Editor’s note: This is a follow-up to the May 2018 article, 8 Low-Cost Tips for Making Conferences More Family-Friendly. Severine Bennet agreed to share, in her own words, how International Society of Political Psychology invested in supporting families at the association’s 2019 Annual Meeting.

Family Friendly from the Start

Our meeting was held in Lisbon, Portugal, which is considered one of the safest countries and has a variety of family-friendly activities and sites to see. Those who submitted proposals to present at the conference could make scheduling requests, and we did all that we could to accommodate those.

When it came time to register, we let family members and children register for the conference for free, knowing that they would only be present for a reception or two and perhaps the talk by their parent, spouse, etc. who was actually there to attend the event. We asked for minimal information on the family members so that we could have name badges for them and some special things for the children, to make them feel included and recognized. We provided information on the city and surrounding areas and attractions, as well as local childcare information. All of this was provided in advance of the conference via e-mails and on our web site, plus we had it available at the registration desk on site. The information and materials were obtained through the CVB and a couple of local members, and everything was free of charge.

We had one nursing mother in attendance, so we used our conference office as a private place for her to breast feed as needed. When she used the room we locked the door so that she did not have to be concerned about anyone walking in on her unexpectedly.

In the Bag

We purchased some inexpensive items for children’s “goody bags” to hand out at the conference. We bought these in bulk, so we actually have a good bit left over for future years. A total of $221.34  purchased:

  • 144 assorted coloring books
  • 144 boxes of 6-piece crayons
  • 250-piece assorted small toys
  • 96 passport books w/stickers
  • 2400-piece assorted animal stickers
  • 60 small paper bags with handles

During registration we asked for the gender, age and name for each child (as well as any allergies) and packed boy/girl bags. The only difference really was that only the girls got the princesses-themed coloring books. We initially had toys in the bags, but decided that letting the children choose their own toy (only one per child) from a box would work better. Not only did the kids get something they wanted, but the parents also got to approve what they chose. That turned out to be an excellent idea, and we enjoyed watching he children pick up and inspect various toys and put them back in the box, finally settling on one. It was a major decision, and they had to choose wisely! One little girl skipped away excitedly telling her mother that she had gotten the same toy as her friend, Rosie. It seemed we had made her day!

We also purchased name badge ribbons for family members and the children, 500 of each (again, buying in bulk at a lower price per item, and still having plenty left for future years). The adult family members were identified as ISPP Family Member, keeping it general across the board (for parents, spouses, partners, etc.). The children received “Future ISPP Member” ribbons. These were a huge hit. Not only did we plant seeds for future generations of members in our association, but the parents thought they were very cute and clever. Who knows, maybe they’ll end up in a family scrap book. We even provided the ribbons for babies and toddlers, who had adhesive name badges (so that there would be no concerns over the clips or lanyards on the plastic badge holders). If not applied to the adhesive name badges, they still offered a little memento.

The Bottom Line

Altogether, with the goody bag items, badge ribbons and adhesive name badges (72 pieces), we spent $433.92 on “family member attendee” items. We’ll need to get more paper bags and obviously new name badges each year, and maybe some more play passport books, but otherwise, we have enough supplies for about two more years for children and adult family member attendees. It was a relatively small amount of money to spend for the amount of happiness and appreciation it brought from our parent attendees and their children.

If you can find just a little bit in your budget for these types of things–to recognize that your attendees have families and that you, as an organization, are making efforts to accommodate and include them and make them feel special—you will likely reap rewards of loyal members and repeat conference attendees.

Severine Bennett, CMP, PMP, is executive director at the International Society of Political Psychology. She holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Her background in theater production and business administration have served her well in a career of more than 25 years planning and managing productions, events and meetings for all branches of the U.S. military and association meetings around the globe.