NLPES Host State Guidelines

Host State Guidelines for Planning an NLPES Fall Training Conference

(January 2004)

Host State Guidelines

Host State Guidelines for Planning an NLPES Fall Training Conference

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society (NLPES) annually cooperate in developing and conducting a professional development conference for program evaluators in the states.  The NLPES meeting is very much the product of the NLPES Executive Committee and the host state, while under the official sponsorship and policies of NCSL.  Executive Committee members and staff from NCSL and the host state work together to help ensure a successful meeting.

The following pages outline in more detail the responsibilities of these respective groups for program planning, logistics and support, and seminar finances.  In general:
NCSL will (1) help with logistical details, (2) handle financial obligations (including all contracts) so that NLPES and the host state are not at financial risk, and (3) facilitate other details, as needed, to help ensure a quality program, including being the primary contact with the hotel.

The host state will (1) identify options for meeting facilities and social events, (2) in conjunction with the NLPES Executive Committee, develop a theme for the conference and ideas for individual sessions that are consistent with this theme, (3) line up presenters and moderators for conference sessions, (4) collect and prepare program information for participants, and (5) provide NCSL with information that it needs to publicize the meeting and make logistical arrangements, .and (6) provide ongoing logistical support and communications to program participants prior to, during, and after the conference.

The NLPES Executive Committee selects the host state and, with input from NCSL, sets fees for the conference.  In addition, the Executive Committee's Training Committee will consult with the host state and NCSL as needed to help ensure that plans for the conference are proceeding on schedule, generate ideas for possible sessions, and generally help ensure the success of the conference.  The host state should seek concurrence of the Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee for the conference theme and sessions.  The Vice-Chair may choose to also coordinate this responsibility with the Training and Professional Development Committee.

Program Planning

Responsibilities for program development are primarily the responsibility of the host state and the NLPES Executive Committee.  The process usually begins after the host state and NCSL have explored the availability of meeting locations for September or October of the year of the conference.  By starting the conference planning well in advance (preferably at least a year before the conference), the host state is less likely to find that preferred meeting locations and major speakers are already booked.

The conference theme and topics for individual sessions are generated by the host state, with input from and concurrence of the NLPES Executive Committee.  NCSL can provide the host state with agendas from previous fall training conferences, which may provide useful guidance.  In general, the host state should have a combination of plenary sessions (intended for all conference participants) and concurrent sessions.  Many host states have developed three "tracks" for concurrent sessions--each track with its own theme--which can serve the broader conference theme.

Host states should identify program tracks and make tentative arrangements with plenary/keynote speakers no later than six months prior to the conference, if possible.  In addition, the host state should solicit ideas for concurrent sessions and potential panelists from states that will likely attend the conference (as well as from the NLPES Executive Committee).  Two weeks before the NCSL legislative summit, the host state should provide NCSL with information on conference sessions for the official brochure that is mailed to NLPES members (and others) and distributed at the NCSL Annual Meeting.

For conference presentations and panels, host states should rely considerably on the participation of attendees from NLPES member agencies, although the host states may also select presenters from academia, state government, private business, or elsewhere.  Participation by NLPES agencies will help agencies justify the cost of sending staff to the conference, and it will help to ensure that the discussions at the conference address real issues that legislative program evaluation staff face.  If possible, it is useful to allow offices that have recently received NLPES awards to discuss the methods, products, or impacts that led to their recognition.  In most cases, the host state should not schedule individual speakers to participate in more than one session.

Host states, and the NLPES Training and Professional Development Committee should explore the possibility of having other NCSL staff sections jointly sponsor the conference.  In addition, host states might find it useful to establish ties with other organizations (such as nearby public policy programs or business schools) when planning the conference, although NCSL will remain financially responsible for the conference.

Logistical Support

Logistical arrangements are handled cooperatively between NCSL and the host state.  The logistical details can consume a lot of time, so the host state may wish to delegate most of these responsibilities to NCSL.  However, since the host state has greater knowledge of local resources, vendors, and facilities, NCSL will consult closely with the host state when making arrangements.

Hotel: The host state may wish to make initial inquiries about hotel options and availability, but NCSL must be involved early in the process of rate negotiation and reservation of meeting and sleeping rooms.  NCSL recommends that the host state not conduct contract negotiations with hotels.  If the host state makes the initial contacts, it is preferable to obtain a minimum of two hotel proposals to enable NCSL to better negotiate.  NCSL is the contracting party with the hotel, in order to protect the host state from financial obligations.  Once the tentative agenda for the conference is set, NCSL staff can assume responsibility for scheduling meetings, luncheons, and other matters in the hotel.  In general, all hotel arrangements should be funneled through NCSL staff to avoid confusion.

Typically, the hotel provides complimentary accommodations based on the total room nights used by the conference participants.  These rooms are used to defray conference expenses and are negotiated as part of the hotel contract by NCSL.

Other vendors: For many conferences, it will be necessary to arrange for transportation, facilities outside the hotel, or caterers.  The host state may have knowledge of local vendors, and it should convey its preferences to NCSL staff.  All such arrangements that result in a financial obligation to the conference must be confirmed in writing between the vendor and NCSL.  This is necessary to clarify the financial relationships and protect the host state from financial liabilities.

For liability reasons, NCSL must obtain a certificate of insurability from companies providing transportation for conference events and from facilities outside the hotel where conference functions are to be held.  Such a certificate should be obtained by NCSL prior to finalization of the contractual arrangements.  An outside facility or transportation company cannot be used if it is unable to provide such a certificate or does not have adequate insurance.

Communications: The host state should begin to let NLPES members know about its plans for the conference one year before it hosts.  At the preceding fall training conference, the upcoming host state should have some general information about the conference (such as dates, location, etc.).  In addition, NLPES newsletters should regularly remind readers of the sites of upcoming fall conferences---up to a year in advance---and the NLPES website should list the location of future fall training conferences.

The host state should provide information to NCSL for a brochure that can be distributed to NLPES members at the annual NCSL meeting in the summer (usually 10 to 12 weeks before the conference).  NCSL staff will have examples of flyers or brochures from previous years that can provide useful guidance to host states.  NCSL will design the brochure (unless the host state prefers to do this) and will be responsible for photocopying, postage, and mailings.  The costs for the flyer and the official brochure are included in the conference budget.  If the host state wishes to make additional efforts to communicate to NLPES members about the conference, it should consider using the NLPES listserv or newsletter.

Registration materials: At the conference site, NCSL will provide packets, agendas, name badges, and other materials for conference participants.  The host state provides a conference notebook(s) with information about the program agenda and presentations.  The host state should take care to ensure that the notebook(s) are easily usable and transportable.  The host state may wish to provide a cover letter, restaurant listing, and tourism information.


NCSL staff handles all registration.  Registration fees are payable to NCSL, and billings and refunds are handled through the NCSL Denver office.  The NLPES Executive Committee, with input from NCSL, will set registration and late fees.  NCSL usually charges private sector participants more than the normal registration fee (typically about $30 more).  Any complimentary registrations for private sector participants or special guests of honor must be arranged in advance through NCSL to avoid confusion or embarrassment on-site.

NCSL staff will work with the host state and NLPES Executive Committee to determine faculty needs.  NCSL staff, with the assistance of the host state, will handle faculty contacts and arrangements., if this is the preference of the host state.  The conference budget contains a line item for a faculty person, but all faculty requests for honoraria and expense payments from the conference budget must be approved in writing by NCSL and the faculty person.

Seminar Finances

As a regularly scheduled NCSL seminar, the annual NLPES conference must follow NCSL's financial policies and procedures.  The NCSL Executive Committee has directed NCSL staff not to allow a conference to incur a deficit under any circumstances.  As a result, NLPES and NCSL will build a profit into the meeting budgets to help ensure financial success.

The budgetary process begins with the agenda.  Once the tentative agenda and social calendar are developed, a preliminary budget will be developed by NCSL staff.  Staff from the host state should request NCSL to provide them with copies of budgets from recent fall conferences, to assist in planning.  All outside contributions, fees, and conference costs are considered in developing a budget. Elements of a typical conference budget include:

  • Travel, lodging, and meals for two NCSL staff persons attending the conference for program and logistical support;
  • All meals and coffee breaks provided in the hotel---usually this includes a continental breakfast, up to two lunches, several refreshment breaks, a reception, and a social event;
  • Photocopying, postage, and supplies provided by NCSL to the conference;
  • Audio-visual equipment fees and other expenses incurred during meetings in the hotel (flipcharts, screens, projectors, etc.);
  • Transportation to and from meeting sites, if required;
  • Faculty travel expenses usually for one or two faculty (mileage may be provided for additional speakers);
  • Registration materials; and
  • Up to two mailings (usually a brochure and a promotional flyer).

NCSL places first emphasis on direct conference costs rather than social activities or "fringes."  If the budget is tight, preference in the budget will be given to training and primary expenses rather than meals, breaks and social functions.

The budget is the basis for establishing the registration fee.  The NCSL staff will consult with the host state and members of the NLPES Executive Committee when setting the fee.  Once the fee is advertised in a seminar mailing, it will not be changed.  As plans for the conference proceed and tentative budgets are developed. NCSL will estimate the "breakeven point"---that is, the number of persons who must register for the conference at current or alternative fee levels in order to cover expenses.  The host state may request that the NLPES Executive Committee authorize reduced rate registration slots for its staff.

Registration fees should cover all conference costs.  Financial arrangements should always be confirmed in writing with NCSL.  Since all conference bills are the obligation of NCSL, these matters should have NCSL involvement to protect the host state and ensure prompt bill payments.  The conference revenues are separate from NLPES.

Solicitation of Funds

To fulfill its mission of promoting professionalism, training, and the exchange of ideas and information about legislative program evaluation, NLPES needs the flexibility to seek outside funding to ensure the continued quality and fiscal soundness of NLPES-sponsored conferences and programs.

For many years, NCSL and several NCSL staff sections have sought outside funding to help defray costs associated with their conferences and programs.  NLPES intends to model its policies after those of NCSL and other staff sections to ensure that all solicitations of funds conducted on behalf of NLPES:

  • Are appropriate and consistent with the purposes of NCSL and NLPES;
  • Contribute to the fiscal soundness or enhance the quality of NLPES conferences and programs; and,
  • Do not impair the independence of NLPES members and do not create a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The following general guidelines shall apply to solicitation of funds conducted on behalf of NLPES:

  • Funding for conferences and programs shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, registration fees.  The host state or states, at their option, may solicit contributions to help ensure the fiscal soundness of the conference or program.  NCSL may also solicit donations on behalf of NLPES.
  • Contributions should be made to NCSL and not to the host state or states.
  • Cash or in-kind contributions may be accepted from any public or private organization as deemed appropriate by the host state or states with the concurrence of the NCSL staff section liaison and the NLPES Executive Committee.
  • Sponsorships may be acknowledged in conference presentations, brochures, displays, and any other reasonable manner that does not distract from the purpose of the conference or program.

Key Dates For Host States to Keep in Mind



24 months before the conference: NLPES Executive Committee will formally approve the conference site and host state. The Committee should send the Host State Guidelines to the host state to initiate/continue a close working relationship between the Committee and the state.
12-16 months before the conference: The host state should examine potential locations for the conference and, in conjunction with the NLPES Executive Committee, begin to consider possible themes, speakers and sessions. NCSL should work with host state to make arrangements with the hotel and other vendors
The host state should have general information about the upcoming conference and location at the previous year's fall training conference.

7-9 months before 

the conference:

Host state, in conjunction with the NLPES Vice Chair, determines conference theme and conference tracks. If possible (and if not done previously), the host state makes tentative arrangements for and obtains commitments from plenary speakers. (Written confirmations from plenary speakers are necessary to avoid scheduling conflicts that may arise.) The host state conveys this information to the NLPES Training Committee prior to the spring meeting.
6-7 months before the conference: NCSL establishes a preliminary budget based on projected expenses for hotel, food, and beverage. NCSL shares this information with the Executive Committee.
  Host state provides information to NCSL on 
proposed speaker honoraria/expenses, rental fees for off-site events, entertainment/social events, transportation, and caterers. The budget must be approved by NCSL before any invoices or deposits can be paid. NCSL will confirm arrangements with speakers.
  Host state begins to send to the NLPES Chair, Vice Chair and Training Committee chair, monthly updates regarding speakers, status of plenary and concurrent sessions, panelists, moderators, brochure, schedule, packets, finance and other matters.
5 months before conference:

Finalize budget. Host state provides any updated information to NCSL. NCSL staff seek NCSL approval of budget. 

Host state works with the NLPES executive committee to recruit moderators and speakers. Typically there are about 15 moderators and 30 presenters needed.

  Finalize concurrent session subjects. Contact Executive Committee and other states to finalize panelist commitments. Obtain commitments from volunteer local and private sector concurrent session panelists or speakers as needed.
4 months before conference:  Host states sends NCSL information for conference brochure, to be distributed at NCSL legislative summit and mailed.
3 months before the conference: 

NCSL sends confirmations to speakers for whom arrangements have been finalized. 

Host state develops agenda, expanded daily agenda, and other information (see below) for the conference notebooks.

  Official brochure mailed by NCSL to member states and distributed at the NCSL Annual Meeting.
2-3 months before the conference: 

Host state and the NLPES executive committee may wish to use the listserve to encourage conference attendance and contact other organizations such as AGA, IIA, NSAA, and GAO to solicit attendance. 

Host state develops a sign-up sheet and recruits states for the poster session (if applicable). 

At about two months out, host state contacts speakers and moderators and sends information packets outlining their responsibilities with deadlines for sending host states their bios, audio visual requirements, information forms, PowerPoint presentations and copies of presentations and/or handouts.

6 weeks before the conference: 

NCSL finalizes room, food/beverage, and AV arrangements. 

Host state fills out NCSL information forms for all faculty and forwards them to NCSL. 

Host state obtains faculty expense forms from NCSL and distributes them to the plenary speakers. 

Host state begins to assemble conference notebooks. 

Host state determines AV and equipment needs for each session and works with NCSL and the hotel to obtain needed items.

3 weeks before and up to the conference: 

Registration deadline (there will be a late fee for registrations beyond this date). 

Host state obtains audio-visual equipment (like data projectors) and ensures that each presenter's presentation is compatible with and downloaded on the projectors. 

Host state makes copies of each speaker's presentation for conference notebooks, completes assembly of notebooks, and transports notebooks to the conference site. 

Host state assigns staff to serve as recorders for individual sessions with an eye toward placing summaries on the NLPES website.

Just preceding conference Host state provides a briefing of the conference to the NLPES Executive Committee. Host state should also provide a brief training session for moderators to identify expectations and needs.
1-2 weeks after conference:

Host state gathers copies of electronic presentations and forwards them for the NLPES website. 

Host state sends participants (speakers and moderators) written thank you letters, documenting their participation and expressing appreciation.


Summary of Miscellaneous Primary Responsibilities of the Host State

Assist NCSL in choosing local hotel facilities, transportation, and catering firms. NCSL is the contracting party with the hotel, in order to establish financial arrangements and protect the host state from financial obligations.  NCSL will also handle other vendor contracts, if desired by the host state.

In conjunction with the Executive Committee, develop and arrange the conference’s training program.Fund and arrange bus transportation, fees, and any meals provided for spouse/guest tours away from the hotel during the conference.Plan social events, including arrangements for any events, tours, or receptions away from the hotel.Provide a cover letter, restaurant listing, shopping options, and state/local tourism information for the seminar packets.Prepare written details on weather, dress for social events, side trips, etc.Line up volunteers to help with transportation, if needed, and any social events needing workers.Provide sufficient resources to effectively meet the planning time frames and ensure a successful conference.


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