IFAJ Congress guidelines

Introduction

The IFAJ Congress guidelines are meant to guide both organizers and delegates and is the official policy for IFAJ Congresses. Responsible for the guidelines is the IFAJ host country liaison committee.

It includes not only guidelines, but also tips and ideas on how to plan and hold a successful congress.

This document is continuously discussed, changed and eventually approved by the IFAJ to serve as guideline for future congresses. IFAJ makes certain requirements for its congress, while other aspects of the meeting remain at the discretion of the host country. The combination of essential features outlined here, along with the individual interests, talents, and general organizing flair of the host country, will provide an ideal blend for a successful congress.

Much of this information is based on advice and counsel of previous congress organizers.

 

IFAJ Congress guidelines

Introduction

CONTENTS:

1. GOAL FOR THE IFAJ CONGRESS

2. CONGRESS CONTENT

2.1. Congress program and seminars

2.2. Tours

2.3. Accommodation

2.4. Translations

3. ADVANCE PLANNING: HOST COUNTRY DUTIES

3.1. Organizing committee

3.2. Duties of the Congress secretariat

3.3. Tips for early stage planning

4. BUDGETING

4.1. Main budget considerations for host country

4.2. BUDGET TIP: Separate the costs into two categories

5. DUTIES OF IFAJ EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

6. DUTIES OF PARTICIPANTS

7. SPONSOR GUIDELINES

8. SAMPLE TIMELINE

9. SAMPLE PROGRAM IFAJ CONGRESS

1. GOAL FOR THE IFAJ CONGRESS

Provide professional improvement, growth and experience to ag journalists.

*Serve as a forum to discuss and debate agriculture issues in host country.

*Serve as a forum to discuss and debate trends in media and journalism.

Provide opportunities for journalists to write articles, based on farm visits, listening to presentations, or conducting interviews with expert sources.

Provide opportunities to network with other ag journalists.

Forum for IFAJ to conduct annual business meeting.

2. CONGRESS CONTENT

2.1. Congress program and seminars:

Provides high journalistic impact. Presenters should be ‘newsworthy.’ Seminars should spark debate and enlighten journalists on pressing issues in host country.

Must be well-organized and easy to understand.

Background information and statistics, printed and verbal presentations (including speech transcripts) in English as well as other languages as needed.

Translations during presentations as needed.

Speakers should have up-to-date, diverse presentations and be available for questions. It is preferable to have more shorter speeches, than a few longer ones.

All presentations immediately available on the internet or downloadable. Consider emailing background information and national statistics to delegates in advance and provide this information also on the congress website and/or on memory stick.
Fact sheets are also needed, especially on tours, and the basic information of the country’s agriculture should be presented by some national expert in the beginning of the congress.

Provide professional improvement seminars and discussions. Example topics include: How to conclude better interviews, ethics in journalism, time management for journalists, how to use social media (facebook, twitter etc.)


2.2. Tours

If possible, custom design farm and agribusiness tours to suit the interests of participants based on pre-congress surveys.

Organizers should meet with host farmers beforehand to assure quality visits.

Organizers should do a ‘trial run’ of each tour to ensure that the scheduled time is appropriate.

Organizers should provide written profile (fact sheet) on each tour stop (individual and/or agribusinesses) as well as contact information for follow-up interviews. Remind delegates (frequently) that they have this information, to avoid time being wasted on basic questions. Consider having someone on the tour bus who knows the next farm and can provide introductory information as delegates travel to the farm.

Each excursion should deliver what is described in pre-Congress promotion materials. (If a tour is titled, “Ranching,” the bus should stop at a ranch and hear from ranchers).

Tour stops should provide a broad snapshot of production agriculture in host country.

Each participant, regardless of number of tours, should meet face to face with a minimum of 3 farmers/producers on any given day of touring. Each stop should provide enough time for photos and questions (on issues not covered in hand-out).

Producer visits should include translation wherever necessary.

Divide motor coaches into groups based on translation needs only if absolutely necessary. It is preferred to allow participants to attend the first choice of tours, and to provide translation in smaller groups as needed.

Congress hosts should lead as many tours as possible. Not only does it save on expenses, it also promotes networking and fellowship among ag journalists.

Tip: Congress organizers have a responsibility to the professional interests of participants. Journalists, who take time from their media and particularly those who travel at their media's expense, expect to find opportunities to write stories from their congress experience.

2.3. Accommodation

The host country should explore every opportunity to take advantage of package deals to keep hotel costs as affordable as possible. Lower registration fees encourage more participants, particularly younger delegates.

When possible, keep congress activities and participants together in a central location.

Try to engage hotel facilities based on quality, comfort, cuisine and professional services.

Less expensive options should be explored and made available as an option where possible. These should be within easy walking distance of the main hotel or congress centre used for the meetings. The use of lower priced accommodation will be reflected in a lower congress fee or it could be an option the make the hotel reservation a separate transaction (separate from the payment of the congress fee) and allow each delegate to make their own booking directly with the hotel of their choice from a list supplied by the organisers of the congress.

2.4. Translations

Bad translations damage the reputation of IFAJ. The objective of translations at any congress is to facilitate the work of the journalist and to secure full value for the proceedings to the congress participant. Your goal is to make sure everyone understands what is being said.

All documents related to the Congress should be translated and available at each event.

Unless special circumstances dictate, treat the three official languages of IFAJ (English, French and German) with equal weight. This is a statutory requirement of the IFAJ. (From a marketing standpoint, the host country is encouraged to provide any translation needed to bring more participants to the event).

The host country should make every effort to have verbal translation available during on-farm visits. Provide a brief translated description of each tour stop.

If possible, avoid consecutive translations, as they have a wearying effect on participants. This applies especially to after dinner speeches and those of other social occasions. One alternative is to provide brief summaries of key points by verbal or translated script.

Awarding of the competitions:
- Master Class participants and Alltech Young Leaders should be introduced and the certificates should be given to the Master Class people on the welcoming dinner on the first evening, not on the fairwell dinner.
- Writing and broadcasting competition winners could be announced and celebrated in the delegate assembly.
- Photo contest should have a separate session where the photos are shown and the judgements are presented. Awarding and the best photos' show on the closing dinner.

The entire congress should last three to five days IFAJ recommends that the congress should be hold between 15.5.-15.9.

3. Advance planning: Host country duties

3.1. Organizing committee

It is important that the host country be committed to, and actively planning the organization of a congress for a minimum of three and preferably four years in advance.

Hotel rooms need to be provisionally booked three years in advance (make more reservations than you think you’ll need - to be on the safe side – you can release the bookings nearer the time of the congress if they aren’t needed).

From the earliest stage, the host country should appoint an organizing committee. It must be a committee that is dedicated to this job and fully prepared to engage in ongoing active communication with the secretariat and the host country liaison committee of the IFAJ.

In some cases the national committee may include people who are very skilled in conference organization. Otherwise we recommend that you engage the services of a professional organizer. (Perhaps a travel agency who will be responsible for all accommodation, transport, etc.)

3.2. Duties of the Congress secretariat

The secretariat serves as a concierge for congress participants. This person should have a good knowledge of the congress itself, of languages (if possible), and local knowledge of city and region.


3.3. Tips for early stage planning

3.3.1. Start motivating your colleagues. Create interest in IFAJ and international activities. Invite new members to congresses to get them excited. Don't give them too many responsibilities, just let them experience it. Appoint four to six new colleagues to a Congress Workers’ Group for each of the three years prior to hosting; then you will have a group of 12 to 20 core colleagues who are motivated to organize and carry out the congress.

3.3.2. Designate a secretary-general, treasurer and president of the Congress committee. The secretary-general should come to at least three, preferably four, congresses to see different ideas and form a vision and opinion of what would work best for the future host country. These three key personalities must be able to inspire and motivate the committee to work toward a common goal.

A reasonably detailed program should be available for approval at the winter meeting of the IFAJ Executive Committee in the year before the congress (that meeting may be almost two years before the congress). An outline of costs should be included (see budget tip below). The host country should be aware that aspects of their program are still open for discussion at that stage.

4. Budgeting

4.1. Main budget considerations for host country:

Accommodation

Meals

Excursions

Translation (often more costly than expected)

Transportation

Marketing

Administration

Programs, entertainment

Speakers

Contingency (for unforeseen circumstances – if not needed this will leave a surplus after the congress!!)

The host country (not IFAJ) is solely responsible for costs (and potential profits) of the congress.

The host country should budget to host a pre-congress meal for the executive committee and cover registration/hotel costs for the presidium.

The host country is expected to host a meal for the executive committee at the Berlin business meeting prior to the Congress.

4.2. BUDGET TIP: Separate the costs into two categories

1. “individual” costs, which relate directly to each participant attending the congress (for example individual meals or accommodation). Include those costs in the congress fee that is to be paid by each participant.

2. “core” costs, which the congress has to cover regardless of whether the number attending is 120 or 180 delegates such as hire of buses, hire of conference room, services of translators, administration and marketing. Arrange to make sure that all of these costs are covered by sponsorship.

5. Duties of IFAJ executive committee members

Each executive committee member must promote the congress to his/her country’s members. Write newsletter, articles, provide brochures at meetings, and direct members to websites. This promotion effort is critical to the success of the congress.

Six months before the event, each country executive should have a good idea of about how many members might possibly attend. Request registration forms accordingly (or refer intending participants to on-line registration process)

6. Duties of participants:

Participants should fill out the required registration forms and diligently provide payment before deadline.

Participants are highly encouraged to attend as many sessions as possible at the Congress.

Payment

The host country should ask for completed registration form, with registration fee, within three to five months in advance of Congress. An early registration discount is encouraged.

Arrange for it to be possible to pay by credit card

Registration fees should be returnable if there is a cancellation not less than one month before. If the legal situation in the host country creates a different circumstance for returning the hotel deposits, this should be clearly stated on the registration form.

If possible, offer two levels of registration fee –one for full-time participants and a lesser fee for those who may only be able to attend specific events. A spouse or family rate may be considered.

7. Sponsor guidelines
(key issue is to find a balance, obtaining financial support without allowing sponsors to dominate the congress):

The integrity of the IFAJ and its members must be safeguarded and no congress should be conducted in such a way as to allow a sponsor to take advantage of that integrity for its own benefit.

Official IFAJ business gatherings shall not be used to provide a commercial platform for sponsor promotion beyond standard recognition of support.

Try to BALANCE the needs of participants with the needs of financial security. Nobody wants a succession of factory visits as a means of paying for dinner.

Sponsors do not dictate the agenda.

A host nation that receives money from the State must be careful that it does not become a purely national conference from a point of view of commerce or propaganda. It is important to remember, in that case, that it is the international congress of a worldwide body of agricultural journalists.

Tips for landing sponsors:

The host country should appoint a person with the skills and experience necessary to approach sponsors and obtain funding.

Make a list of the 20 most important companies or federations that you want there and as sponsors. Don’t forget government agencies. Pitch them.

Set up different classes of sponsors and clearly identify recognition at each level. For example:

Level A sponsors pay $20,000 and receive a link to websites, an ad in the membership directory given to members, mention in Congress materials, and logo and introduction at major meal function. Another option is to explore if there is an appropriate person from the sponsor company who could take part in a Congress lecture as long as it fit the topics set out by the host country.

Level B sponsors pay $10,000 and receive web link, advertisement in membership directory, mention in congress materials.

Level C sponsors pay $5,000 and receive link and mention in congress materials.

Shoot for a few bigger sponsors rather than a lot of small ones.

Involve your own publishers as well as major farm groups, in sponsorship.

8. Sample timeline

Four to three years before Congress:

Plan, plan, plan.

Begin marketing the event to colleagues, key associations, government agencies, potential sponsors. Develop a common vision of what will happen, and what you want to accomplish for guests.

Tip for host country organizers: Assign one person to be the liaison to answer or at least acknowledge all correspondence quickly. It is one of the black marks of many past Congresses that inquiries go unanswered for many months, at a point where individuals may be making a vital decision to attend. Begin organizing basic details: when, how much, how long, main topics in general agenda.

Present tentative agenda to IFAJ host country liaison committee, including cost estimates, expected dates. Discuss the conference theme with the IFAJ executive committee with a view to including speakers and topics of international significance.

Create website to stir interest. Make suggestion box available on the web to see what people think.

Create written materials to describe congress and begin approaching companies for funding.

Two years before Congress:

Collect list of previous attendees from past organizers, for direct mail and e-mail solicitation.

Agenda tip: Past organizers say it works well to vary the flow of the congress. If possible, hold a farm visit one day, a hotel meeting the next. Survey past participants on what events/topics would motivate them to go to your Congress.

Develop a detailed agenda and registration fee.

Communicate Congress details to executive committee members. It is the duty of executive committee members to promote the upcoming congress among their own members back home. (see below)

Use the IFAJ web site, past participant list, and newsletter to tell potential participants about your Congress.

Begin contacting producers for potential tour stops.

Begin contacting potential speakers for program, panel discussions, professional improvement seminars, etc.

Tip: Stir interest… hold a trivia contest, offer prizes or a free registration…or give every participant at last year’s congress a memento to remind them of next year’s event…Begin arrangements for written and verbal translations.

Year before Congress:

Major promotion of Congress to IFAJ executive committee meeting. Offer incentives for national associations – for example, one free registration for every xx% of membership signed up to attend the congress.

Provide written brochures to promote congress.

Contact IFAJ web server to provide links, on-line registration and promotion information. Keep people informed.

Contact IFAJ newsletter editor about promotion articles.

Finalize details with tour guides, speakers, sponsors, producers, etc.

Appoint an official photographer, who, among other duties, would display a picture portfolio of the country's agriculture, with prints available to delegates for purchase. Make Congress photos available online or on CD.

9. Sample Program IFAJ Congress

Day 1: Delegates arrival and registration
Meeting of IFAJ Executive Committee
Evening Welcome reception

Day 2: Morning session

08.30 – 11.00 Delegate Assembly
11.30 – 12.30 General Assembly
Official opening and welcoming
address by IFAJ President and other
welcoming addresses/main address
Possible presentations of contest
winners
Afternoon sessions Profile of host country agriculture
Seminars and panel discussions
Important issues, media trends
Professional development workshops

Day 3: All day Farm visits/excursions
Professional development, sight-seeing,
time off

Day 4: Morning Farm visits/excursions
Afternoon Summary/evaluation

Evening Farewell dinner/event; possible
presentation of contest winners

Day 5: Morning session Informal discussion/departure

* Arranging for the Congress either to begin or to end at a weekend may help to minimise flight costs.

10. Bio-security precautions

A member of the congress organizing committee should be made responsible for consulting with the animal and plant health authorities of the host country about the relevant general rules governing visitors to the country and about 'bio-security' precautions that should be put in place for visits to farms or other premises.

The authorities should be asked to provide advice that the congress organizers can pass on to intending host farms and businesses.

The organizing committee person responsible should also seek advice that can be transmitted to delegates in advance of registration - for example by means of a link to a website.

The committee recommends following:

1.     Every host country has to make a report of the congress, which includes:

-          the do’s and don’ts when organizing a congress

-          problems and solutions

-          checking list of all the small and big practical things to take into account

2.     After the congress the host country liaison committee has to do feedback survey among the participants. One tool could be a surveymonkey.com. We could create a questionary that can be put on the IFAJ website under congress guidelines so that the same questions are asked every year and the results can be sent to the next congress host.

 

3.     The list of things and all the templates for the award ceremonies (diplomas etc.) should be collected on the IFAJ website. We used to give a big prize check for the winner, but the committee thinks that it is not anymore relevant. The name of the sponsor can be reflected on the background when the awards are given and photos taken. The host country takes care of the trophy, which can be some nice/useful/memorable item from the host country. For example in Argentina it could be a gift set of beef fork and knives.

 

Delegates will be expected to act in accordance with this advice.