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Conferences and Awards

Hosting events and offering awards programs for members helps chapters achieve several goals: providing professional development, networking and recognition opportunities; increasing the visibility and importance of school PR; and creating chapter revenue to support programs and services. 

Chapter events can run the gamut from one-hour webinars to multi-day in-person conferences. Read on for tips, strategies and examples on best practices for chapter event planning.

To be most effective, chapter events should address members’ current needs, as identified through a survey or the chapter’s strategic plan.

Event planning is a great way to get newer or less involved members engaged in the work of the chapter, as well as groom future leaders. Don’t rely on the board to do all work - consider having 1-2 board members serve as lead or liaison for an event, but have them work with a committee of non-board members to plan and implement the event.

In addition to more typical full-day or multi-day conferences - that may focus on one subject or cover a range of subjects - here are some other ideas for events to meet members’ needs:

  • Virtual on in-person coffee chats or happy hours: 1-2 hour informal gatherings on a particular subject or to “go around the horn” and see what’s on people’s minds and where they need help
  • Topic-specific workshops on an timely issue
  • Tactical, skill-based sessions
  • Half-day conferences tied to another education-related event

If you’re stuck for ideas, reach out to other chapters to ask what events they offer and what topics they’ve found most appealing.

Some chapters use sponsors to help pay for conferences. See sample sponsorship guidelines below:

Just as NSPRA and our members have benefited from building and maintaining relationships with other professional associations and organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), AASA, The School Superintendents Association and National School Boards Association (NSBA), chapters can develop these relationships at the state and regional level as well.

Chapter leaders are encouraged to pursue these alliances and collaborations as they promote the importance of the school public relations function to other education leaders and raise the status of our profession, along with receiving recognition for the work of the chapter and its members. What other education or communication-related associations exist in your state that might be good partners for conferences or other events?

MOSPRA Partnering Guide

Some ways to collaborate with other education-related associations:

  • Hold a joint conference, drawing on each other’s experience, ideas and resources.
  • Provide workshops at their conferences.
  • Offer to serve as “counselors on call” at their conferences for 30-60 minute problem-solving sessions.
  • Jointly sponsor awards for educators at various levels.
  • Have a School Public Relations booth at their conferences, where you can provide information about what we do, how to hire a PR professional or the value of membership (if appropriate).
  • Utilize their staff to assist in your chapter management and logistics, such as billing, printing, mailing or other needs.

Chapters can also partner with neighboring chapters to offer a joint conference or workshop. If you are holding virtual options and have the capacity, invite all NSPRA members to participate.

One of the hallmarks of an NSPRA National Seminar is the warm and friendly atmosphere, and the host chapter plays a critical role in ensuring that all participants feel welcome and involved during the week. Host chapter members help NSPRA staff stay tuned into participants’ needs. They also provide local expertise about places to go, things to see and other considerations related to the Seminar city.

Bottom line: Host chapters are a key part of the team that makes the NSPRA National Seminar a success!

Serving as a host chapter is optional, but for those chapters that welcome the opportunity, the following guidelines explain what hosting entails.

The host chapter’s primary responsibility is to oversee social activities woven throughout the Seminar. Planning generally begins several years prior to the event.

The Year Before the Seminar

The year prior to the Seminar in your state, you can help create a “buzz” that gets people excited about coming to your state and the Seminar city. Some strategies that have been successful in the past include:

Communicate regularly with NSPRA about your plans.

This will help ensure that the chapter's plans meet hotel requirements and are a good fit for the Seminar schedule and our members. NSPRA staff work closely with the chapter as you prepare to host the NSPRA Seminar. Host committee chairs are encouraged to call the NSPRA office with any questions as you begin planning. Your primary contact for the Seminar is NSPRA's Seminar manager.

Develop a theme and logo that reflects the site location and the chapter’s entertainment focus.

Each year NSPRA develops a National Seminar theme and logo that reflects the program offerings for use in marketing materials. Over the years, host chapters have also created their own social themes and logos to help balance the work and play aspects of attending a Seminar.

The host chapter is not required to develop its own logo, but those who choose to do so must follow these host chapter guidelines:

  • Use the chapter’s name or abbreviation in its Seminar logo design, along with the NSPRA logo if desired, so that the logo is clearly branded as being from the chapter (NSPRA Policy 255.2).
  • Submit the chapter's Seminar logo to the NSPRA associate director for review before the logo is used publicly (NSPRA Policy 255.2).

If your chapter chooses to have its own social theme and logo, you will be responsible for developing and paying for any artwork you plan to use and for providing appropriate color as well as black/white art to NSPRA for use in our Seminar promotions. In order to get maximum use of a chapter logo and theme, we recommend this be completed to unveil at the Seminar before yours as a preview.

Staff a preview booth at the Seminar before yours.

This will help you promote it in person and let folks get a peek at the enthusiasm your chapter members will bring as official hosts. NSPRA will provide you with a space and table for this purpose. The host chapter is responsible for decorating the space and providing any informational handouts such as site-seeing brochures, tourism guides and other materials that promote the future Seminar city.

Provide a brief (5 minutes maximum) presentation at the close of the banquet.

During the closing banquet, officially invite participants to join your chapter at the next year’s Seminar and give them a preview of what they can expect to see and do. The goal of this presentation is to “sell” the Seminar location and get people excited about coming to your city. Keeping this goal in mind, the chapter may be as creative as it likes with the presentation. However, if your presentation requires AV equipment or other props that involve a rental fee, the chapter will be responsible for covering the costs. Communicate with the NSPRA Seminar manager in advance about your plans for this presentation.

Assist NSPRA in marketing the Seminar to educators in your state, colleagues and friends.

If you have access to the email and mailing addresses of educators (other than chapter members) in your state, consider marketing the National Seminar regionally. Communicate with colleagues and friends to encourage them to attend the Seminar, too.

Prepare marketing materials about the activities the host chapter has planned for members at the Seminar.

NSPRA can share this information, as a PDF flyer or a website link provided by the host chapter, with Seminar registrants along with other NSPRA registration materials and marketing promotions. This information typically includes sign-up forms or web links for social activities and T-shirt order forms for example. This website/information should be completed by February 1 of your Seminar year so that it can be included in registration electronic mailings.

Create a special host chapter webpage.

Promote the Seminar location and the chapter’s social activities.

At the Seminar

The host chapter has traditionally been responsible for these Seminar activities:

Welcoming participants.

NSPRA provides you with a table and space for a hospitality booth, which can serve as an information and distribution center for chapter activities, T-shirt sales, etc. Many chapters solicit donations from local businesses and provide each participant with a “goodie bag” when they register. We also ask the chapter to give an “official” welcome at the Annual Meeting on Sunday afternoon and provide a chapter member to assist in presenting the “How to Make the Most of Your First NSPRA Seminar” session, also on Sunday afternoon.

Selling T-shirts or souvenirs.

As long as the hotel allows such sales, the host chapter may sell items at its hospitality booth. The chapter is solely responsible for items sold and monies collected. Raffles or drawings may be held the same way. Communicate with the NSPRA Seminar manager in advance to discuss whether the Seminar hotel allows such sales.

Providing entertainment/additional funds for the opening night reception.

NSPRA budgets a set amount of money for the opening night reception for participants and their families. Many host chapters choose to provide additional entertainment that adds local flavor. In the past, host chapters have paid for strolling musicians and costumed characters for example. If you opt to provide some kind of live music, it must be something that is appropriate as a background that does not overpower the conversation level in the room. (Please remember that the opening reception is not designed for a “performance” group where attendees are expected to stop and listen. It is a social event where members are reconnecting with friends and meeting new people, therefore a choral group is not the right fit for the event.) Chapters are also welcome to provide decorations and activities that support their entertainment theme and to be visible in the role of “hosts” throughout the reception, but this is not required.

Sponsoring a major social event.

While the Monday and Tuesday night social events are an NSPRA Seminar tradition, as the Seminar gets bigger, it has become an expensive and challenging activity for host chapters to organize. Seminar sponsors have instead hosted these events in recent years. However, NSPRA is open to a host chapter's ideas for alternate activities that allow for social networking to take place among participants. Communicate with the NSPRA Seminar manager in advance about any ideas the chapter has for social events.

Coordinating sign-up dinners.

Once a popular NSPRA activity, sign-up dinners are no longer typical because of financial obligations placed on host chapters by participating restaurants (e.g., food and beverage minimums). If a chapter is still interested in organizing sign-up dinners, these are held on Sunday night following the opening reception. Host chapters scout local restaurants in advance, assign chapter members to make arrangements and serve as guides and hosts for each group. The chapter is responsible for posting sign-up sheets with brief descriptions and price ranges for each restaurant and escorting groups to and from the restaurants. Everyone who signs up is responsible for paying for their own meals.

Additional options

Host chapters may also be involved in some additional ways if they choose:

  • You may want to recommend special session presenters from your state for NSPRA to consider. Some chapters have also sponsored the cost of a speaker. While the final decision rests with NSPRA, we welcome your suggestions. However, in order to be considered, recommendations must be submitted to the NSPRA associate director in August of the year prior to your Seminar.
  • NSPRA will continue to offer sponsorship and Seminar Marketplace opportunities to all the sponsors on the current NSPRA Sponsor/Exhibitor list. A list of the current NSPRA sponsors and exhibitors is in the Seminar program. You are welcome to contact other companies on your own, which NSPRA will also do, and refer those you believe would be a good fit for our Seminar Marketplace.

Limited Compensation

In recognition of the time and effort required of host chapters, NSPRA offers host chapters the following:

The year prior to your Seminar

  • Two registrations at a 50 percent discount (at the time of registration) to support preview activities. It is up to the chapter to decide who will receive these registrations, and they must be used at the time the recipients register for the Seminar. Discounts are not retroactive for those who have already registered. The chapter will need to notify the NSPRA senior manager for business/office services as to who has been designated for these special registrations.

The year the Seminar is in your state*

  • Three registrations at a 50 percent discount (at the time of registration), which the chapter may use to help compensate those core members who will spend the most amount of time on Seminar activities. It is up to the chapter to decide who will receive these registrations, and they must be used at the time the recipients register for the Seminar. Discounts are not retroactive for those who have already registered. The chapter will need to notify the NSPRA senior manager for business/office services as to who has been designated for these special registrations.
  • One sleeping room is blocked for the chapter from Saturday night through Wednesday night. This room is to be used by a host chapter member to ensure someone from the host chapter is on site and able to set up and open the host chapter table on Saturday of the Seminar. To confirm the chapter's room reservation, contact the NSPRA Seminar manager.

*Should the chapter choose to opt out of full participation in hosting activities at the Seminar or during the preview year, NSPRA reserves the right to adjust the special compensation that will be offered.

Tips for Being an Outstanding Host Chapter

Get your Seminar Committee organized and working EARLY.

Once you’ve determined the kinds of activities you want to sponsor, assign people to oversee or chair sub-committees on each task area.

Assign one person to be the overall Seminar committee chair who will serve as the liaison to NSPRA.

We ask that this be just one person to ensure ease and accuracy in communication. All questions and requests should come through that person.

Involve as many of your chapter members as possible.

This helps build camaraderie and team spirit within the chapter. Don’t forget to communicate to the chapter at large what you are planning! Creating excitement at home helps create excitement about your plans across the association.

Start your fundraising efforts as soon as possible.

You will need up-front funds if you plan on selling T-shirts, and you may need a down payment for your social event. You will also need funds if you plan to do anything extra at the opening reception.

Don’t try to outdo the chapter who hosted the year before.

Every Seminar is different, and what makes it special is the unique way you decide to host at your Seminar. Different cities lend themselves to different types of activities, so keep that in mind as you plan.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

It’s easy to get excited and brainstorm lots of terrific ideas, but in the end you will find you have a limited amount of time and finite resources to accomplish your goals. Pick a couple of things you want to do, then do them well.

Consider providing chapter members with special T-shirts or some other item that makes them easily identifiable throughout the Seminar.

That makes it easy for participants to know who you are and feel comfortable stopping you to ask a question.

Which leads us to the most important host responsibility... Be visible!

The most memorable Seminars all have one thing in common — a very visible, enthusiastic host chapter. When you and your chapter members are outgoing, personable and obviously having a good time, it rubs off on everyone at the Seminar. Your active presence in the registration area and lobby, and at all the general sessions as well as at all the social events will leave an indelible impression on participants that they won’t soon forget.

And last but not least, have FUN!

This is your chance to shine as a chapter, so make the most of it. NSPRA staff work closely with the chapter as you prepare to host the NSPRA Seminar. Host chapter leaders are encouraged to call the NSPRA office at (301) 519-0496 with any questions as you begin planning.

Invite NSPRA to Speak at Your Chapter Conference and Other Speaker Ideas

Align your conference speakers with current issues, member-identified needs or your strategic plan. Draw on your own members, featured speakers at the NSPRA National Seminar, neighboring chapters or other PR associations in your state for speakers on the topics at hand. NSPRA Executive Board members and association staff also are a great resource as speakers at chapter events.

In addition to inviting your chapter’s regional vice president to attend your conference, consider asking the NSPRA executive director, associate director or manager of professional development and member engagement to present a session. There is no speaker fee, but chapters are encouraged to pick up travel expenses and offer an honorarium to the NSPRA Foundation for the Advancement of Education. Learn more about their speaking topics and how to book at the following links:

Take a look at who other chapters have had as speakers here, and add speakers you recommend from past chapter conferences through this form.

For information about past presenters at the NSPRA National Seminar, contact Associate Director Mellissa Braham, APR, at

Read on for tips, strategies and examples on best practices for chapter award programs.

Chapter awards and recognition programs are a great way to honor members’ hard work, raise the visibility of the school PR function and generate chapter revenue. Look at the NSPRA awards to get ideas for how to structure your awards program. Reach out to other chapters to see how they organize, promote and judge their awards. Awards programs can recognize products (videos, websites, brochures), plans (referendum, crisis, marketing) and people. How many and what types of awards to offer are up to each chapter.

Some chapters use free online submission systems, such as Google Forms, while others use paid online systems such as Reviewr, Wizehive, Evalato or others (NSPRA uses OpenWater) - and then build the cost of the system into the awards fees.

Many chapters partner with another chapter to judge their awards, thus avoiding any conflicts of interest or relationship concerns.

NSPRA's Mark of Distinction chapter recognition program offers multiple recognition opportunities for NSPRA chapters of all sizes. Read more about the program here.