1st Language Creation Conference
Berkeley, CA - 23 April 2006
Links & Press

Behind the Scenes
Detailed Behind the Scenes

Conference Feedback
Submit Feedback

The Program
Talk Supplements
Discussion Board

Getting Here
Event Schedule

Detailed Behind the Scenes


ASUC bill (TXT)
ConlangCon Notes (DOC) (from LJ user Elfwreck)
Constitution (TXT)
Constitution 23.5 (DOC)
Email to Senator Lin (TXT)
Flyer (TXT)
Intellectual Community Fund application (DOC)
Info email (TXT)
Speaker invitation (to David Peterson) (DOC)
Leadership Development Fund application (DOC)
Pre-Registration Form (TXT)
Support tasks (TXT)
Updated budget - redacted (XLS)
ICF Final Evaluation (DOC)
Reimbursement request (DOC)


Manage organization (berkeley.edu)
Getting an account (ocf.berkeley.edu)

Hello again everyone.

I've been asked by a few people to post a detailed writeup of how exactly I organized this conference, and the LCS, so that others who follow - or who would like to do something similar, either at Berkeley or elsewhere - can have a bit of a template to work with.

Obviously, if you're not going to be doing this at Berkeley, the details will vary. If you have access to different resources - e.g. private institutions, a graduate assembly, the department you work for, etc. - you'll have to figure out how to utilize those yourself. However, I suspect that it will be very much analagous to do this. I created a club at De Anza College - http://www.deanza.edu - and the methods to do things there were more or less equivalent. (Said club was named 23, and was a rather different in its purpose - read the attached constitution and you'll see what I mean. BTW, that constitution was 100% legit by De Anza's student body's bylaws, which meant it could not be refused by the DASB. :-P)

READ THROUGH THIS WHOLE DOCUMENT! The stuff listed is not necessarily in sequential order. Planning is a highly asynchronous process, and I try to just list things in a logical grouping rather than the order in which you do things (which is, well, much more messy).

It's written in basically the order I'm thinking of it in. I'm sure someone could write it up better (or more flowchart-y), but I don't want to right now. Hopefully it's understandable, anyhow.

There are basically two aspects to organizing a conference in the way that I did - the finances and school-relevant organizational front, and organizing the actual people who will be speaking, attending, etc.

Organizing UCB-Side

To have status to the University, you have to be organized. If you belong to a department, you already have that. If you're just an undergrad, you don't - and they won't give you money (or status, or certain rights) if you do it as an individual.

So, you make yourself into a student group.

At UCB this is quite easy:

  1. Create a group name.
  2. Create a group constituton. The Office of Student Life gives you a template, and it has to include a few clauses to conform to ASUC bylaws / constitution. You can make it very convoluted (as I did for my De Anza group), or pretty straightforward (as I did for LCS). Has to cover offices (if you have any), decision-making process, constitutional revision, and organizational purpose. You may want to include a clause that prevents some parts of the constitution from being changed (e.g. the purpose), to prevent the group from being hijacked in the future.
  3. Find three other people who are willing to sign up as 'signatories'. What this means is that they take part of the responsibility in case you mess up seriously, etc. In practice for me, it meant just convincing a couple friends to do so and guaranteeing they wouldn't need to actually do anything - except for Anna, who became my co-Agent and signed up on reimbursements to me. Most of the signatories have to be students, some can be faculty/staff, and all must be currently registered (e.g. fees paid).
  4. Submit the constitution online to the OSL, fill in some details about it (name, purpose, categorization, contact info).
  5. Get signatories to go to OSL website, sign in, fill out the "I'm not going to cause a scandal or spend money in stupid ways" quiz, and sign up as a signatory to your group. This takes about 5 minutes.
  6. Wait to get approved. Takes about a week once the constituion & signups are all submitted.
  7. Go to the OSL website and print several copies of the 'verification of student group status'.

In my case, the other signatories were two friends of mine (and students from conlangs decal '06), one of the linguistics student advisors (Prof. Hyman), and a friend of David Peterson's.

Next, you need money.

This is a bit of a catch-22 if you're doing it for the first time, because in order to get money, you need a proposed budget -- and you don't know what stuff costs. I just guessed and made it up. You, however, can see the budget .xls, and see what I paid for everything vs what I thought I would -- and copy those numbers over (plus inflation).

There are three main sources of money: ASUC sponsorship, ASUC grants, and departments.

ASUC sponsorship:

As a new group, or if you miss the 'normal budgeting process' (which happens near the end of spring semester), you need to ask for money by getting a senator to sponsor a bill for you. The OSL has one who's basically 'on assignment' for student groups in general - for me, this was Anthony Lin. Email him what you want, and why, and he turns it into a formal-language bill.

You then show up at the next Finances Commmitee (FiCom) meeting (Tuesday night), and ask again. Bring a copy of your constitution, budget, and verification of group status.

The ASUC does not cover costs of food or drink, but they do cover food-serving stuff (e.g. plates, forks, etc). Separately, when making a decision for how much money to give you, they don't count the costs of honoraria or tech - this leaves basically hardware, printing, and miscellaneous stuff. Convince them that this is a large amount.

Start with sticker shock anyway, and ask for the entire sum of the complete cost of your conference on the bill. It'll immediately get whittled down, but you'll probably get more than if you start low. Salesmen do it, you can too.

The 'soft cap' for first-year group funding is $150; the hard cap is $200. Hypothetically, this can be waived. It won't be... but there are loopholes.

In my case, they calculated need as $450. Because I was doing an event, it allows a bit of workaround (you have to suggest this or they'll cut you down to $150!): $150 goes towards your group-itself's budget, and $300 as an "ASUC Events" fund earmarking. Effectively, this won't matter to you, but it's an important difference for them. Both will go into your "programs" account.

Make certain that you DO get some *group* funding, and that the ASUC officially recognizes / sponsors your group. It gives you access to some important priviledges.

Also, an important note: the cap GOES UP the longer your group is in business. That means more money for you - though you still have to justify all of it, and it still gets whittled down to only the stuff that ISN'T food, honoraria, or tech... so you're still going to need outside money.

While you're at FiCom, talk to the chair and get a copy of the fee waiver for MLK. Make sure they know you're filing one and confirm they'll OK it. Fill it out and submit it (it has instructions), and it'll get rubberstamped. See below for more.

You will then need to have two signatories attend a meeting with Millicent (who is really very helpful, so be nice to her), who is the ASUC Special Interest Group (SIG) advisor / liaison / general contact point and probably will continue to be so for a while. She's the one who signs off on everything financial. It's a bit rote, but useful info anyway.

ASUC grants:

There are application forms online. You can apply to two grants per year per entity applying. I did the Intellectual Community Fund and Leadership Development Fund.

Open the form, fill it out. Justify what you want. Copy liberally from your bill and between grants. They're slightly different, so tune accordingly.

The max for grants is theoretically $500 (hypothetically waivable, but hard to do that), realistically $300. I got $300 and $100 respectively.

This money has the same strings as Programs money, but does not go into your actual Programs account - you have to file for reimbursements separately (at Eshelman 2nd floor). However, you can file a reimbursement normally, then take a copy of that to Grants and ask them to transfer the amount into your group's account - basically shuffling the money around. Grants is kinda slow about doing everything - on the order of a month.


Lobby department chairs. Get everyone who's coming (especially people with Academic Reputations TM) to lobby them too. If you can, get profs in the department to do so. May help if you're majoring in that department, maybe not.

I had nil success with this and gave up on it after several weeks. At the last minute, Prof. Kihlstrom (CogSci head) said he would sponsor one of my speakers, based mainly on her reputation / authority / academic-ness. I'm not sure what lead to the change of heart, but I suspect it was because she talked to him about it. Don't know for sure.

It would probably help if you lobby them WELL in advance - like a semester or two - but if you don't have time for that, do it anyway and see what happens.

Getting reimbursements is pretty easy, as is getting out letters to your donators etc. Talk to Millicent about this, though, as she prefers to explain it herself. Make absolutely sure that you keep ALL reciepts for stuff you want to pay out of club money.

Also, though they discourage it, you CAN get checks for stuff you haven't received for yet (rather than purchase orders), and I would strongly encourage that you do so for certain expenses, like food. Merchants will refuse to take a purchase order, and it's easier for you not to have to pay for $250 worth of food out of your own checking account. Turnaround on this is about a week (or minimum 2 days if you get it to Millie by Tuesday).

So, at this point, you should have an officially sponsored organization with about $150 in Programs budget, $300 in Events, $300 + $100 in grants. That's a decently good position to be in. The rest of this deals with how to handle all the OTHER stuff.

However - DO NOT JUST FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS IN ORDER!!! You'll be waaay too late to do anything if you do. DO NOT WAIT until you are officially organized, or have X amount of budget assigned, OR ANYTHING ELSE before you do "the next step"! Expect everything to be finalized, concurrently NOT sequentially, by about a couple weeks before the event.

Organizing the Event

First off: decide what you want it to be like, approximately. What do you want to hear people talk about (or not)? What sort of format (Ye Standard Format is talks, break, talks, lunch, talks, break, talks, end)?

Mine was: I want talks that discuss conlang*ing*, and/or that would be useful/interesting to the conlang*er* to further zir art, from a diverse set of perspectives and topics.

Next, ping potential speakers that you know of (!) about their interest. I sent emails to everyone I knew personally who was into conlanging, or who had a reputation on CONLANG, or who I thought might be interesting. Ask them when they'd be available within a certain range of dates (Fri-Sun, before finals, before the end of the semester, but far enough away to give time for planning - 3-4 months is enough for this). Only half of my speakers were ones that I knew of when I started - the others basically volunteered themselves. Be sure to vet them (i.e. discreetly check their rep online/offline, make sure they submit a viable talk draft, etc).

Then send out preliminary announcements to all topic-related lists you have access to (for me - CONLANG, LJ Conlangs, ZBB). Ask people to preregister with their interest in attending, ask relevant organizational questions (see my prereg email), ask for donations, and ASK FOR SPEAKERS. Start compiling your mailing list, and keep it private (yay for BCC).

Decide on a date. For me, this was simple - only one weekend was available to all of the people interested in speaking. So that's when I chose it to be.

Reserve the room. Get one in MLK. To do so, go to the basement of MLK, talk to the people in ASUC Auxiliary reservations. Fill out the form. As a student group, it'll cost you $20/hr for the building manager on a weekend, free otherwise. The room itself is 'free'. (Free in this sense means you filed the ASUC waiver.) Tilden Room is very pretty and will hold up to 100 people.

Make sure you reserve the room for LONGER THAN YOU ACTUALLY (think you) NEED IT. Don't tell people that you are doing so. This is what's called 'buffer'.

Figure out how much time your speakers will use each, draft a schedule, and massage it (and them) until it actually fits in the time you have. Include time for registration, breaks, lunch, and 'waste'. Include optional stuff at the end that you can CUT OUT MERCILESSLY in case earlier stuff goes over time. This two is called 'buffer'.

Reserve the tech. ETS(.berkeley.edu) is on Dwinelle level C, down the hall from the bathrooms (towards southside). They're friendly. Have them show you how to do it. You'll have to pay, but it's at university rates (which aren't too bad). They can be paid via purchase order, which has to get to them by the time you pick up the goods. Make the PO out for the total amount plus deposit; they'll only charge the actual.

ASUC 2nd floor (door to the right behind the front desk) can give you a projector for free (vs ETS's $100), just go in and reserve it. They want a deposit, give 'em your credit card info or a PO from your group.

Send out a revised registration form that reflects the (now fixed) date. Start asking for donations (ask Millie for how this works) and ticket fees to be sent to you in advance, by check made out to your group. Deposit them as they come in. You want money in the group accounts as soon as possible, so you don't have to cover as much stuff out of pocket.

If you can, get someone to make a website that has all the info on it (see ours). In my case, Ellen - a friend of mine from LJ Conlangs - volunteered to do it for me. Having a website is very helpful for pointing people to, and to give a more professional appearance.

Get the OCF(.berkeley.edu) people to host the website and give you a berkeley.edu subdomain. This'll take a couple weeks, but definitely worthwhile. Fairly painless, just ask the guys how.

Get someone to flyer. Print flyers for them. OCF will let you print 200 pages for free, so use that. Or pay for it out of group funds. Make sure all the faculty in relevant departments (e.g. linguistics for me) have a copy of the flyer in their mailbox.

All this time, you should have also been sending out regular requests for speakers and attendee preregistration, and be having an ongoing conversation with your speakers about what they're talking about, what tech they may need (the stuff I ordered should be enough for anyone; MLK rooms all come with chalkboard & projection screen), etc. Get them to give you abstracts to put online and in flyers/advertisements/etc. Get them to give you drafts of their talks (mainly so that they get an earlier start on doing it, but also so you can talk about anything you want to tune about the content). Get any materials they have, handouts, etc. Get a picture to include in the program / website. Get a bio.

Talk about reimbursements, what they're willing to cover (or can get covered by someone else) vs what they'll want you to pay for. Be blunt about this, and get those reservations in (once you're sure that you want this person to be a speaker) ASAP - plane tickets will TRIPLE in price if you wait. Have them send you the receipt and send them a reimbursement, or make 'em wait until they show up before doing so - this latter will protect you in case they don't, in fact, show up. (Happened to me...) As a student org with limited finances, you can probably avoid having to pay speakers for anything other than actual expenses (e.g. their time), but this may vary depending on who it is.

Make ABSOLUTELY SURE that your budget (the one that you submit!) has a contingency fund allocation! YOU WILL NEED IT. $500 per day of the event is an appropriate amount. This will cover everything you forgot to budget for - and you will forget *something* (or have to pay for something out of hand when it's forgotten on the day-of). This three is called 'buffer'.

Constantly update your budget, and keep the actuals line separate from the projected one that you submitted with your funding requests. Important for accounting.

Keep everyone who's interested up-to-date on the status of things. Advertise as much as you can in relevant forums; for me, this included Elgin's LJ, langmaker.com, ZBB, CONLANG, LJ Conlangs, Wikipedia Conlangs portal, and asking people to forward it to other lists (lojban, klingon, esperantist, quenya). Once you have things moreorless decided (i.e. date, location, speaker lineup) make a 'internet flyer' and get it sent out to the relevant school (and other) mailing lists. For CogSci, send it to Carol Snow; for Linguistics, to Esther Weiss. For others, figure it out - whoever the administrative coordinator is, is probably also in charge of the mailing lists.

There are obviously a bunch of other things that are, strictly speaking, optional, that you should also be doing. E.g.:



In Closing

I'm pretty sure that this has left out some stuff, but it should give you a good overview of what needs to happen and how to do it. Do a search at Brown's CONLANG listserv for the keyword Conlangs-Conf - you'll get almost all of the organizational messages I sent out about it. You'll probably be doing similar.

Ask Millie about anything financial or related to ASUC-side organization, and she'll probably know (or can direct you to someone who does).

This may seem like a lot of work, or not a lot. In truth, it's somewhere inbetween. If you've never done this before (i.e. you're me), then it's mostly figuring out what needs to be done.

It CAN be done by one person. I did it! (Excepting the website...) Not having someone to help you is NOT AN EXCUSE. Nor, after having read this, is not knowing what to do.

A few final words of advice:

  • Have a mix of arbitrary decisions and polling of your audience. Preferrably do the latter, then the former. You can probably copy most of my decisions (in re. food, venue, printing, etc) and do fine. People do not always respond well (ironically) to be asked what they want.
  • Be conservative with your budget. Project that you'll make minimum amounts of money and spend maximum. Allow the possibility that you will be pleasantly surprised, but not unpleasantly surprised.
  • Ask and ye shall receive. Really. (Exception: organizational help. :-P)
  • Videotape it.
  • Expect your costs to be, roughly, $1500 + $1000/day for the sort/scale of event that I did.
  • Collect feedback - both by physical paper and email.
  • Have a separate laptop available for the speakers / projector. If possible, bring yours (with all info, files, etc on it). Email yourself ALL relevant files that might be needed (e.g. powerpoint presentations). Yousendit.com is very good for sending large files. Don't forget the power cable.
  • Have contingency plans for everyone forgetting to do what you expect them to or what they said they would.
  • Test your equipment beforehand if at all possible - like, say, at the ETS counter. I got several pieces of bum equipment that I found out because I did so (camera with messed-up autofocus, wrong cables, broken powerpoint remote...).
  • Expect that you will mess something up, or forget something, or whatnot. This is okay, IFF you don't forget the be prepared for this. Stuff I forgot, or that screwed up:
  • ...but the important part was that one way or another, I dealt with all of these (by improvising, or sending someone to get it, or making do with an alternate) in such a way that, I think, most of the attendees weren't even aware of anything being wrong. (Er, except the speaker not showing up...) They didn't really impede the event, and weren't that big a deal to cope with *because* I was prepared for that to happen.

    That's about it. Feel free to copy all of the documents attached to this; I've censored them to remove any info I can't share. Be sure to modify them to fit you.

    And *do* remember to have fun.