Frequently Asked Questions (with Rarely Given Answers)

How often are Working Group meetings held?

About once every 37 weeks, aiming to avoid getting stuck in a short repeating cycle of meeting dates; see the discussion from WG2.1#64. But this is not a hard and fast rule. For example, when the Working Group organizes a Working Conference (about once every five years), we may decide to skip a meeting, or hold one in conjunction with the Working Conference—in which case it may be shortened. Or again we may have a regular meeting. For a list of recent meetings, see the Previous Meetings page.

How long does a Working Group meeting last?

Four-and-a-half days. Participants typically arrive the evening before the starting date, and leave on the last day, so then they stay for five nights. However, organizers may want to give participants the opportunity to arrive earlier or leave later, especially if the venue is in a tourist destination.

Normally we start on Monday morning (Day 1) at 9:00 am, and finish at Friday (Day 5) before lunch, so participants from the same continent can make it home on the same day. A typical time table is shown below.

Exceptionally, the meeting runs from Sunday morning (Day 1) to Thursday lunch time (Day 5). This is usually done to avoid travel congestion if the next weekend is the start of a major holiday; an additional advantage is that participants will stay a Saturday night, and maybe thereby can get cheaper flights.

The last day starts with a "members-only meeting", which observers may not attend; this part lasts till the mid-morning coffee break—which, however, may be somewhat earlier than the other days.

There may be a (very informal!) welcome party on the evening of Day 0 (the day before Day 1).

Time Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
0900–1030* Talks Talks Talks Talks MOM**
  Break Break Break Break Break
1100–1230 Talks Talks Talks Talks Talks
  Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
1400–1530 Talks Talks Excurs Talks  
  Break Break Excurs Break  
1600–1730 Talks Talks Excurs Talks  
  Dinner Dinner Dinner Banquet  

*) Last day 9:00–10:00                 
**) MOM = Members-Only Meeting

What is the ideal location?

The purpose of the Working Group meeting is to make people work together and exchange information. Therefore we prefer:
  • to be all located in the same hotel;
  • to have a meeting room large enough for all participants to be seated in a "U" shape;
  • to have the meeting room in, or close to, the hotel;
  • not to have to share the hotel with lots of school children, many other conferences, big sporting events, or other disturbing activities.

Quiet and scenic surroundings are best; if the meeting is held in a city, we prefer cities with a historical background.

Who participates in the meeting?

  • The members that attend (usually around 15 of about 35, more when centrally located, less when remotely located);
  • observers invited by the Chair (usually about 5 attending of 10 invited);
  • the local organizer(s)—if not already members—plus local observers invited by the local organizer(s) (at most about 5; if substantially more, check first with the Chair).

What special events should be organized?

  • We may have a reception on the evening of Day 1 or 2 if the local organizer can find a munificent sponsoring organization, such as the university, the municipality, or some scientific council or other important body. Short interesting speeches by the sponsor during the reception are acceptable. (Translation: Please, no long and boring speeches.)
  • Usually we have a half day excursion (usually the afternoon of Day 3). This trip may be a visit to some local tourist attraction. Most participants have had their ample supply of museums, torture rooms, castles, wineries etc. Try to find something typically local (nice view from high point, visit to local market, interesting technical achievement (telescope, laboratory, ...)). A leisurely walk is fine, but mountaineering or other extremely sportive activities are probably not a good idea. Some participants have been known to get sea-sick on a ripple-free sea.
  • Usually we have a banquet (a more elaborate dinner) on the last evening (Day 4).

What services should be provided?

  • General travel instructions and other information (how to get there; do's and don't's) distributed in a timely fashion to the participants—more on this below;
  • coffee, tea and possibly other refreshments during the breaks (one break in the morning, one in the afternoon);
  • Internet connections, if possible; a local Internet café may do, but most people need some way to check their e-mail regularly (during the breaks!);
  • laser or inkjet printer, if possible;
  • secretarial assistance (not full time) for travel arrangements (such as contact with local travel agencies, checking time tables, ordering taxicabs)—if not provided by the hotel; this is particularly welcome in countries where English is not commonly understood.

Who pays whom for what?

In principle the participants pay for all costs; the Working Group itself has no funds for its meetings.

We do not expect any form of subsidy from the local organizer other than volunteering the organising effort, but neither is the local organizer supposed to make a profit.

The organizational costs (cost of using the meeting room, coffee and tea, rent of projector, etc.), as well as the costs of special events (excursion and banquet), are charged to the participants as a Registration Fee. The organizational costs are shared equally, whereas the special-event costs are charged according to each participant's actual use. Costs for accompanying persons (e.g. spouses) are usually charged separately.

Accommodation is usually paid directly to the hotel, but sometimes the organiser can get a very good rate with a group booking, and then it may be necessary for the local organizer to collect an Accommodation Fee from the attendents for payment to the hotel. Members are generally willing to put in some extra administrative effort in order to exploit such opportunities.

Depending on the local situation, we may have meals in local restaurants, in which case everyone pays for themselves to the restaurant, or we may have group meals in the hotel. If there is a separate Accommodation Fee, then the cost of group meals is usually part of the Accommodation Fee; otherwise it can be part of the Registration Fee. Often we have organized group lunches at the hotel and "unorganized" dinners in local restaurants.

Organization

The following is essentially a checklist of issues to be considered, all to be applied flexibly and adjusted to the local circumstances and possibilities.

Invitation schedule for Meeting N

  • At Meeting N-3 & N-2: pre-announcement of Meeting N.
  • At Meeting N-1: place, dates fixed, estimates for cost.
  • Then ASAP: pre-invitation.
  • Two months before registration deadline: invitation sent by the Secretary, based on information provided by the local organizer.
  • Just before the registration deadline: reminder.
  • Note: "deadlines" tend to be soft; also expect some last-minute cancellations.

Venue

  • Explore different choices.
  • Try to negotiate good rates.

  • Balance between reasonable luxury and reasonable cost (1000 euros average per participant is too high, whereas 700 euros is likely to be reasonable).
  • Suitability:
    • Location:
      • "secluded" but easily reachable from major airport;
      • pleasant surroundings.
    • Meeting room:
      • large enough (see below);
      • high enough (projection!);
      • quiet;
      • curtains/blinds;
      • heating/air conditioning.
    • Accommodation
      • affordable;
      • clean;
      • not too spartan. Participants should not be forced to share rooms, although several may like to have the option in order to save costs.
    • Food:
      • where? at site or restaurants?
      • vegetarian / special wishes.
    • Internet connectivity:
      • not essential, but nice to have.

Meeting room, equipment

  • The room should be large enough to hold all participants seated in a "U"-shape arrangement, with a projection screen at the open end. Don't trust the numbers a hotel will give you: they may result in uncomfortably tight seating and some participants not being able to see the screen properly. As a rule of thumb, if there are P participants, the room needs to be at least W by L units, where:
    • W = P/4 + 8;
    • L = P/2 + 4;
    • a unit is 0.6 meters (2 feet). For example, if P = 28, we find W = 15 and L = 18, which amounts to 9 meters by 10.8 meters. See the picture below.

Local observers may also be put in a second row.
  • Further, the room should be at least 2.10 meters (7 feet) high; otherwise good projection becomes difficult.
  • In direct sunlight it is impossible to see what's on the screen; does the room have blinds, shades or curtains that can be drawn?
  • If it may be cold, can the room be heated (and sufficiently in advance)? If it may be very hot, can the room be cooled?
  • In addition to chairs and tables, there must be a projector (beamer) and a projection screen. Some hotels charge exorbitant rates; if so, try to bring a projector from your university or institute. At a pinch, a friendly participant may be able to bring one.
  • Additionally, a whiteboard or flip-chart is useful (bring enough markers of the right kind.) A Tablet PC may substitute, but it is a bit inconvenient to switch between a presenter's own laptop and the tablet to answer a question.
  • You'll want to have a few extra tables, one for putting the projector on; and electrical extension cables for laptops.

Example seating arrangement for 28 participants (each square is 1×1 unit):

o o
o o
o o
o o
o o
o o
o o
o o
o o
o o
o o o o o o o o

Welcome party

  • This is of particular interest if no local restaurants are open when participants arrive in the evening of Day 0.
  • In that case, some "finger food" like sandwiches, or bread and spreads and/or cheese, and/or things to nibble on (cheese, nuts, crisps/chips, pretzels) are likely to be welcome.
  • Drinks (beer, wine, ..., soft drinks, water).
  • Make sure participants know where the party is being held before they arrive, or else that they get the information on arrival (see also Information on arrival).

Excursion

  • Usually held on the afternoon of Day 3, between lunch time and dinner time.
  • Strike a balance between
    • interest;
    • cost;
    • time;
    • effort expended.
  • Transportation: touring car? public transport?
  • Instructions for getting there for people using their own cars, if any.
  • Before the excursion, circulate a name list on which people can mark in a column the exact number of who is going on the excursion, and (if applicable) whether they'll use their own transportation or come with the group. This is useful for head counts (did we lose someone?) and also in case tickets need to be bought. The same list can also be used for the banquet.

Banquet

  • Where: at the meeting site or, preferably, at a nice restaurant? Perhaps in some characterful unusual place, such as a palace?
  • Cost versus quality: the quality should be a notch or two higher than the usual dinner arrangement; also for the drinks (good wine!).
  • Is it possible to have this as a secluded party/function (after-dinner speech!)?
  • Our banquets have a rather casual atmosphere; compact seating arrangements tend to work best.
  • Transportation: touring car? public transport? by foot? Not having to drive makes the evening more relaxed.

Last day's lunch

Some participants may dash off immediately after the meeting, but it is customary to provide a last lunch for those who have a later flight or stay longer. For the rest there is nothing special about it.

Information for participants

It is increasingly common to put this information on a web page. For examples, see the web pages with local information for Previous Meetings.

  • Meeting-specific:
    (This information should be available at least two months before the meeting.)
    • When?—dates.
    • Where?
      • Location;
      • Name and address hotel(s), conference centre;
      • Telephone & telefax number hotel.
    • Cost estimates:
      • Hotel, Fees, other;
      • extra costs for people who stay extra days;
      • costs for accompanying people (such as spouses);
      • can cost be reduced by sharing rooms?
      • payment to hotel or to local organizer?
    • How to get there:
      • modes, routes, nearby airports;
      • schedules (e.g. train, bus);
      • ticket types, reduction tickets;
      • expected cab fare.
    • Contact information of the local organizer(s)—for participants who get stranded or lost:
      • office, home, mobile phone numbers;
      • e-mail addresses.
  • Visa issues, if any
  • Climate / weather:
    • What range of temperatures can be expected?.
    • Should participants bring an extra sweater, sunblock, and such? What about the excursion: walking shoes, raincoats? Swimwear?
  • Unusual / unexpected things, if any:
    • Are there adjacent National or Bank Holidays that may affect travel plans?
    • Are there any local cultural issues or sensitivities that participants should be aware of (like, for example, the status of cows in India, dress codes in Italian churches, etiquette in Japan, or local food taboos)?
  • Funny Money:
    • Approximate exchange rates (USD/EUR).
    • Money exchange procedures (if special).
    • Availability (banks/ATM).
    • Are credit cards / personal cheques / cash accepted?
    • Is there a VAT / Sales Tax refund (e.g. Canada)?
    • Local tipping customs.
  • Touristy stuff:
    • what to do / see before / during (for accompanying people) / after the meeting (e.g. walks, excursions, skiing, swimming, excursions, tourist attractions);
    • possible arrangements for a longer stay.

Registration form

This is only really needed if there is a group booking and the local organizer needs an accurate estimate of the number of rooms required. But for other purposes it may also be nice to have an indication of the number of people to be expected. The form can be e-mailed out by the Secretary, or by the local organizer, using a list of e-mail addresses to be supplied by the Secretary upon request. Typical things that go on the registration form are (adjust according to need-to-know):
  • Where to return this form to, and by when;
  • name; affiliation; e-mail address;
  • I won't be able to attend / I expect to attend
  • Only if attending:
    • probability of actually attending;
    • dates of arrival & departure;
    • number of people in party;
    • how many / what kind of rooms (single, double);
    • want to share a room, and if so, with whom?
    • how many for excursion and for banquet?
    • special needs / wishes (e.g., dietary restrictions).

Information on arrival

Usually some participants arrive late, after a long flight. Especially for those, but also in general, it is nice to receive, on arrival (either from the hotel registration desk, or in the room), an envelope with some information. Some typical items are:
  • procedural information (where is the meeting room located, reminder that we start at 9:00 am);
  • where is the welcome party being held, if any;
  • breakfast arrangements (where, times);
  • list of participants;
  • locations and times of excursion and banquet;
  • local maps;
  • list of local restaurants & pubs;
  • location of banks / ATMs;
  • touristy information.

Receipts

Many participants will need receipts for claiming their expenses with their institutions. Some institutions may have special requirements, and it is customary to be flexible about the precise format.

The basic format is:
  • an official looking piece of paper (on university or departmental letterhead, or with a departmental stamp on it)
  • stating:
    IFIP Working Group 2.1, Nth Meeting
               <place>, <from-date> to <to-date>
               Received from: <name>
               the sum of: <amount>
               for: Registration Fee
               Date: <date>     <signature & name>, Organizer
If there is a separate Accommodation Fee, this should be accordingly adjusted, of course. Costs for accompanying persons are to be charged separately.

Secretarial assistance

Depending on the circumstances this may not be needed at all, or be rather indispensable. It is almost certainly not a full-time occupation; quite possibly a student local observer can do the job. Basically, what is needed is a helpful native speaker with a good command of English and knowledge of the local circumstances who can assist participants in various needs, such as changing flight reservations, or figuring out how to get from A to B.

To Conclude

Is some question not answered, or something else missing? Do you have suggestions for changes or useful additions? Please send a message to the Working Group's Secretary, JohanJeuring, or Chair, JeremyGibbons.

-- JeremyGibbons - 05 May 2010
Topic revision: r2 - 05 May 2010, JeremyGibbons
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