Designing the Program

Each conference should have a theme. The overall program should be based on this theme and presentations by guest speakers should support it. Some examples of themes used in the past are:

  • "A World of Opportunities…ImaginE"
  • "Get L.E.A.N for the Future"
  • "Industrial Engineering: A Career for the 21st Century"
  • "Human: Core of Engineering"

The conference program should have some standard elements such as an ice-breaker, speakers, the technical paper competition, region business meeting, and an awards banquet. There may be other elements depending on available funds and resources. Keep in mind that you want to make the conference an environment to address career issues, foster team spirit, and encourage networking. Sample agenda 

Setting a date

The host chapter chooses the best date for the university region conference. The recommended time is from mid-January to mid-March. It is advisable to contact the other schools in the region to determine their spring break week in order to avoid conflicts with spring break or National Engineers Week activities if possible. All conferences must be held prior to April 1 in order to allow enough time for arranging the international level finals of the technical paper competition at the IISE Annual Conference and Expo in May. The technical paper competition finals are held at the annual conference with an oral presentation by the winners of the regional conferences in front of their peers and professional IEs. 


This is a great way to establish a friendly tone and welcome visiting students and advisors. The mixer does not have to be elaborate or expensive to be successful. A key objective is to get visiting students to break up their cliques and interact with students from other schools. Try a contest or mixer game. Have a master of ceremonies. The opening mixer is also a good place to invite sponsor company representatives, professors, and local professional chapter leaders or anyone who contributed to the conference. Often a company or a professional chapter may be able to sponsor food, drink, entertainment, or may provide give away items for the mixer.

Speakers, panels, and workshops

Local IISE professional chapters or IISE headquarters can provide assistance in identifying potential speakers. Your region vice president, VP for student development or other IISE officers in your area are also excellent choices for speakers. A list of IISE Board of Trustees and operating board members is available online. Recent graduates from your department or IEs and managers from local companies are other possibilities. Also, consider non-IE speakers such as motivational speakers, business leaders, government officials, etc. IISE leadership 

Panel discussion topics in the past have included the changing role of industrial engineers, graduate schools, life after college/employment trends, emerging technologies/careers, time management, and leadership qualities.

Remember that the best speakers are often the most successful, and therefore the busiest people. Plan as far in advance as possible so that you can book your speakers early. When inviting a speaker, make sure that he or she understands that the event is non-profit, and you are asking them to donate their time.

Other things to include in a speaker invitation letter are dates, times, locations, theme, and preferred topic. Always follow-up your invitation letter with a personal telephone call.

Sample speaker confirmation letter 

Technical Paper Competition

This is the most important element of the conference. Without the technical paper competition, the region will not be represented in the international technical paper competition at IISE Annual Conference and Expo. Technical paper competition details

Plant tours

Plant or university lab tours are a very popular activity and should be included in your program if it is financially and logistically feasible. Recruit the help of the entire faculty in the industrial engineering department to get contacts at companies that may offer a tour. You may want to have two or three tours, so that all students get to participate in at least one. Many companies are willing to give tours to a limited number of people at a time.

Region business meeting

The region business meeting is held during the conference to ensure that the site for the next year's conference is decided. Only school delegates participate in this meeting. The delegate of the host institute should facilitate the meeting and appoint one of the other delegates as secretary for the meeting.

It is recommended that the meeting minutes be prepared by the secretary and reviewed by the host delegate before the end of the conference. The minutes of the meeting must be mailed to IISE headquarters along with the final report within one week of the close of the conference. A copy of the minutes should also be given to the delegate from the host school of next year's conference. Faculty advisors, region vice presidents and the VP of Student Development may be invited to attend the meeting as observers.

In order to allow enough time for host schools to do the best possible job of planning their conference, it is expected that a schedule of hosts for the next two years should be set. The chair of the host committee should contact each chapter president well in advance of the conference and explain that they will need to select conference hosts for at least the next two years at the business meeting. Ask chapter presidents to discuss this with their members, officers, and faculty to determine if their school would like to host a conference in the next two years.

Each school must submit a letter of intent if they plan to submit their bid for the conference. One month before the conference, the chair of the conference must make sure that at least two schools have submitted bids for the conference. Recruit the help of your own faculty advisor, the other chapters' faculty advisors, and the vice president for student development to achieve this goal.

If feasible, and desired by the other chapters, the region can establish a set of rotation of conference hosts. In such an instance, a yearly bid will no longer be necessary for each chapter will know when it is their turn to host the conference. If the region would like to initiate this practice, the host chapter should communicate the idea well in advance to the other chapters and put it to vote at the business meeting. The rotational schedule should be sent to IISE headquarters and to each chapter. The schedule should be updated at the end of each conference.

You may also use the business meeting as an opportunity to discuss chapter growth, regional issues, and regional activities (such as region-wide special projects like a Web page). Consider the possibility of organizing trips to visit other chapters within close proximity. Get the officers together and compare notes and best practices ideas. Develop and establish a better succession plan for chapter officers.

The minimum results of this meeting are the sites for future year's conferences, evaluation of the current conference, and initial training for the host-elect delegate.

Other activities

Job/grad school fair
A job fair will allow you to present potential careers in industrial engineering. You may want to have sessions on resume writing, interviewing skills, and other job search skills. Invite large and small employers and consultants. Hold a graduate education counseling session for graduating students. Invite one or two representatives from IE graduate programs within the region to come and speak about their graduate programs and financial assistance, etc.

Invite each faculty advisor to bring along material and information regarding their own graduate programs and use the conference as a recruiting opportunity. Make graduate studies a viable path for the attendees. Provide a table so that each school can advertise their own programs.

This provides further recognition for corporate sponsors and allows students to meet and learn from professionals about the next step in their professional and career development.

Team building activities
In addition to the technical paper competition, you may consider having a team competition where all students can have fun while representing their institutions. No cash award is necessary for this event, but you may consider giving a plaque or certificate.

Graduate paper presentation

Student/industry mixer
Many companies generously donated their time and money to make regional conferences a success. How will you show your appreciation? A thank you letter is a must, but some regions also invite the companies to a special event where representatives have an opportunity to distribute literature about their organization or just meet and talk with the conference attendees. This is not a career fair.

Social tours
Some regions are able to offer one or two social tours as part of the tour program. Social / sightseeing trips like city tours, science museums, theme parks, hiking, or skiing offer unique and fun networking opportunities.

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