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Policy

Regional meetings: A key value of ACS

by Lee H. Latimer, Director-at-Large, ACS Board of Directors
June 13, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 24

Lee Latimer
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Credit: Courtesy of Lee Latimer
Credit: Courtesy of Lee Latimer

ACS is rare among professional societies: We run two large national meetings each year with logistics managed by professional staff, and we have up to 10 regional meetings (RMs) each year organized by volunteers. RMs are tremendous activities and offer great opportunities for the chemical enterprise. I believe enhancing the value of RMs will greatly benefit ACS members. Have you been to one recently?

Regions were established by groups of ACS local sections to promote chemistry and to enhance connections among members. As cochair of an RM, I appreciated the challenges and opportunities to meet those goals. The meetings are put on by teams of volunteers with assistance from ACS staff and their respective regional boards. Hosting a meeting is a great part of a long-term plan for your section.

An RM has many valuable aspects to highlight. For many ACS members, an RM is more convenient and less expensive than a national meeting, and it is a setting that makes connections with peers easier. An RM is a great opportunity for vendors to efficiently strengthen or develop new contacts.

For ACS divisions, an RM is a great opportunity to significantly serve their members and recruit new members through programming symposia and proactive, early support of meetings. Some divisions contact organizers directly, an approach highly encouraged by past meeting organizers.

An RM is a great venue for members to make presentations, and all abstracts go into Chemical Abstracts Service databases for citing on a résumé. Many undergraduate and graduate students make their first public presentations at RMs. Industrial chemists can enhance their company’s visibility and their own careers.

An RM symposium is a great way to honor retiring members and bring back former students and collaborators. An RM may also be a great venue for a symposium with a regional focus, for example, one concerning a technology or a government science and technology center. For companies, sponsorship of an RM or support of technical programming is a promotional and recruitment strategy. An RM is a great way for colleges and universities to highlight faculty and research programs and to recruit students.

RMs often have short courses or leadership development courses from ACS or other groups to enhance one’s career.

Typically, there’s also a signature event for all attendees, including barbecues, visits to aircraft carriers and museums, and extraordinary talks that inspire.

“Enhancing the value of regional meetings will greatly benefit ACS members.”

RMs are a great opportunity for students to participate in, and to even plan and run, symposia. And let’s not forget the value of poster sessions to engage peers one-on-one. For some, RMs are a fun road trip as well!

Local sections that plan and work on these events for two to four years receive key benefits. These include branding as a significant player in their region, contacts with other sections that can lead to continuing joint programs, vendor relationships that can lead to the sponsorship of future events, and financial benefits from a meeting surplus. Organizers gain a substantial addition to their résumés, access to new contacts and colleagues with common interests, and a reputation for getting things done.

There are many common challenges: deciding who will lead; choosing a venue; addressing concerns about fund-raising, costs, and the risk of a potential loss; securing commitment to the project from organizers; establishing a meeting team without experience; comparing the current endeavor with previous RMs; creating and launching a website; and building in enough lead time for the project. These are very real concerns, but they are not without solutions or ways to address them. Some strategies include holding joint meetings among sections and regions, or with other societies, and focusing on a section or region anniversary.

Section engagement in your regional board is an opportunity for you to learn from others and see how other sections have fared in past RMs. Consider involving members of the previous RM team in your core team. Get involved with your regional board!

The Regional Meetings Planning Conference that takes place each fall in Washington, D.C., is a huge help in addressing concerns, guiding planning, and developing effective timelines. This year, the conference will bring regional board representatives together as a new initiative.

Logistics resources and other useful services are available from ACS to members organizing meetings. Many organizer resources are available online at bit.ly/1WDekxC. The goal of these resources is to help with back-office work so organizers can accomplish more. The resources include guidance for negotiating contracts, registration services, credit card billing, mass e-mails to region members to solicit papers and promote the meeting, plaque ordering for regional awards, mobile app setup, and the national meeting abstract submission process. Note: The abstract submission deadline for RMs is only two months ahead of an RM!

High-value supporting resources should make hosting a meeting a great activity for you and your section. What’s holding you back? We want to hear from you!

Send your comments to the ACS Regions Community on the ACS Network, to me at L.Latimer@acs.org, or to your regional board representative or the Office of Regional Meetings (Office of Regional Meetings).

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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