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Last Revised: 18 February, 2006
Post-Meeting Additions: 21 June, 2006 in BOLD

So You Want to Run a NE GSA Meeting?—What to Expect
Noel Potter, NE GSA 2006, General Chair

This is an evolving document. It will eventually become: 1) when shortened, a meeting report, and 2) I hope a guide for future Local Committees. Meanwhile this version's intent is to help the NE GSA 2007 Local Committee think ahead. I'm aware that in 2007 some arrangements will be different at UNH, but have tried to compose this for future chairs beyond 2007 as well who are likely to have to deal with hotels and convention centers. Wally—Feel free to pass all or parts of this on to your committee as a heads-up on what to expect and think about.

At the end of this document is a Timeline. I felt the need to get this together well over a year ago, but had trouble getting dates from GSA. Finally, about a month after the Saratoga meeting I got a proposed schedule from GSA with deadlines for Preliminary Announcement copy, Final Announcement copy, Abstract Deadline, Program Copy due, etc. GSA works backward from the time of the meeting to establish these dates, so my timeline, adjusted to when your meeting occurs should give a good idea when to expect that things will be due. You will have a little room to negotiate with GSA, but not a lot. For example, this year the SE Section meets right after the NE Section. Our Abstract Deadline was Dec 13, theirs just after New Years. Following are what I found to be the busy times:

Schedule--There are 3-4 crunch times.

1) Late June--when Preliminary Announcement is due at GSA. This will appear in September GSA Today and go live on GSA's web site in early September. You need most Theme Sessions, Symposia, and ideally Field Trips, if any, planned on by now with conveners/leaders for this first announcement. Remember that this Announcement is all that the general public will have to read until just a couple of weeks before the Abstract Deadline in mid-December. A lot of the copy for this and Final Announcement are boiler plate. I simply used last year's with revised dates and places. I'll furnish a MS Word version of these.
2) Late September--when Final Announcement is due at GSA. This will appear in the December GSA Today and go live on GSA's web site in early December. By the time this is submitted, you will have to have your budget together, because you need to do it to set fees. The Registration part of the Final Announcement will go live in mid-December. Appearance of the Final Announcement in early December and approach of the Abstract Deadline will provoke a flurry of e-mails with questions either about things folks have read, or that they should have and haven't read. Also as GSA gears up for registration on-line, the registration staff will have questions about fees, and max and min numbers for field trips, meals, and other special events.
3) Mid-December to early January after abstracts are in and until Program copy is due at GSA (for us this was Dec 13 to Jan 12) all of the Program has to be put together for printing of the Program part of Abstracts with Programs. Nancy Carlson (now Wright) instructs you in use of their quite nice software for handling abstracts. By now you need to know what rooms to assign sessions to. Remember that this occurs over the Holidays. Make sure all involved are on the same page about when they will work on this and when they will "retreat" to spend time with family
4) Mid-January through run-up to the meeting. Expect lots of contact with hotel/convention center regarding room use, meals, AV, and other logistics. Early to mid-February centers around the Preregistration Deadline. GSA will furnish you with weekly reports with numbers signed up. Don't panic the last two days before the deadline—many wait until the last day. You will barely have a day when you don't have to deal with e-mails about all sorts of things. Some involve logical logistics you can plan for, but lots will come out of the blue with special requests, requirements, and problems.


We started looking for a place for our meeting almost 2 years before in Summer, 2004. We met with representatives of the prime facility in our area that is very nice—the Hershey Hotel and Convention Center. We liked it, but it eventually became clear that it was so large that they would want to book other events in some of the meeting rooms at the same time. Their ballroom, which could be divided into 3 "smaller" ones was so large that their brochure had a photo of a full-sized trailer truck parked in it dwarfed by the size of the room. Our biggest stumbling block became their demand for a room block of 300 sleeping rooms per night for the 3 major nights of our meeting. We concluded that we could not be assured of meeting this requirement and moved on. In addition, in retrospect, if we had decided to go there, we would have dealt with one person for "sales" (up to signing the contract), another for all of our arrangements, and then other people yet during the meeting. This has the potential to lose continuity and promises along the way.

Some explanation about how the hotel/convention center business works is in order here. Typically the facility gives you the use of the meeting rooms free, and they make their money on sleeping rooms, food, AV, and beverages. They ask you to commit to a "room block" of so many sleeping rooms per night for the conference. Ours at the Radisson was 150 rooms per night (450 total), with some percent (I think 20 leeway). If you meet less than your room block, you pay a certain amount (say $1000 or whatever), and progressively more as you meet less of your room block. We asked about sleeping room rate, and pointed out that we typically have lots of students, and many like to share rooms. We eventually got a rate of $102/room/night with the same rate applying to up to 4 people in a room. They will probably also offer you so many complimentary rooms for each so-many that are booked. In our case we will get one free room night for every 50 rooms booked. For the record, 2 days after the preregistration deadline our “room pickup” (number of room nights reserved) is: Sat, Mar 18—25, Sun, Mar 19—157, Mon, Mar 20—183, Tues, Mar 21—133, with some more expected in the next month. Our final room pickup as reported by the Radisson was: Fri, Mar 17—3, Sat, Mar 18—27, Sun, Mar 19—197, Mon, Mar 20—208, Tues, Mar 21—139, and Wed, Mar 22—6. At least 20 or so rooms were used in a nearby hotel arranged for overflow.

When you tell what meeting rooms you will need, be sure you've figured out all that you will need. We arranged rooms for 5 oral sessions at a time for the full 2 ½ days, even though Saratoga had only 4 oral sessions per half day. As it turns out, we will have 5 sessions for one day and 4 for the other 1.5 days. The sticky part comes in making sure you have rooms for workshops (often a day or 2 before or after the meeting itself), banquet, meetings, luncheons, etc. We didn't know in January 2005 what workshops we would have over a year later. We reserved 2 rooms on Sunday for these, but didn't think about Saturday. Then late last Summer we arranged 2 workshops for Saturday. We asked for the rooms and they had them, but we were asked to pay $195 for each because we didn't book them when we did the contract. As of this writing, the workshops all got 2 or less people signed up, and we have cancelled them. I also added 2 Noon meetings in small rooms during the meeting recently. These are going to cost us $75 each for adding them later.

Be careful with charges for food, AV, and exhibit setups. We were given nice folders with menus for everything from banquets to coffee for breaks, and a brochure with AV equipment prices from an outside contractor that works with the hotel. Prices seemed reasonable for hotel prices. However buried in the fine print at the bottom of each page it said that a service charge of 18% is added to "all of the above" for service and gratuity. This was also buried in the fine print in the contract and the AV brochure. So, for every $1000 of charges we run up, we will actually pay $1,180. Fortunately we caught on to all this before we built our budget. I did not catch on early when my Exhibit chairs wanted prices to send out to prospective exhibitors, and I set prices for these barely above the basic booth prices. In addition, state and (maybe) local sales taxes will be added on top of everything. We eventually built a spreadsheet with columns that added each extra and worked from the right hand column. You might investigate whether you can get tax exemption for GSA. We tried but it was complex and didn't get done in time.

There are horror stories in the GSA Meeting Manual that tell of real misadventures in dealing with hotels/convention centers. We tried to be prepared for these. We have been lucky. We have had two very fine hotel people to work with from first discussion right through to the meeting. It is very convenient to say "do you remember when we discussed (or you promised) so and so" and they do remember and stick to their promises. If we had gone with the first hotel we looked at, we would have had different people to work with at various stages, and lots of things could have fallen through the cracks.

After basic negotiations with the hotel, you will need a contract. Jack Hess, Executive Director of GSA, must sign this. We were sent a "boiler plate" contract, which was long, complex, and very "lawyerly." Before we could fill in the blanks, the hotel furnished us a draft of what they thought the contract should cover. Theirs was less complex, but seemed to cover the basics. We faxed this to Melissa Cummiskey, who is now Director of Meetings at GSA, and within 2-3 days we talked on the phone and she suggested changes, loopholes, etc. We then went to the hotel armed with these and negotiated. It was very nice to be able to refer to the absent Melissa, who suggested we change such and such, or that we must add so and so. Things went well—we gave a little and they gave a little—and the revised contract was signed by Jack and delivered to the hotel. I will furnish a copy of our contract.

Early in our discussions with the hotel I prepared a series of events on spreadsheets for each day of the meeting, patterning them after similar ones prepared by Kurt Hollocher for Saratoga. These became our template from which we could see the relation of one event to another, and from which we could plan room use. At first the events didn't have specific room names, but these we added as negotiations proceeded. Eventually these were color coded, and presented to the hotel staff for their planning.

They told us that these were very helpful, and that future committees could help their hotel staffs a lot by presenting similar schedules. This gained us a lot of points and good will in relations with the hotel. I will furnish a copy.

Each facility will have its good and not so good sides. Probably our largest plus, other than a good staff to work with, is that they are just the right size for our meeting. We are using all of their facilities for the 3 actual meeting days, so they can't book anyone else in competition with us. Our downside is that whereas at Saratoga one could walk a few blocks to a variety of good eateries from fast food places to pubs to good restaurants, other than the modest restaurant in the hotel, we have a Perkins in the parking lot, and a Taco Bell and a Macdonalds just across it. People will have to drive 1-3 miles to good restaurants other than the one in hotel. We plan to make a restaurant guide to nearby establishments.

Local Committee

Get people whose abilities you know and who will stay in touch with you but will also take some initiative and get the job done. I've generally had a good committee, but in a couple of cases I've had to do some hand-holding and help folks figure out what to do. Once these folks got on track, they did well. Academics know where their bread is buttered, and especially for young untenured faculty, they know that publishing in good journals is going to count for lots more at evaluation time than service on a committee for a professional meeting. Many of the Local Committee positions require a tremendous amount of time, and in some cases that time has to be put in during busy times in the academic year. Opportunities to travel come just at the time someone is needed to put the program, or field trips, or whatever together. Make sure your people know when the crunch times will occur.


I think there is no doubt that it is primarily the diversity and quality of the Technical Program that makes people want to come to the meeting. Getting a good program together requires a good bit of conversation with our diverse clientele and deserves careful attention. Go for diversity. Watch out for the seemingly good topic that falls into your lap but may be deadly. We had one proposal for a session on economic resources, and the proposer promised to get people together from each state where this resource occurs. However, on further investigation it became clear that most of the papers would have been a recitation of production statistics rather than any substantial discussion of the interesting geologic problems of how this resource accumulated and is produced.

We thought we had some good topics that didn't fly. Saratoga had a nice, well-attended session on the History of Geology in the northeast. One of the people who would have been an advocate for this session was out of the country in the Fall when abstracts would have been solicited, and the other advocate tried, but simply didn't know how to contact people they knew and say "You're working on so and so—wouldn't you do a paper on that at our meeting?" This session got only 2-3 papers. Another was proposed on "From Pleistocene to Present: Landscape Dynamics of the Susquehanna River Basin and Chesapeake Bay." In this case it probably lost papers to other sessions on geomorphology and Quaternary geology. And the Time Slices session on the Alleghanian didn't fly. In contrast, we expected a session on problems of Acid Mine Drainage to get a minimal number of papers, and it got enough for an oral session plus a few poster papers.

The Program Chairs and I started brainstorming topics for possible Theme and Symposium sessions a month or two before the Saratoga meeting. Ask lots of people beyond your own sub-disciplines what the hot topics are in their research areas. Are there any good topics specific to your region? For example, there must be some good topics related to the igneous and metamorphic rocks of northern New England. New England and New York Quaternary folks seem to be doing a lot with climate history that can be deciphered from lakes and their sediments.

Then put your troops to work at the meeting prior to yours (Camp Hill for you). Ask contacts for ideas. Only in the most important cases should you make commitments until you have all possible topics in hand. But do ask people who suggest a topic if they would be a convener and be willing to help smoke out papers if you ask them. Get your troops to write down these ideas and contacts. Probably 75% of our topics evolved from or were refined through conversations at Saratoga.

We knew that the loosely-organized Northeast Tectonics Group, who seems to be mostly igneous and metamorphic petrologists had some of the largest and liveliest sessions at recent NE GSA meetings. Noel had been given the impression that they gathered over beer after their sessions and conjured up what to do next year. But they apparently don't do this right away. Instead, we proposed a general topic, and they took off with it.

It was only a chance encounter that led to this year's nice series of sessions on Time Slices Across the Appalachians. Weecha Crawford, from Bryn Mawr College, suggested the idea, but didn't want to be an organizer. The original idea was to have one or more sessions in which authors would discuss what was happening in a given time interval from the igneous and metamorphic provinces of New England to sedimentary deposition in New York. The same could have been done from SE to NW Pennsylvania. Noel then talked with Craig Dietsch, a former student, and he said that he does field trips on just that theme from SW New England to New York. We urged him to talk with friends, and it all took off from there. As an example of what can happen when an advocate aggressively pursues papers, Craig got 24 papers for his Cambro-Ordovician Time Slices theme session, and the Siluro-Devonian folks did nearly as well.

After Saratoga we met and put together the topics we had gathered. We looked for "holes" among the topics using the disciplines under which one can submit papers to GSA. For example, we didn't have any proposed session on the Quaternary, which usually attracts a substantial following. So we invented a generic session on "New Developments in Late Quaternary History and Climate in the Northeast," and got a friend from the NE Friends of the Pleistocene to help us find a convener. Similarly we invented a session on hydrology and "dirty" water, which usually attracts a number of papers. A session on geological education always attracts more than a few papers.

When you choose titles, choose the words carefully. A word added or left out can exclude or include more than a few potential papers. For example, our “Metamorphic Rocks and Shear Zones: Stitching Together Appalachian Terranes” might have attracted more papers had we left out the word “Appalachian.”

Several sessions are traditionally sponsored by other organizations or by Divisions of GSA. We had been under the impression that these groups came up with the proposals for the sessions. Indeed, our Forensic Geology session was proposed by Sue Halsey on behalf of the Geology and Society Division of GSA, and it looks like a good one. On the other hand, for years the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) has sponsored 2 or 3 sessions at NE GSA. We contacted the officers (Bosiljka Glumac, President, and Al Curran, Secretary, both at Smith College) and urged them to get their members to suggest Theme topics. They e-mailed their membership. We got no suggestions, and I stuck my foot in it by suggesting to Bosiljka and Al that this might mean they'd have a party and no one would come. Al, with long experience with the group, then told me that the tradition was that the Program people came up with topics, and then SEPM chose from among the sessions to be sponsors. Two of the sessions are being convened by SEPM members, but they just didn't think of proposing sponsorship until we pushed it. I suggested that it would be much better for SEPM members to take the initiative, but we worked things out so that they are sponsors of 2-3 sessions and one field trip. We urge you to contact the SEPM folks early and try to get them to suggest good topics—the experts should know best what would be good topics.

The Pander Society (conodont folks) meets at a section meeting somewhere around the country each year. They are not likely to meet back in the NE for a few years. The Northeastern Section of the Paleontological Society has traditionally sponsored a session at NE GSA. I had a contact for this, but officers changed, and by the time we got in touch with the new President, it was August or September—too late to get a session into the GSA Today version of the Preliminary Announcement. However, we did get their Theme session added to the on-line version, which most people use when they submit abstracts, and they got a modest number of papers..

Let me emphasize the timing needed for all this. Authors will submit papers to Theme sessions that will be listed in the Preliminary Announcement. This appears in early September on line and in GSA Today , but copy for the Preliminary Announcement is due at GSA at the end of June. You need to have most of your Themes agreed upon by mid-June.

We had GSA send an e-mail blast to the NE Section members soliciting them topics, and asked that they be sent to one of our Technical Program co-chairs by May 6. We got a few suggestions this way, some off the wall, but most evolved from conversations at Saratoga, or were invented by us. By the time we sorted all possible topics and settled on the ones we wanted, it was mid- to late May. Then a new problem arose—many people whom we needed to contact to confirm that they would act as advocates/conveners and get their contact information (e-mail, phone) had finished their academic semester and headed for the field or Timbuktu. I urge you to try to select most of your Theme sessions and line up advocates by early May—you'll save yourself a lot of headaches. The person (General Chair?) preparing the copy for the Preliminary Announcement should set a deadline for receiving all copy (in large part the Theme and Symposia information) a few days before copy is due at GSA so that there's time to make sure it is in order (you don't get to look at galleys of this).

One session literally fell into our lap at the last minute. One and a half weeks before the Abstracts deadline Pete got a call from someone who noted that a new Geology and Health Division of GSA had been formed in November. They wondered if they could have a session? Pete acted quickly and told them that if they could get enough papers submitted, we would add a Theme session. They did and we did, with help from Nancy Carlson at GSA. They have 7 papers in what appears to be a nice session.

Last April or May Steve Pollock came back from the “Secretary's Summit” in Boulder and told me that the GSA Division Chairs were ready to help with Theme topics for Section meetings. In theory I thought this was wonderful, but finding those people, especially with an interest in the NE Section, was too daunting for me. Indeed in mid-Summer I chanced to meet one Division Chair who had received a request for help from another Section, and didn't even know that she was expected to do this. In August someone in the Baltimore area associated with the Engineering Geology Division contacted me and offered to help, but by then the Preliminary Program was about to come out in GSA Today . IF you want help from Divisions, find out who is in charge from the GSA web site and contact them in April.

Perhaps right after national GSA it is a good time to remind advocate/conveners that it is their job to “beat the bushes” for papers. If they sit on their rears with their brains in neutral, the chances are good that they won't get many papers for their sessions. Tell them your rules and tell them to remind authors of the Abstract Deadline.

Note that for Symposia, the papers are invited. This presumes a strong advocate who knows what they are doing and can get a group together to do it. Theme Sessions, on the other hand, consist of submitted papers. We sweetened the pot by telling advocates that they could have up to 2 invited papers, and that for other papers they must say “I urge you to submit.” Some find “being invited” useful on their vita. A few conveners chose to invite someone of stature to give a special keynote talk in a double slot (40 minutes) to open their session. (Note added 12/06: I recently heard from Wally asking about GSA's rule that says something like “other than symposium presenters, an author may be speaker on no more than one paper.” An invited theme session presenter wanted to also present a paper in another session. A convener argued that this rule had been violated in the past. For our meeting, someone may have slipped through, but not intentionally. As I understand it, Wally's committee decided to stick with the rule.) Whatever you decide about these issues, make sure you get it straight early and tell all of your advocate/conveners. Otherwise headaches will ensue.

Putting the Technical Program Together. Nancy Carlson, who manages putting the Program together and getting it printed for GSA is tremendously helpful and a can-do lady. She introduced us to the Confex computer program that receives and allows sorting of abstracts. Once she gives you access to the system, you will be able to see on-line how many abstracts have come in and which ones have been submitted for which theme sessions, symposia, and disciplinary topics. In our case, I chose to have access along with my Program Chairs, but I decided not to manipulate the program. Conveners/advocates are given access to their sessions, and are told by e-mail to arrange their papers, and move ones they don't want into a general pool. Some conveners will be laggards, and you will have to make some phone calls. People may be difficult to reach over the Holidays.

It helps to be ready to say what a half-day schedule of oral papers will look like. You will need start times, how many, coffee break, whether there will be time for a short introduction, and bottom line—how many papers you can put in a half day session. These times are all eventually entered into the system. For oral papers, attention needs to be paid to whether there are too many (need another session, or move some to posters) or too few (2-4 papers may cause you to cancel the session and move the papers elsewhere, OR you may end up with two short back-to-back sessions in a half day. Similarly, some attention needs to be given to spreading like topics out so that the hardrockers, for example don't have to choose from 3 similar sessions in one half day. Posters need to be arranged to not overflow the number of poster panels you have planned and have room for—be careful, for overflow is easy to do as the last papers get shuffled around. It is also as you finish the Program that you will need the names of rooms that various sessions will be assigned to, taking account of what sessions you think will require larger or smaller oral sessions based on attendance expected. For oral general discipline sessions you will need to find and contact session chairs.

Meanwhile you should have the Program copy other than the Technical Sessions ready to submit to Nancy. From there on, you will only have some adjustments to make. Nancy arranges the e-mails of acceptance to be sent out. A couple of weeks later you will receive galleys of the whole Program as a pdf file, and have 2-3 days to check it. Ours was in excellent shape, but somehow the paper titles in the Technical Program, which are in upper and lower case, had some glitches being translated from the Abstract titles with all caps as submitted. We had Ny instead of NY, and Morb instead of MORB, etc. These are being fixed and should be fine.

You will be asked as you return the galleys to place an order for Programs (the ones given out at Registration), and Abstracts with Programs (which are sold). Unfortunately this occurs a week or two before the Pre-registration deadline, so you will be guessing at how many you need based on past years' statistics and your guess as to how your meeting will differ from previous ones. Our programs are costing about $1.05 apiece, and Abstracts with Programs are sold to us at $12 apiece, and we are told to sell them for $15 or more. You will be stuck with the leftovers and their cost. On the other hand, near the end of our meeting we ran out of Programs, and had to photocopy another 50.

Audio Visual

Get an AV chair that is reasonably adept at computer technology. This will be one of the biggest items in your budget (ours on the order of $16,000). Duane Braun created a ftp site at Bloomsburg University for folks to upload their PowerPoint files. This will be open until Friday before the meeting. Then he will have a site at our convention center. In addition folks will be able to bring their files on disks or memory sticks. Make sure you know who's going to oversee making sure the right computers and projectors are there with the right software, and oversee the Speaker Ready Room. They must also be willing to oversee student help and run session chair orientations.

Generally our AV went well, but a few people ran their presentations successfully in the Speaker Ready Room, and then had trouble running them in their sessions. This caused great frustration. The culprit, despite great care by our AV folks, was apparently that 2 different brands of laptops were furnished, and some had slightly different versions of the software we used. Duane Braun highly recommends that facilities be networked. He also said that, despite rules saying that files should be in the Speaker Ready Room hours before a session started, more than a few people arrived as late as 15 minutes before their sessions started.

Field Trips

We decided to do some field trips, but we are toward the southern end of the section, and are meeting well along in March. We are aware we could get dinged by snow, but chances are small. We planned 7 trips, including a K-12 teacher trip to an aggregate quarry. Getting these organized was a substantial undertaking. Andy DeWet at Franklin and Marshall College has been the primary Field Trip Chair. Once we had the trips planned, there were issues like transportation. My committee discussed this, and somewhat against my better judgment they decided that most trips should be run in coach buses. Major argument was that buses have rest rooms. Those guys are expensive--$600-800 for a day. Fees had to take account of this. I figured fees assuming we would have the buses roughly half full—about 20-25 people to balance the budget. We inquired about lunches at the hotel. Their box lunches were about $12.50, but by the time we added their 18% gratuity and service charge this became $14.75 for a simple lunch. We rebelled. Both Andy and I queried our college food services, and got prices for what will probably be a better lunch at about $7.50 per person. We are using F&M food service, and since all but the loading for the field trips is away from the hotel there are no issues of bringing in food.

At this writing, it appears that only the Don Wise Nappes in Lancaster County, Carol DeWet's Cambrian Microbial Reefs, and Bill Kochanov's Karst trips will have enough to make a bus cost effective. The other trips now have 8-10 people signed up. We are going to have to switch to vans for these. I urge you to consider alternative modes of transportation (bus vs van), and work out the economics of each. Most of our trips are a full day before the meeting. Carol's DeWet's trip is a half-day trip, and though the subject is interesting, I wonder if the half-day is also attractive to some.

We decided to do a single guidebook for all trips that would furnish us copy. A couple of trips are going to run on "handouts," but we expect to print a guidebook for about $6-7 per copy, give one to everyone who takes a trip, and sell extra ones at the meeting for a bit of profit. Caution: If you do this, some of your author-leaders will suggest that they want some (or lots of?) color. I didn't even think of this. We are going to have printing done in Dickinson's print shop at a good price. However, a black and white "impression" costs 3 cents a page, whereas a color one costs 25 cents a page. A lot of color can clearly run the price up fast. We compromised and said we would do up to 3 pages of color together, and the editor gets to set the size of the figures on those pages.

Eventually we printed our guidebook for a little over $4/copy at Dickinson's print shop.


Treasurer—I asked long-time friend, Bob Ganis, who is a consultant to the local aggregate industry, to be our Treasurer. It turns out that nowadays with GSA national handling all the funds for the meeting this is sort of an anachronism. Formerly the treasurer kept all the meeting funds, had a local bank account, received funds, and wrote checks. Now GSA issues "the chair" a credit card with a $5000 limit, and larger bills like hotel/convention center is taken care of by direct billing to the meeting account at GSA. If you pay for small items personally, you only need to keep receipts and upon submission you will get paid promptly. We worked with Mary Kerns at GSA.

Bob has kept track of all expenditures and income, and even though I spent or received funds, I always informed him so that he could keep track of the details. Probably most important to me, Bob has been a good sounding board for all the meeting business. Bob also offered to try to find Sponsors, and through his contacts in the aggregate industry, has obtained something like $3,500-4,000 in subsidies for our meeting.

Designing a budget with realistic numbers will drive you batty until you get the hang of it. There are dozens of items that you will need a realistic estimate of costs for. Before you leap with joy that you can run a meeting with low fees, be aware that GSA national will get $25 per professional registrant and $12 per student, guest, exhibitor, and comp registrant for their services.

Also decide early on your policies for "comps" (complimentary fees, etc). An old section meeting manual I read said that "comps can kill your budget." We (mainly I) decided that only in special circumstances would we offer comps. All, including the local committee and the General Chair, paid the same fees as others. If you start offering comps, and have for example a local committee of 12 people and give all comps for registration of $120, your budget will be down $1440. You need to gently remind people of your comp policy once in a while. We told field trip leaders that they were expected to pay the same fee as participants. One leader missed this, and expected (hoped ?) that his near dozen helpers would also go free—yet they wanted lunches, guidebooks, and needed transportation like the participants. They all paid.

Note that GSA expects comps for their staff, and for GSA's president, though we do not get charged registration fees for these people. We also are expected to pay for some hotel room nights for some staff, but we covered most of these with our comp rooms from our "room pickup."

Our only real "comps" were registration for our two special guest speakers, Jim

Bell and Sarah Andrews, and we paid for the room for Sarah Andrews. If you invite special guests, do not forget to find out if they expect an honorarium, and if so, how much.

Budget—We found it useful to distinguish two kinds of expenses and income:

1) Projected Expenses and Projected Income related to Registration Fees—this is the part that is needed to set the Registration Fees. More below.

2) Expenses and Income covered by individual charges. Most of these are ticketed items—banquet, luncheons, field trips, etc. For each item it is simply a matter of getting costs, and then setting the fees so that you will at least recover costs. Field trip and workshop costs are slow coming in, but we can estimate bus or van and guidebook costs early. We got the cost of food for banquet, etc. from the hotel fairly easily. We priced these items at a dollar or two more per person than the known cost. My Local Committee decided to use coach buses for most of the day-long field trips, but after preregistration numbers came in we switched to vans for about half the trips. We priced the trips so that we could still pay for the bus/vans with them half full. Don't forget to include lunch and guidebook costs if appropriate.

Setting Registration Fees—For Projected Income Related to Registration Fees, the great guessing game is how many will come, and in what categories (e.g., Pre-registrants vs On-site, Professional vs Student, GSA Member vs Non-Member, etc.). I used the Saratoga registration data, calculating percent in each category, to build my models, assuming Saratoga was typical (Tysons Corners was a joint meeting with 2 Sections—NE/SE, and Halifax was atypical with less from the U.S. and more from Canada). It is worth noting that for Saratoga a whopping 48% of registrants were students. We worked hard to keep student registration fees low, but with students as almost half of the registrants, we couldn't go too low. As our pre-registration deadline has passed now, I have compared the percentages of pre-registrants in each category to those I used in our model based on Saratoga numbers. It turns out that the Saratoga numbers were a good guide, with little change for us. When all of our numbers are in I will furnish ours to you, and you might build a model based on the two combined.

I then built a basic spreadsheet model that calculated the number of people expected in each registration category based on the percentages expected in each category, and made separate columns that calculated attendance for a total attendance of 650, 700. 750, 800, and 900.

From this, one can plug in various fees as trials to see what total income will be. You will soon discover that you should focus primarily on Professional Member and Non-Member rates, and on Student Member and Non-Member rates. Categories such as Professional 70+ and Spouse/Guests produce so little income that those fees should be set last. You will also need to fiddle with fees for Early Registration vs On-Site Registration. For Saratoga, about 30% paid the higher fee after the Preregistration Deadline.

For Projected Expenses Related to Registration Fees, a first major item to include is the fees that GSA charges us per registrant—these fees are $25 per Professional Registrant and $12 per Student or Guest. These fees are dependent on the great game to guess the number of registrants you will have, and I used the same models referred to above to guess how many Professionals vs students we would have. Other major expenses include AV (for us about $16,000), Welcome Reception (for us about $8,000), coffee breaks (for us $3,500-$4,000), and boards for posters (we had 20 of these @ $33 each). If you decide to bring some special guests and pay their expenses, don't forget to include an estimate of costs for these.

Finally we set the spreadsheets so that for a given number of registrants we could subtract expenses from income and get a "bottom line" for varying total attendance and fees. We probably went through 5-8 models. Don't forget that Steve (NE Section Treasurer) expects the meeting to return on the order of $7,000-9,000 to the Section treasury. We finally settled on a minimal attendance of 700, and tried to be quite conservative (that is, if there was doubt, we set an expense higher rather than lower). At this writing (Feb. 18) I am guessing that we will have an attendance in the 800-850 range, and I am comfortable that we will return well over the $7,000-9,000 to the treasury. This has allowed us to add a few items (e.g., we will probably raise the amount of coffee for coffee breaks, we are printing signs for events, pay for the planning meeting for 2007, etc.) without going wild.

We ended up with about 930 registrants and will return just over $25,000 to the section treasury. Some might say that we should have set our fees lower, but there is no way to know when fees are set that we would come out so well on registration. I take comfort that the income will go to endowment to support student travel to meetings and research.

I will furnish copies of our budget and final figures on CD-ROM, and at the Camp Hill meeting I will have examples of our budget to explain how we built the models.


Registration will "go live" on GSA's web site in early December. This is handled by GSA, and someone from the staff there will be assigned to your meeting. In our case, we have had a very good working relationship with Kevin Ricker. You will be e-mailing or on the phone to your registration person frequently. Lots of questions arise. For example, can someone go on a field trip without registering for the meeting? In this case, we agreed on a $30 registration fee for these folks to recover the costs of GSA's charge of $25 per Professional registrant. What about the student workers—we offered students free registration for 2 half-days of work. We will have about 30 students. GSA will charge you $12 per Student registrant, but don't forget in your budget that you will have no "income" from these registrants. Similarly, when I was asked by my Exhibits folks early last summer what basic costs would be, I said that we would offer one free registration for each exhibit. When I did budget, I forgot that we would still pay GSA $25 per Professional registrant. We have since had to deal with 2-3 exhibitors who wanted to have two people for their booth and had near rebellion from one exhibitor when I said that the second person would have to pay a full registration fee. We finally settled on the second person being registered as a guest ($30 for us) to recover the $25 we have to pay GSA.

A week or two before the Pre-registration Deadline you will anxiously watch the figures sent to you by your registration contact at GSA to see if you are going to have enough attendance to balance your budget. The reality is that you will not know much until the morning after the deadline—many register at the last minute. You will then be able to use pre-reg/on-site registrant ratios from past meetings (for Saratoga this was about 70/30) to guess at your final attendance. We had a similar ratio for Camp Hill—in other words, at least for our section, almost a third register after the pre-registration deadline, and many of these do so as walk-ins.

Your meeting budget will be expected to pay for rooms for several GSA people. You will be expected to cover costs for 1) a GSA Bookstore person, 2) a GSA Registration person, 3) Jack Hess, and 4) the GSA President (in our case we have both Bill Thomas and Steve Wells coming). Karlon Blythe, who runs the Shlemon and Mann Mentor Programs, has her expenses, including room, covered by the GSA Foundation. Your GSA Registration person will get these folks registered, but you will be expected to make room reservations for them and furnish GSA with confirmation numbers. For our special guests, Jim Bell and Sarah Andrews, our GSA Registration person set up a special VIP code for them to register free. We arranged with the hotel to put these folks room charges on our bill. Be ready—you will be asked "room only," OR "all hotel charges?"

K-12 Teachers Program

A friend from our local community college offered to run our K-12 teachers program, and he got a colleague who has taught secondary school science to help him. We brainstormed a lot. One of these folks had never attended a NE GSA and the other hadn't for years. Neither had any connection to NAGT or NESTA. Neither had any sense that workshops and field trips for teachers would have to run before or after the formal meeting. They finally got some good workshops together, and our Treasurer helped them make contact with a quarry where they planned to take teachers. All this required lots of work. A particularly sticky problem is how to get the word out to secondary earth science teachers. My K-12 people seemed to be thinking very provincially, talking of getting the word out to the teachers in the adjacent few counties. I urged them to use a PA Dept of Education database with e-mail addresses for all secondary earth science teachers in the state. But beyond that, most of these teachers are not GSA members. After a lot of trouble I did manage to get NAGT New England and Eastern Sections to send out a notice about our K-12 events, and I sent a similar notice to a contact who said they sent a note to NESTA members in the NE, but I never saw it.

Now with the pre-registration deadline past by 3 days, we had from zero to 2 people signed up for all the K-12 teachers events including their nice field trip, and we have cancelled all of the K-12 events. I understand that we are not alone in this, for I've had a report that the SE Section has a similar problem. This is particularly frustrating for a lot of time spent on this, and I feel bad for the folks who did a lot of hard work.

I suggest that if you have a strong network of local earth science teachers you bring them together later this Spring and ask them what they would like for a K-12 program and give them a major role in planning those events. Then ask them if they would use their teacher networks to spread the word.


Someone from your Local Committee should come prepared to talk with all of the exhibitors at Camp Hill. Last year at Saratoga I brought two forms for exhibitors:

1) A simple sheet with large type for exhibitors to take home telling when and where next year's meeting is, and giving contact information for those handling exhibits.

2) A form that I asked exhibitors to fill out for me, telling organization, contact person, address, e-mail, phone, and some check-boxes to say whether they would exhibit next year (likely, probably, not likely). These forms have been invaluable in making contact with folks. Most are coming to our meeting too.

Be aware that the GSA Bookstore (Ann Crawford is contact at GSA HQ) will want a double booth, and that the meeting pays for this one. I had assumed that they would need just a basic booth, but I recently heard that they would want electricity (another $60 for the meeting) and high speed internet access (at $150/day for 4 days). This wasn't in my budget. After some phone calls, I found that GSA will pay for the internet connection and electricity. We also pay for several nights of room for the bookstore person (and also for the person who handles registration). GSA will ship their exhibit stuff ahead--I'm told to expect 25-30 items (by FedEx). You will need to arrange an address for it to be shipped to.

Kurt Hollocher had one or two exhibitors who didn't pay. We took his advice and have said that all exhibits must be paid for a month before the meeting. We designed a simple "contract" to be submitted with the payment, which listed contact people and any "extras" needed beyond the basic booth (electric, phone, high-speed internet). A few exhibitors will want extra tables, mainly those with books.

You need to think early about registration for exhibitors. Traditionally exhibitors have been offered one free registration (some have told us two). Be aware that GSA will charge you $12 per registrant for these folks, so don't forget these costs in your Exhibit fee. We worked out an arrangement with our GSA Registration coordinator that we would collect all of the Registration forms (they printed out the paper forms and sent our Exhibit chairs copies), and then send them in together marked "EXHIBITOR." If any exhibitor wanted anything beyond basic registration (e.g., banquet), they had to furnish a credit card number to pay for that.

Workshops/Short Courses

I never found a Workshop/Short Course Chair, so I tried to do it myself. I wanted to have a modest number of these for the weekend before our meeting in which there would be something for: 1) K-12 teachers, 2) College/University teachers, and 3) consultants. All of these got set up quite late--well after the Preliminary Announcement appeared--probably because I was distracted with the main program. The K-12 teachers program that was a bust is described above. I finally got Heather Macdonald at William and Mary to work with Barb Tewksbury to offer two of their very good NSF-sponsored workshops for College & University teachers. The two workshops attracted either one or two people, and they are now cancelled.

I wanted to attract consultants, a group usually under-represented at NE GSA, to our meeting. I thought that the best way to do this would be to offer some workshops or short courses that would help them get up-to-date on a subject of interest to them. I tried to use every contact I had in the area to get ideas and find a good short course or two. Several of these people had interesting ideas or contacts, but when I tried to get them to give me the details or make a contact for me, they were "too busy" or never got back to me. I found this quite disappointing and indeed wondered how some of these folks could call themselves professional geologists.

I made contact with the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists (PCPG), the main organization here of consulting companies that have registered geologists on their staffs and the primary group that lobbies for PG's in PA. Once or twice a year they have offered a two day review course to prepare geologists for the ASBOG licensing exam given for registration in a number of states, including PA. I suggested that they offer their course before our meeting. We were prepared to make all hotel arrangements, but eventually they decided to do the course on Saturday and Sunday before our meeting. We agreed to make links on our Final Announcement and their PCPG web site. I carried out my part of the bargain, and some weeks later found no reference on their site to our meeting. I finally got that straight with a good message about our meeting, but they have not stayed in touch. I recently heard that they sent out a flyer to consultants in PA advertising their review course with not a word about our meeting. I have no idea whether their course will go or not.

I was saved, I thought, on the consultant front by the offer of Doug Mose and a colleague at George Mason University to do a 2-day course on Measuring Indoor Radon. We negotiated and added it to the Final Announcement. It was attractive that they would run the course for a minimum of 5 people. But Doug wanted to make a profit, which he uses to support grad students, and the course was to cost several hundred bucks. They had offered the same course at Salt Lake City GSA, but it was cancelled. After our pre-registration deadline no one had signed up, and I suggested to Doug that they cancel. He was coming to our meeting anyway, and suggested we let it play out and see if they get anyone. However, if we had done this and only got one or two persons, I'd have lost money. My AV costs were going to be $400+ and I had added the room on Saturday late for another $195.

The conclusion to all this is that I would like to see workshops continue to be offered at NE GSA, but think carefully about what you offer, how much they will cost, and how you can promote them so that the budget will balance. I've concluded that I can run meetings, but don't know a darn thing about workshops, short courses, and K-12 teacher programs. Fortunately all of these were set up so that we will only lose a penalty for canceling the rooms we had reserved late for Saturday.

Student Workers

It has long been a tradition to have student workers to help with Registration and AV/lights in the Speaker Ready Room and oral sessions. We asked our GSA Registration person and our AV Chair how many they needed. For registration the number is higher at busy times (first evening, first morning) and tapers off to the last morning. We will have about 30 students helping during our meeting. Each is expected to put in two half-days (e.g., Monday AM on Registration and Tuesday PM in an oral session) in exchange for free registration for the meeting. Our Student Help coordinators created a spreadsheet of jobs and times by half days. They sent out a call to Department Chairs of colleges/universities in our area in January as Spring semester began to ask students if they wanted to help. Beyond these sources, we had several inquiries from students elsewhere in the Section who had heard that they could cut expenses this way. Students coming to the meeting were asked to indicate half-days when they would NOT be able to work. Through a number of e-mails students were matched to jobs.

Students were asked NOT to register early for the meeting but, as with exhibitors, rather to print out the paper registration form and fill it in and send it to our Student Help chair. Students all had to furnish credit card information and indicate anything they wanted beyond basic registration (e.g., a field trip, banquet, AWG breakfast, etc). These were then collected and sent to our GSA Registration person for them to be registered as Student Volunteers. IF they perform their duties, they will NOT be charged for registration. If they aren't certified as having worked, they will be charged.

Special Events

We decided early on that we should not tamper in major ways with the basic format of NE GSA meetings that seems to have been successful for many years. Only things I changed from the Saratoga format are:

1) they had the Paleontological Society Luncheon on Wednesday Noon (last day), and not surprisingly got 4 people--we moved it to Monday Noon, and at this writing they have 16 signed up.

2) we carved an hour out of the end of Monday afternoon's sessions for the 4-5 PM special Mars Rover plenary session lecture.

Other Societies traditionally associated with NE GSA meet with us:

The Eastern Section, Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) traditionally has a Social and Business Meeting after one of the afternoon sessions that they sponsor. Sometimes they also have a guest speaker. This is usually on the afternoon of the first day of the meeting (Monday in our case). This year ES-SEPM (Al Curran, Treasurer, Bosiljka Glumac, President, both at Smith College) is contributing $150 for some veges and dip and chips for the social, and we have arranged for a cash bar for them. Be aware that in typical hotel arrangements, if the cash bar doesn't make a certain minimum, you will have to pay the hotel something. This is the only cash bar event for us in which I am not certain whether we'll make the minimum.

Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) traditionally has a breakfast the second morning of the meeting (Tuesday, 6:30-8 AM for us). They usually set fees for Professionals somewhat higher than for Students so that the students are subsidized somewhat. Contacts for this event are Helen Delano at the PA Geological Survey and Sue Halsey at Admiral Consulting in NJ.

Northeastern Section, Paleontological Society (PS) has a luncheon at our meeting. This involves minimal fuss, but making contact with the right person may be a problem. We had a change of their officers to deal with and it was not until early Fall until we had things set up. The PS also usually sponsors a Symposium or Theme Session. Current Chair of the NE Section is Lisa Amati at SUNY Potsdam.

Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) does not have an "event" per se, but have for some years been a sponsor of the papers based on undergraduate research. Through most years including Saratoga, there were 1-2 sessions titled "Undergraduate Research (Posters)." Saratoga was urged by some to get rid of this format and merge the student papers with others by subject. They chickened out at the last minute, but urged us to do it. We agreed that this was a good idea, and put together a position paper arguing the logic of the idea (attached at the end of this document). We sent our arguments to the CUR person (Dave Bailey, Hamilton College) who has dealt with this in recent years, and got a tepid reply. We decided to go ahead and made clear what we were doing in the Prelim and Final Announcements.

All went well until Salt Lake GSA when I was approached by John Creasey from Bates College, who had been at the CUR Geology Councilors' Meeting the day before. As best I can tell, we were the main topic of the meeting. On behalf of the group John presented various reasons why what we were doing was not a good idea. Among these--1) grad schools representatives like the large student poster sessions to look for potential grad students, 2) students can be brought to the meeting for one day, and then scoot home when their session is over, etc. From my point of view, and from conversations with some colleagues at diverse schools, there are equally strong if not stronger arguments against these. CUR also seemed worried about how it would "sponsor" diverse papers rather than sessions. It was too late to change our policy of merging student papers with others on the same topic. Pete Sak worked out with CUR that we would 1) identify undergraduate authors of papers, and 2) furnish CUR names and titles for these to be recognized with a special sign(s?) at the meeting. This is being done. (CUR furnished CUR logo stickers, which we placed on superstats in front of each paper title presented by an undergraduate. There were 115 of these, of which18 were oral.) We don't think our change in policy has affected the number of student papers. Just shy of 30% of the papers at our meeting are being presented by undergraduate students, and there is even a nice scattering of oral papers by students.

Welcome Party—This largely takes care of itself except for ordering the food and cash bars. After AV, it is probably the most expensive item in our budget, on the order of something like $8,000. The philosophy is feed them well, make them happy, and they'll have a good meeting. We chose a mix of hot and cold hors d' oeuvres. Cash bar will have typical hotel prices--a bottle of beer for $4!, etc? Since it is tradition that the first drink is free (through a ticket paid for with registration--don't forget to budget for this), we discussed this with hotel. We decided to include soda, wine, or beer on the ticket, but not more expensive mixed drinks. At first hotel wanted to keep all the tickets together and count them all as the most expensive item (house wine at $4.75/glass). We pointed out that some/many would drink the less expensive beer or soda, but they didn't think they could keep track of the different tickets. We finally convinced them to have three buckets (I suggested I would furnish if they couldn't get some), and throw tickets in each according to what people get. Watch out for little things like this or they will eat your budget. Our "free drink" counts were as follows: Wine—101, Imported Beer—74, Domestic Beer—183, Soda—14.

Coffee Breaks—These are expensive. A single coffee break (really regular coffee, decaf, and tea) is going to cost us $600-800. We started out planning for all coffee/tea for afternoon breaks, but eventually decided to have a mix of these and sodas. We will pay only for the sodas used ($2/can). Bob Ganis made this a focus of his requests to local quarry companies for sponsorships, and we will have signs by the coffee saying who made generous contributions.

Map Blast–This one largely takes care of itself. It has traditionally been on the evening after the first full day of sessions (Monday for us). Many see it as a relaxed social occasion, and we are going to have a cash bar there as they had at Saratoga. Because we have poster boards (used for Map Blast maps) in same area as Exhibits, we are asking exhibitors to stay open. We will also have Sarah Andrews at the GSA Bookstore for a book signing during this time. This was well-attended, very popular.

Banquet--Major arrangements here are:
1) Choosing the food. We started by telling the hotel folks that if we have a meal priced too high, we will get very few people and all efforts to promote it will be self defeating. We are doing a buffet rather than a served meal, and it will cost a dollar or two less than what we are charging. Tradition is to have a cash bar open the hour before the dinner. Our hotel folks resisted having a cash bar open during the meal, but we prevailed on this one--some like a glass of wine during their meal.

2) Banquet Speaker--I solicited ideas and got what seemed to me some deadly suggestions. I suggested we needed light (some spouses do attend) but with some connection to geology. No one but my wife seemed to either want to or be able to give good advice on this. The chair may be on his/her own. Because we had tried to get Sarah Andrews for the Forensic Geology Theme Session, I decided to ask her to do the banquet talk too.

Shlemon and Mann Mentor Programs, "Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch"—These programs for students are run by Karlon Blythe at GSA. There are usually two noon-time Shlemon luncheons, and a late afternoon Mann Mentor pizza "supper." These are all paid for by funds from the GSA Foundation, including Karlon's travel expenses. She will set a maximum cost per person with you (in our case about $15) and tell you how many and the seating arrangements she'd like. All you have to do is arrange the events and food for her. I started with the previous year's wording for copy in Preliminary and Final Announcements, and then let Karlon edit as she wished. Karlon takes care of all the other arrangements, including lining up the "mentors" and chopping off the line of students when the maximum number have been admitted.

Something Special—I decided to try to do something special to create a little extra "buzz" for the meeting. Most of this was provoked by Chris Hepburn's report to GSA Council on Sections and Section Meetings (you should have a copy and re-read it). What we did falls into 2 categories:

1) The NE GSA digital terrain poster. Idea came from a year ago when the N-Central Section did one of the Upper Midwest, prepared by Paul Morin at the University of Minnesota. I contacted him and he agreed to produce an image for us for the NE Section. All went well through various drafts--the digital terrain got sorted quickly. There were glitches over the appearance of the GSA and Dickinson College logos that seemed interminable to Paul and me. All went well until roughly 10,000 of the posters were going to press. Somehow near the end a button got pushed saying "black and white" rather than "grayscale," and the printing was all washed out. 3400 of these had already been mailed folded with the September GSA Today , 2000 had been sent to GSA for giveaways in Salt Lake City, and several thousand arrived on a 300 lb pallet for me--all wrong. After 2-3 tense weeks, some of the publication folks at GSA graciously agreed to pay for reprinting correctly of the 2000 for Salt Lake and some for me (I have a couple of thousand of the good ones to give away at the meeting). These posters cost on the order of $0.25 each for printing, as long as a large number is made--the whole first printing of about 10,000 was done for about $2,500.

A sidelight of this was the production of a stereo anaglyph of the same poster to be viewed with red/cyan glasses. I was sent a spectacular proof at the same size as the mono poster, but cost for printing would have been about 3 times the mono version. We never got the time or $ to print these. However, Paul did print for me on his big drum printer a couple of 5 ft wide by 7 ft high stereo versions which we displayed at Salt Lake City. They were well received and I now am getting orders filled for about a dozen of these at $100 apiece, most to be delivered in Camp Hill, for use in Geology Department lobbies. We sold 12 of these large stereo posters at a modest profit.

2) Special Guest Speakers—We decided to have a plenary session with some "bigwig" speaker on a topic of wide geologic interest. We budgeted a modest amount to cover travel and travel expenses for 2 people. In August when our Local Committee met, we gathered suggestions and winnowed the list to a first, second, and third choice. First choice was to get Steve Squyres at Cornell (main PI on the Mars Rover project), but he was too busy. It was through a colleague of Duane Braun's who does planetary geology that we connected with Jim Bell. It is going to be interesting to see what kind of reaction folks at the meeting have to this Mars talk. (The Mars talk was attended by 400-500 people, and was well received.) Second, we went after Sarah Andrews. It took lots of negotiation, and putting up with her disappearance into Antarctica to get it together, but we now have her for Forensic Geology, a book signing, and banquet speaker.

For the Plenary Session, other topics that we considered include the Indonesian Earthquake a year or so ago and issues related to coastal geology and river levees provoked by Hurricane Katrina.

Meeting Web Site on Your Department Web Page—Following Kurt Hollocher at Saratoga, we created a NE GSA 2006 web page on the Dickinson College Geology Department web page. We used it mainly to post information and instructions. Soon after we furnished copy for the Preliminary and then Final Announcement to GSA, we posted our submitted copy as a pdf, essentially giving people 2 months up on being able to read it. At times I got so busy that it took me weeks to get new copy to our department technician to put up on the page. I don't have any measure of how many used this.

Other Files to be furnished on CD ROM in Camp Hill:

Exhibit Letter—What to expect
Letter to Potential Student Workers
Event Schedule (spreadsheets)
Prelim Announcement
Final Announcement
Income Models


Last Revised 16-February-06

NE GSA, March, 2006
Camp Hill, PA


Jan We finally got a contract with hotel--this is late. Should have been sooner.

Jan-Feb Local Committee selected--make plans for things we should do at Saratoga

Gather suggestions for theme sessions, special events, exhibits, field trips, etc.

March13-16 NE GSA Saratoga

Early April Nancy Carlson contacts us with proposed schedule for: a) submission of copy for Preliminary and Final Announcements, b) abstract deadline, c) submission of Final Program copy, etc. You have some flexibility with this, but not a lot.

Apr 9, Sat Local Committee Meets—Primarily discuss possible Theme sessions and Field Trips in light of Saratoga ideas, but also to get our act together and on same page. Selinsgrove Brew Pub.

Apr 15 e-mail blast to NE Section about: 1) Where, when, contact info for 06, 2) inviting suggested Symposia and Theme Sessions by May 6.

May 6 Suggestions for Symposia and Theme Sessions due to Pete (Program co-chair).

June Decide on Theme Session and Symposia Topics and line up Convener/Advocates. I think we did this too late. By the third week of May most academics have headed to the field or elsewhere and more than a few are hard to get hold of

May or June Exhibit Fees decided, Exhibit Info out to potential Exhibitors. You don't need everything now, but keep these guys on the hook—especially those who might come back from last year—most of ours did.

June 22 All information for First Announcement to Noel (see current year's announcement for content)

June 30 Text for First Announcement due to GSA Today to GSA (Appears in September GSA Today . Also goes live on the web then.

Early Aug By now you should have contacted representatives of various groups that traditionally meet with and have events at NE GSA. Among these are:

Eastern Section, Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM)

NE Section, Paleontological Society

Association for Women Geoscientists

Aug 15 Have menus chosen and prices from hotel for luncheons, banquet, Shlemon, Mann, and box lunches. Need these to do budget, set fees for Final Announcement. Banquet speaker arranged--yes, should have been, but it took a while for us.

Aug 22 Local Committee meets at Dickinson. Discussion of fees (Noel and Bob had prepared models, settled near final fees). Discuss field trip fees and logistics. Review other matters. This was our last Local Committee meeting all together.

Sep 1 By now should have fees set for Registration, Ticketed Meals, Field Trips, Workshops, Box Lunches. Take care of "free" Regis. for student help and any others. Set budget and get it to Steve for Management Board review

~Sep 5 First announcement published in GSA Today and on Web. Abstract form goes “live.”

Sep 22 All information for FINAL Announcement to Noel (see current announcement on-line for content).

Sep 30 FINAL Announcement copy for GSA Today and web site due to GSA

Oct 16-19 GSA National Meeting (Salt Lake for us). Be prepared to advertise your meeting at National. Also a good place to meet with your conveners and pump them up. Good time to stir people you know to urge them to submit abstracts. Might find some exhibitors there too.

~Dec 5 FINAL Announcement published in GSA Today . Preregistration form goes “live” on web.

~Dec 10 Nancy Carlson will introduce Program Chairs, and General Chair (if they wish), to Confex—the computer program that handles, sorts, and arranges abstracts and sessions. This can be done with an ~45 minute conference phone call while you sit at your computer.

Dec 13 Abstract Deadline. Don't expect most abstracts to arrive until the last minute. Over 200 of our approximately 375 abstracts arrived on the last day, and 40 arrived after 8 PM on the last day.

Technical Program folks need to immediately start review and organizing sessions right away. Note that this occurs over Holidays. Need to plan when you will work together on this. Much of the "Program" copy )other than Technical Sessions) can be prepared ahead of time, so that "crunch time" can be devoted to getting the sessions in order and carefully checked.


Mid-Jan Student Help person should have their act together and be ready to e-mail colleagues about how you will handle student help for meeting. Time this to when students are about to start Spring semester—a good time for faculty to pump up their students about meeting anyway.

Jan 12 Technical Program finalized and sent to Nancy Carlson at GSA. All technical sessions in order, conveners arranged. Nancy will prepare text for Abstract Book.

Jan 18 Meet w/ Hotel folks by this date to finalize program, room use and setups, menus, etc. Within a couple of weeks you will be reviewing and signing BEO's (Banquet Event Orders) for every room setup, event, AV requirement, and menu with approximate numbers for these. For food, final numbers are due about a week before meeting. This is also when you should make hotel arrangement for special guests and GSA staff and officers coming to meeting. Should also make sure that all of your billing and payment arrangements are square with the Hotel folks.

~Jan 22 Acceptance notices e-mailed to authors by Nancy Carlson. Include in this message how authors should deliver their PowerPoint presentations (e.g., to an ftp site and/or on CD or memory stick to Speaker Ready Room. Also include instructions about Posters. Technical Program schedule is posted on the meeting web site.

Jan 30 Nancy Carlson furnishes "galleys" of the Program (via e-mail as a pdf). You have 2-3 days to go over it. Most is in good shape (you furnished the copy), but you need to check carefully.

Feb 2 Abstract book goes to printer. Technical program signage printed--so-called superstats that go outside each room. You will also have to furnish number of Programs (the ones given to every registrant at meeting) you want, and how many Abstracts with Programs (the slick-covered, more expensive books) you want. Fair warning—this is 10 days before the Pre-Registration deadline, and most people register at the last minute. You will have to guess how many.

Feb 8 E-mail blast to NE section reminding of Pre-Registration deadline about a week before it—sent out by GSA staff. Also reminds of hotel room block deadline.

Feb 13 Pre-Registration Deadline

Feb 15 Decisions need to be made about whether Field Trips and Short Course/Workshops will "go" or not, based on preregistration numbers. For cancelled events, those who signed up need to be notified and refunds made (this is done by your GSA Registration contact). Need to arrange for refunds through GSA Registration folks. For field trips that are going to run, confirm, add, or cancel transportation requirements.

Feb 15 Need to know Student Help and tell Kevin Ricker who these people are for "free" registrations.

Feb 15 Get number of people for meals, food from Preregistration to Hotel folks to help them refine needs. Furnish exhibit requirements and layout to Hotel.

Feb 20 Deadline for Exhibitors to get contracts and payment in to Exhibits Chair. Also need any special requirements—electricity, high speed internet, extra tables— beyond basic booth. Get Exhibitor Registration forms to Kevin Ricker at GSA.

Feb 17 Guidebook copy to Field Trip Co-chairs ready for editing.

~Feb 25 Guidebook(s) to printer.

Late Feb Signs made and superstats and signs mounted.

Check computer/AV setups.

Check plans for Exhibit and Poster and Registration setup.

Feb 24 Abstract book gets mailed by GSA. Programs and Abstracts with Programs that you ordered are sent to you for meeting.

Mar 8 ? e-mail blast to authors reminding of 1) Power Point download procedures, Speaker Ready Room, type of projector (for oral), and 2) poster setup (for posters).

~Mar 9 Meet with Hotel staff for run-through of all events, setups, etc. This will include Hotel people that do food, setups, AV, etc.

Mar 19-22 NE GSA Camp Hill/Harrisburg Meeting

~Apr 1 File final reports

We gave Saratoga Exhibitors these 2 pages, and collected the second one. It was well worth the effort.

Northeastern Section
Geological Society of America

Dates: Sunday, March 19 – Wednesday, March 22

We hope that you will exhibit with us again next year when we meet at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center in Camp Hill, PA, just across the Susquehanna River from downtown Harrisburg.

Contact Information:
General Chair:
Noel Potter, Dickinson College 717-245-1340

Exhibits Chair:
Michelle Bell Curry, retired 717-221-9252

We expect to have information about cost of exhibit space available within a month or so, and would like contact information from you so that we can make sure our mailing gets to the right person.

Please give us your contact information on the attached sheet. Noel Potter will come by and pick it up at your exhibit booth later in the meeting.

Northeastern Section
Geological Society of America

Dates: Sunday, March 19 – Wednesday, March 22

Please give us your contact information below for a mailing about exhibits at next year's meeting.


Organization or Firm______________________________




Your phone number______________________________

Your e-mail address______________________________

How likely is it that you will exhibit at NE GSA next year?

_____surely _____likely _____maybe _____unlikely

13 May, 2005
TO: NE GSA Management Board
FROM: Noel Potter, Pete Sak, Jennifer Elick
RE: Student Poster Sessions at NE GSA

Ok folks, Chris Hepburn recently told you that the Management Board should be involved in policy decisions about our meetings. Here's your chance to give us some opinions.

For the 2006 NE GSA Meeting we are considering alternatives to the recent format of traditional "Undergraduate Research (Posters)" sessions. Please send us your comments on the alternatives we present below within the next week or so.

In recent years the "Undergraduate Research (Posters)" have been listed in the Program and presented as a group separate from oral and poster papers presented by professionals. For a history of undergraduate posters at NE GSA, see our note at the end of this message. We want to continue to encourage strong student participation in our section meeting, but we see two problems with the current format, as did the organizers of the 2005 Saratoga meeting.

1) Disparate subject matter in 1-3 sessions--The diverse subject matter of undergraduate research ends up jumbled in 1-3 large poster sessions consisting of various subjects mixed together in a potpourri. The end result is a) a lack of coherence of subject matter within a single poster session that is unlike almost every other session--poster or oral--offered at the meeting, and b) an implied "second class citizenship" of these budding professionals, when as a matter of practice many students prepare as good, if not always as sophisticated, papers as some of their full professional peers.

2) Why not oral too?--Creating a Theme Session(s) of "Undergraduate Research (POSTERS)" implies that this is "the place" for undergraduates to present their papers. While we agree that some subject matter clearly lends itself to poster rather than oral mode, some undergraduate research projects could be effectively or more effectively presented in the oral mode. We recognize that poster presentation encourage extended dialog with visitors compared to the brief question and answer time allotted in the typical oral session. If there are multiple student authors on a paper, clearly poster mode makes it easier to give "equal time" than the oral mode. On the other hand, students should be encouraged to practice their oral skills as well. The Saratoga organizers invited a few students who had submitted to the poster session to present in oral sessions appropriate to their research topic.

Posters have become very popular in the past 10-15 years among geologists. The 2005 Saratoga meeting was the first time that the number of contributed posters exceeded contributed talks. A few years ago NE GSA changed from 5 to 4 concurrent oral sessions per half day, presumably largely because of the growth in popularity of the poster mode. Kurt Hollocher has told us that he could have done all oral papers in two rather than 2.5 days.

We see several possibilities to blunt the effect of 1) and 2) above. Instead of the current "Undergraduate Research (Posters)" all in 1-3 large poster sessions,

1) Merge all undergraduate papers with others, with a note in the "Call for Abstracts" making it clear that submissions from undergraduate researchers are encouraged (this was actually done in 1996 and 1997). The problem with this is that papers are not identified as having undergraduate first authors, as is the case now with oral mode papers based on undergraduate research.

A substantial question here is whether we should/could somehow identify all papers based on undergraduate research with student as first author/presenter with some symbol (UR, or the like?)? And if the answer is yes, can we get this information when abstracts are submitted to GSA?

2) Solicit undergraduate posters as now, but merge posters on a given subject by students with those by professionals, and spread the student posters through thematic poster sessions (as was done at the 1994, 1995, and 1998 meetings--see History below).

3) To make sure that students know that the "oral option" is open to them, and to perhaps get a few more oral papers, make a statement in the "Call for Abstracts" to the effect that "undergraduate students are encouraged to consider presenting their research in an oral session appropriate to their research topic."


It appears that the first time that undergraduate research was singled out at NE GSA was at the 1992 Harrisburg meeting where Jeff Niemitz was Technical Program Chair. The "Special Poster Session on Undergraduate Research" was "Sponsored by the Northeastern Section of GSA." There were 29 posters that year.

By 1993 (Burlington) the Special Poster session was co-sponsored by NE GSA and the Geology Division of CUR, with Barb Tewksbury (Hamilton College) as convener. Since then primary conveners have been Larry Malinconico (Lafayette College) and Dave Bailey (Hamilton College) with help from others a couple of years. Numbers of undergraduate posters since 1994 have been in the 50's and 60's, with the exception of the 1998 Portland meeting with 39 and the 2004 Tysons Corners meeting with 87 (joint NE/SE Sections). Second highest number of undergrad posters (69) was at Halifax.

A sampling of the last several years (2001, 03, 04) of meeting programs for other section shows that all but the Cordilleran Section now have an Undergraduate Research Poster session. Most are sponsored by CUR. From 6 to 58 posters were presented at these meetings.

In most years there was simply one or more "Undergraduate Research (Poster)" sessions with all subjects lumped together. In several years (1994, 95, 98) posters were arranged by topic, with undergraduate ones designated as such with a separate heading (e.g., Booths 1-8 "Petrology" and Booths 9-14 "Undergraduate Research (Posters): Petrology," followed in like fashion for other topics with the undergrad posters spread among other posters over the whole 2½ days of the meeting. In two years (1996, 97) a "Special Poster Session" was described as "Undergraduate Research," but none of the poster sessions nor individual papers was specifically identified as by undergraduates.