A training symposium may be organized by a professional association or organization, a state or federal agency, or a local coalition or initiative. It usually has the purpose of teaching a group about a particular topic, and so it might include workshops or lectures. It might also have more hands-on, interactive elements, such as group work or theater groups.
The issue or problem a conference is intended to focus on might range from “Education Summits” called by the President and attended by eminent teachers and school administrators from large cities, to local-coalition-sponsored events focusing on child abuse in the community. Depending on the importance of the issue and the enthusiasm of the participants, this kind of conference can turn into an annual event.
Organizing a training symposium involves some of the same basic tasks as any other conference: publicizing, choosing a location, arranging for registration and information tables, finding ways to accommodate meals, breaks, and other events, etc., all with a goal of making the whole thing as smooth and efficient as possible for the participants.
It is most effective to have a team or committee that will be in charge of the details. Having several people means that there are more voices to consider each decision and that there is a greater chance of everyone having an interest in the conference and being willing to work hard to make it a success.
In any case, the organizing group should have representatives from all major areas of the project and from various departments and divisions within the sponsoring organization. It should be made up of individuals with the time, energy, and ability to do the job.
Schedule the sessions for the conference so that participants can follow topical threads (e.g., a series of sessions on depression or working with Hispanic populations). If possible, choose a location that makes it easy to travel from one session to the next.
Appoint a “host” for each session, who will introduce the presenter, keep track of time, hand out printed materials, and collect evaluation forms, if necessary. The host should also put out a sign-up sheet for continuing education credit, if the conference offers it.
If the conference will include a dinner, the host should arrange for food and drinks. This can be done at the site or elsewhere, and may involve hiring caterers.
Arrange for adequate space for the meals, breaks, and other conference events that will be held throughout the day. This is particularly important if the conference includes more than a few hours of lectures, because participants will need plenty of room to sit comfortably and talk with other attendees.
Find a place that is comfortable and accessible for the participants, and where the presenters can set up their equipment without disturbing others or creating traffic congestion. It might help to arrange for a few volunteers to staff registration and information tables, direct people to sessions, and hand out materials.