, etc.), sugar-free, gluten-free, etc. It is helpful if people have options. We encourage you to ask participants if they will require a certain meal type during the registration process so you can evaluate the demand.
How many people should be on the planning committee?
The more the better! Putting together a conference like this one is labor-intensive. We do not recommend that you do this without some explicit departmental support, in the form of course release(s), resources, collaborators, and/or student assistants.
What are the Coalition’s requirements?
As co-sponsors of FemRhet, we do have a few requirements, and we will work with you to ensure that they can be met within the parameters and flow of the conference that you and your team envision:
- List the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition as a co-host.
- Allow us some time at your first Plenary Session and again later in the conference to make announcements and confer awards (15-minutes time slots).
- Provide a dedicated time and space for the Coalition’s Advisory Board meeting, typically in the middle of the conference (~75-90 minutes).
- Provide 2 pages in the conference program to include relevant Coalition information.
- If requested, reserve 1-2 dedicated sessions for Coalition-sponsored activities (i.e., manuscript mentoring, roundtables, garden talks, etc.). At your and the President’s discretion, these dedicated sessions may occur prior to the conference, or as concurrent panels during the conference. Some years, they may not be requested at all.
- Represent both the Coalition and the Conference in a positive manner.
- Host your conference page on the Feminisms and Rhetorics website. How this will occur can be discussed with the Coalition’s Web Coordinator, but it will enable us to archive your CFP and program pages.
- Devise a registration process that accounts for two tiers of rates: one for current members, and one that includes the cost of a one-year (or longer) membership for non-members.
- Split the profits with the Coalition 50/50, and report estimated profits to the Advisory Board within six months after the conference.
What kinds of budgetary items should we consider?
Here is a sample list of budgetary items from a prior conference:
- AV and/or internet services
- Conference badges and registration packets
- Conference insurance
- Credit Card Fees (2.5% or 3% of all credit card transactions)
- Food (including 20% tax, 18% tip)
- Honoraria for plenary speakers
- Interpreter services (if not provided by your campus)
- Miscellaneous office supplies—paper, pens, electric cords, thank you cards, etc.
- Printing costs (program, signs, buttons, maps)
- Registration Costs (if handled by an outside provider or conference planner)
- Thank you items/tips
- Transportation to/from off-site events
- Use of a conference planner for food, registration, and/or pre- or post-conference events
What else should we consider?
Membership Requirements: Beginning with the 2017 FemRhet Conference, we have asked conference organizers to ensure that all registrants are Coalition members, and to devise a conference registration fee schedule that includes a one-year membership (or longer) for registrants who need to join or renew. This means establishing tiers of rates. The Coalition handles membership purchases and renewals through PayPal [see our “Membership” page for current rates], and we will work with you to devise the best process for you, whether that means using an online marketplace through your university or creating a link from your registration page to our membership page.
Community Partners: The involvement of community partners—locally or cross-institutionally—takes time. It is wise to begin making queries at the proposal stage and to build community elements into the program at the outset, rather than including them later.
Insurance: We recommend that you obtain or purchase insurance for the conference if your institution or conference center does not have an existing policy. We will gladly sign a MOU or conference agreement acknowledging the policies you have in place.
Accessibility/Interpreter Services: Our attendees range in age and rank, from student to retiree, so we ask you to think about issues related to age and accessibility when scheduling sessions and planning special events. You may want to query with the ADA office on your campus (if you have one) about their services and provisions for participants who are seeing- or hearing-impaired. We encourage you to ask participants if they will require an interpreter, special assistance, or accessibility aids during the registration process so that you can evaluate the demand and adjust accordingly.
Restrooms: We ask that you provide a gender-neutral or unisex bathroom. This allows everyone access to a safe restroom space. One way to do this is to provide information on the locations of single-stall restrooms or unisex restrooms. Another way is to convert a bathroom (preferably the men’s restroom, as our conference tends to attract more female members) into a unisex bathroom.
If you are holding the conference on your campus: We encourage you to find out whether your institution has a conference planning office that can help you organize the conference, handle registration, and schedule rooms. Most planning offices will negotiate an all-inclusive per-attendee fee depending upon the services they provide.
If you are holding the conference at an off-campus location: You might consider consulting with a conference planner, especially when negotiating the room block and the meal plans. It is good to have someone on your side who knows how to negotiate services and talk to hotel managers, as it may not always be in the best interests of the hotel to help you get the best deal. A conference planner is also useful if you want to arrange a Wednesday night or Saturday afternoon/evening event.
Your city or town may have a local convention-planning center who could help. For example, the 2007 FemRhet conference registration was handled entirely by the Little Rock Tourism board for three dollars per registration. They established a conference account; accepted credit cards, checks, and purchase orders; returned registration fees; deposited monies into the conference account; settled with credit card companies; created name tags; created welcome banners for the airport; and managed the registration desk.
What kind of support does the Coalition provide?
The Coalition offers the following forms of support, though we are more than happy to add to this list as your needs evolve:
- Seed money: The Coalition will provide you with up to $2000 seed money. (Seed funding remains separate from conference profits and need not be returned to us.)
- Advice and assistance with insurance information: The Executive Committee and selected members of the Advisory Board will also provide support and/or advice with insurance information, where needed. Many of us have hosted the conference before and we are happy to answer any and all questions.
- Advice and assistance with establishing a bank/PayPal account or online marketplace: The Coalition can help you in working with your institution to manage conference expenses through an account you establish. Alternatively, you may use the Coalition’s bank account for drawing on and/or receiving conference funds; however, all requests for account activity would need to be managed as “contributions” through the CFSHRC Treasurer. For the greatest flexibility, conference hosts are strongly encouraged to deposit checks and pay expenses through an account established at their university, and strongly discouraged from using personal bank accounts to manage funds.
- Web support: Rather than requiring you to start the conference site from scratch, the Coalition’s Web Coordinator will create a series of pages for you to develop with own conference logo and web content.
- FemRhet Liaisons: For each FemRhet conference, the Coalition forms a small team of liaisons to perform off-site work on several initiatives, should you desire them. In the past, this has included soliciting and organizing publisher displays, organizing book displays, generating a list of plenary/keynote speakers, reading proposals, and soliciting materials for “swag” bags, among other things.
(revised November 2019)