Best Practices and Information for Preconference Planners

from the ALCTS Program Committee

Formats and Scheduling

In-person Preconferences

May be one day or two days. Occasionally, we may offer the option of signing up for only one day of a two-day event, but this requires special coordination with ALA to set up the registration.

ALA has a no-conflict time for the opening general session at 4 pm on Friday afternoon. Friday preconferences therefore must end at 4 pm or earlier. The usual starting time has been 8:30am, but in light of the no-conflict time on Friday, we may consider starting earlier on Friday to provide more value for participants.

Lunch is not provided. Schedule from 75 to 90 minutes for attendees to have lunch on their own.

Typically there is a morning break and an afternoon break each day of a preconference. While preconference planners have some flexibility in arranging speakers or topics on the schedule, breaks for all ALCTS preconference events on the same day should start at the same time for catering purposes.

Leave time for discussion and questions and answers. For preconferences, it is good to schedule multiple Q&A or discussion sessions (e.g., morning and afternoon). We recommend a timekeeper or moderator to keep the speakers on schedule.

We highly recommend hands-on exercises or small group discussion opportunities during preconferences.

Virtual Preconferences

See the FAQ for Virtual Preconferences and Virtual Midwinter Symposia.

Virtual preconferences or virtual Midwinter symposia are a series of 2 or more webinars during the weeks leading up to the Annual Conference or Midwinter Meeting.

Virtual preconferences are not subject to the same deadlines as in-person preconferences.

Sponsorships and Funding

All funding and sponsorship requests must be vetted through the ALCTS Fundraising Committee—NO EXCEPTIONS. Do not approach vendors or funding sources before talking to the Chair of the Fundraising Committee.

“In name only” (i.e., no money attached) co-sponsorship by committees, divisions, interest groups, etc. outside of ALCTS will increase advertising and promotion for your event. You may seek “in name only” co-sponsorship yourself after receiving approval of the preconference from the Program Committee. Please ask the chair of the cosponsoring group to complete the cosponsorship form.

What ALCTS Pays for (Preconferences Only)

  1. Preconference registration and a small stipend for up to 6 speakers for a one-day preconference.
  2. Preconference registration for members of the preconference planning committee.
  3. Continental breakfast and refreshments for afternoon break.
  4. Handout copying (see below)
  5. Standard A/V setup (see below)


Deadlines are set by ALA and are non-negotiable. Occasionally, ALCTS receives very little notice of a deadline, although we usually know the general time frames in advance. General information on deadlines follows, although specific dates are subject to change.

By this time, date(s), title, and description should be in final form and cannot be changed. Any speaker information (name, title, affiliation, email address and telephone number for each speaker) that is finalized should be submitted at this point in order to draw more interest. However, speaker information may be updated later.

Early-mid February.
Updates to speaker information are due.

Mid-late February.
Special A/V requests (beyond standard setup) are due to the ALCTS office.

Late May.
Handouts due to the ALCTS office (see below for more information on handouts).


Write your preconference description carefully. This is your primary opportunity to promote it. Descriptions may be no longer than 75 words. Be creative, interesting, and informative. Remember that attendees or administrators must be convinced that it is worth their money and time. Don’t include speaker names in the description. The Program Committee or ALCTS staff may edit your description for style and clarity. 

A/V and Room Setup

The standard A/V setup for preconferences is:

  • 1 screen
  • 1 projector
  • 1 PC (with internet access)
  • 1 podium with microphone
  • Head table for four (If you need additional head table seating, notify the Program Committee or ALCTS staff before Midwinter)
  • 1 microphone on head table

If you need additional or alternative A/V arrangements, notify the Program Committee as soon as possible. Special A/V requests are subject to approval of the ALCTS Executive Director and ALA Conference Services.

The standard room set-up for preconferences is round tables of 10. If you need a different room set-up, please notify the Program Committee and explain why another arrangement is needed.


Handouts are due to the ALCTS office from 4 to 6 weeks prior to the conference. ALCTS will reproduce the following for preconferences:

  • Agenda
  • Speaker names and brief biographies
  • Abstracts
  • Speaker handouts (no page limit)

Handouts may also be distributed electronically. In 2011, two of the preconferences used ALA Connect to post handouts, slides, and other materials. The Connect space is opened to the participants before the event so that they can print or save these materials. Although the Connect software will generate e-mails to participants who are in the space and opt in to receive e-mails, the preconference planner should notify the participants about electronic handouts on Connect in a targeted e-mail.


The ALCTS office creates online participant evaluations for preconferences. You may request modifications to the standard evaluation or create your own. Contact Julie Reese ( to make changes to the evaluation or notify her that you will be creating your own.