Make the Most of Being a Host

Top Tips For Hosting a Successful Local Chapter Seminar

By Rhonda Buckholtz, CPC, CPC-H
Hosting a local chapter seminar doesn’t have to be overwhelming or stressful. I went out in search of some “seminar experts” to help us learn what to do and what to avoid for a successful seminar.

Make it a Team Effort

TEAMWORK was their overwhelming response. I had the wonderful experience of attending New Haven Connecticut’s one-day seminar in September where I met Carmencita (Menchu) Rubin, CPC. Her energy amazed me as she was great at assessing the needs of the group and making sure the preparations were carried through. “The team effort and dedication of officers greatly contribute to the success of our meetings and conferences,” states Menchu. And overwhelmingly the other chapters I contacted assured me of the same thing. Claire Bartkewicz, CPC-H from New Jersey agrees, “It definitely takes a team effort to have a successful conference.” She says, “We are lucky enough to have a great group who goes above and beyond – from finding and confirming speakers and vendors to making the event special for all who attend.”

Plan Ahead

Planning is exceptionally essential. Most chapters indicated to me that they met on a monthly basis as soon as the date for the next year was set. Tom Beach, CPC of North Carolina says that “as for planning, we started in the hotel room before we checked out of the hotel on the last day of our second conference to plan for the third.” He recommends starting a planning committee as soon as you decide on hosting a seminar. Keep the group small to be effective and then form subcommittees to help out the main committee members. What works great is that each committee member can then branch out and recruit members to help accomplish what is on each list of goals, which works especially well when it is multiple chapters coming together to form a state conference. Keep the committees organized and on task with good communication to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Know Your Surroundings

Make sure you know your audience and facility. Research your speakers and also remember that you can host a wonderful seminar with speakers from your local areas, which helps save on costs. Check your contract with the facility to make sure there are no hidden costs. Keith Govednik, CPC, Minnesota told me their chapters found out the hard way. Make sure you check for gratuities and surcharges. Also, always plan for the unexpected! Delayed flights, inclement weather and extra hotel stays can hurt your bottom line so be sure you plan for some extra expenses in your budget.

Appeal to the Masses

Educational topics that appeal to larger masses are a must for successful seminars. Depending on your budget you can host a successful seminar with either local or national speakers. Kelly Anastasia, CPC, New Haven says, “I think we try to find a speaker or speakers that would benefit all attendees, ie: private practice, facility setting, consultants and teachers. With that, we try to make the fee affordable, the location convenient and offer a decent amount of CEU’s along with good food and great give-aways. Most important, we try to give back and our chapter is dedicated to contributing to the fight against breast cancer. That is probably the most important part of our Fall conference and I think making a donation from each attendees fee allows them to feel apart of something bigger.”
Setting a goal or a focused learning path is a great way to keep attendees motivated. Tom Beach says their 2008 October conference is looking for coders with heart (think Cardiology and Thoracic Surgery) while New Jersey’s conference focuses on the state Coder’s Day, and Minnesota’s conference  draws a big crowd with—The Mall of America just down the street.

Offer a Nice Price

Keep it affordable for your members. Try to find vendors to sponsor you for giveaways or possibly even a speaker. Make sur e you have a committee dedicated to finding funding and vendors. This allows for lower cost CEU’s for members and larger profits for chapters. Sometimes vendors have specialty speakers willing to speak to your group for a reduced fee or free.
Barbara Cobuzzi, CPC, CPC-H, CPC-P, CPC-OTO, CHMC, has spoken at many seminars across the country and is also involved in her local chapter. She has seen the seminar from both sides and is very proud of her chapter’s accomplishments. “The first two years we started offering the NJ Coder’s day symposium, we took the lower risk/lower return road. We partnered with a local community college and they provided a mailing list of those who attend and who had attended in the past for coding education to add to ours. They provided the facility, lunch and provided the administrative support to take all registrations,” she says. “But, they also took all of the registration fees in exchange for these services.  The chapter only received the monies earned from the exhibitors. After two years of experience, we felt knowledgeable enough to go out and do the symposium on our own, taking all of the risk and return.  And as a result, we were very successful, thus earning enough money to send members to the Orlando Annual conference. It was a great learning experience.”

Remain Lighthearted

Remembering to have fun while you are planning is essential. When stress gets the better of you take a break and refocus your efforts. Susan E. Garrison, CPC, CPC-H, CHC, PCS, FCS, CCS-P, CPAR, says to “Be happy about it. Problems will occur, but don’t let that set you back. All the local chapters with whom I’ve dealt have really done an amazing job of handling the planning, setup and taking care of their members. Little issues will happen—remember the main focus of the day and don’t let those circumstances get to you.”
Networking is essential. If you have an idea you want to put out for others opinions, try posting it on the member forums to see what others might have to say. With more than 60,000 members someone is bound to have had an experience that they are willing to share with you. You can post for speakers or topics or suggestions and get other great responses in addition to what I have found.

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