The Evolution of Regional Conferences

History of the Conferences

After a long hiatus from SMPS HQ hosting regional conferences, our chapters now coordinate these events to educate and connect members by providing an elevated professional experience in a small-scale environment and organized to support geographical networks and business and social cultures.  

The first of the modern-day conferences was the Southern (SRC) in 2003, which was followed by Southeastern (SERC) in 2005. Today, there can be seven conferences organized annually with a combined 1,500+ attendees. 

Evolution of the Conferences

Throughout the years, the conferences have grown in attendance and quality, and become more complicated to organize as the demands of our profession and conference planning have increased. In response to this, the Society’s board of directors formed a task force, comprised of representatives from every regional conference, to explore the future of the events  

The task force and HQ staff are developing guidelines on conferences to support learning and organizational goals, include every chapter, improve the attendee experience, and increase collaboration across the Society. Furthermore, with changes in technology, nonprofit governance, and legal liability, it was imperative to create a more unified structure for the conferences. 

Next Steps

One of the many notable outcomes of the task force’s work was an understanding that every conference must be organized as a nonprofit corporation. This is required by the Society’s board of directors. When established as such, along with the goals above, the conferences will also improve their continuity of operations year after year, and provide enhanced liability protection for the volunteers, attendees, the chapters and SMPS, in general. 

This year and next, the plans are for the conferences to be incorporated, which will include forming and training their boards of directors, recruiting volunteers from each chapter to serve on the planning committees, and improve the financial and organizational infrastructure.  

Timeline for Implementation

2018

October

SMPS Board of Directors voted to require the incorporation of all regional conferences.

December   

SMPS HQ hosted the first Regional Conference Summit. The summit served as a visioning workshop to explore how regional conferences and HQ can increase collaboration. It also provided an opportunity for conference leaders to share ideas. Representatives from all seven regional conferences were in attendance. A noteworthy outcome was the decision to develop a task force to continue working on goals and needs outlined during the summit. All seven attendees agreed to participate on the task force.

2019

January         

SMPS HQ Board of Directors appointed the task force.

Spring         

The outcomes of the summit were discussed with chapters leaders during the regional conferences and the Presidents’ Leadership Symposium (PLS) 2019.

June       

SMPS HQ legal counsel endorsed plan to incorporate the conferences and provided further guidance to accomplish this task.

August         

SMPS HQ met with the task force for the first time to give an overview of potential structure change. We also discussed ways SMPS HQ can support the regional conferences prior to the event and onsite.

Plans were discussed during the Chapter Leadership Forum at Build Business 2019 in Washington, D.C.

September 

SMPS HQ presented the task force with the proposed structure and received acceptance.

October       

SMPS HQ invited representatives from all 2020 regional conferences to our headquarters in Alexandria, VA for a planning meeting. The goal was to provide an opportunity for conference leaders to share ideas, understand how SMPS HQ can support their conference, and enhance the understanding and adoption of adult-learning principles and professional-level event management.

November   

SMPS HQ met with the task force to review drafts of legal documents and received feedback.

2020

Spring  

Legal counsel drafted the regional conference articles of incorporation.

SMPS HQ drafted guidelines and policies to provide guidance on finances, authority of directors, and planning committee roles.

Summer

A town hall for regional conference leaders and task force members was held on July 22 and questions were taken regarding the new structure and other items. (watch recording)

Fall

Chapter/SMPS HQ annual affiliation agreements were presented to chapter presidents. The agreement includes each chapter’s responsibility to participate in their respective regional conference when the corporation is officially active.

Winter

SMPS HQ hosted a town hall on Dec 3 for regional conference and chapter leaders to explain the structure and take questions. (watch recording)

SMPS HQ will work with the regional conferences to identify assets and liabilities for the purpose of the merger into the new corporation.

2021

Spring

SMPS HQ will work with the chapters to identify their representatives to serve as directors of the newly incorporated regional conferences.

An orientation webinar will be held for the inaugural regional conference corporation directors.

Regional Conference corporations will sign affiliation agreements with their participating chapters and SMPS HQ.

SMPS HQ will submit the articles of incorporation to the state of Delaware and register the corporations with the IRS, which will grant the conferences their tax exemption.

Summer

It’s anticipated the conferences will be incorporated by September 1, which is the first day of their fiscal year.

An orientation webinar will be held for all regional conference volunteers (for 2022+).

Regional Conference Task Force Members

Heartland Regional Conference (HRC) – Julie Roop

Missouri Valley Regional Conference (MVRC) – Lindsay Young, MBA, CPSM

Northeast Regional Conference (NERC) – Shannon Koop

Pacific Regional Conference (PRC) – Ginger Kelly

Southeastern Regional Conference (SERC) – Jennifer Weaver, CPSM

Southern Regional Conference (SRC) – Shonnah Driver

Southwest Regional Conference (SWRC) – Megan Mickey, CPSM

Proposed Chapter Alignments:

HRC – SMPS Chicago, SMPS Columbus, SMPS Greater Cincinnati, SMPS Indiana, SMPS Kentucky, SMPS Michigan, SMPS Northeast Ohio, SMPS Pittsburgh, SMPS Twin Cities, SMPS Wisconsin

MVRC – SMPS Kansas City, SMPS Nebraska, SMPS Ozarks, SMPS St. Louis, SMPS Wichita

NERC – SMPS Boston, SMPS Central Pennsylvania, SMPS Connecticut, SMPS Maryland, SMPS New York, SMPS Northern New England, SMPS Philadelphia, SMPS Upstate New York, SMPS Washington, D.C., SMPS Ontario

PRC – SMPS Alaska, SMPS Hawaii, SMPS Inland Empire, SMPS Las Vegas, SMPS Los Angeles, SMPS Orange County, SMPS Oregon, SMPS Sacramento, SMPS San Diego, SMPS San Francisco, SMPS Seattle

SERC – SMPS Alabama, SMPS Atlanta, SMPS Central Florida, SMPS Charlotte, SMPS Nashville, SMPS North Florida, SMPS Palmetto, SMPS Research Triangle, SMPS South Florida, SMPS Tampa Bay, SMPS Virginia

SRC – SMPS Austin, SMPS Dallas, SMPS Fort Worth, SMPS Houston, SMPS Oklahoma, SMPS San Antonio, SMPS Southeast Louisiana

SWRC – SMPS Arizona, SMPS Colorado, SMPS New Mexico, SMPS Utah

Questions? Reach out to Julio Santos, SMPS HQ Component Relations Manager at julio@smps.org