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Host A Conference

Direct any questions on conference bidding or hosting to the Director, Conference Advisory. Send an email to, or see contact information in Symbiosis or on the website.

Hosting an AZADV conference provides an opportunity to show your zoo or aquarium to an influential group of volunteers from North America and the world. You will showcase your programs, build a valuable network of colleagues and develop new skills. You will strengthen and create relationships with local organizations, opening the way for future partnerships. Previous hosts indicate holding a conference is a bonding (and learning) experience for volunteers and staff.

Guidelines for hosting a conference are provided below.

Key points are: the AZADV Board Members approve bids, the AZADV organization provides $5,000 in assistance funds and the registration fee covers the cost of conference attendance.

Considering a Bid

  1. Your zoo/aquarium must have active Organizational membership in AZADV.
  2. Your conference Chairs are requested to have an individual AZADV memberships.
  3. The Chair or Co-Chairs must have attended at least one AZADV conference, and be willing to attend all subsequent conferences prior to their own institution’s conference. The Chair or Co-Chairs will be required to meet with the AZADV Executive Board at each conference following acceptance of your bid to discuss preliminary plans, issues of concern, etc. The Director, Conference Advisory will arrange these meeting times with you.
  4. Have a strong volunteer organization with a commitment to hosting an AZADV conference. Based on past conferences, you may need 20+ volunteers willing to serve as hosts during the actual conference. Volunteers are an important factor in carrying out the final plans developed by the planning committee. You will build a valuable network of regional and national colleagues. Volunteers from nearby zoos and aquariums may assist.
  5. Have full support of your zoo/aquarium society members, staff and support organizations.
  6. The registration fee covers all conference expenses. You may wish to have some fundraisers and/or obtain donations from companies or individuals. This is optional. Work with your individual zoo/aquarium to determine what you are allowed to do. Do not feel you have to compete with previous conferences. Try to keep conference functions simple and comfortable to attend.
  7. Contact the Director, Conference Advisory for further discussion and/or clarification.

Bid Process

  1. Bids are preferably made at least one year in advance of the conference.
  2. Bid requests are accepted at any time during the year.
  3. Submit bid requests via e-mail to the Director, Conference Advisory at
  4. Bid request should include the following:
    • Confirmation that you have full approval and support of your zoo/aquarium society members, staff, volunteers and other support organizations.
    • Proposed hotel venue and tentative room rate. Reasonable rates are an important factor.
    • Potential dates of conference, avoiding religious holidays and the AZA Conference. - Ease of accessibility of host city by air. List of dominant airlines utilized by nearest airport.
    • Information about what the city and surrounding area has to offer attendees.
  5. Approved hosts of future conference make a five minute presentation during the business meeting at the conference.
  6. Ideally, we look for host sites that vary throughout the country from one year to the next to reach out to members in different parts of the country.

Preparing a Request to Bid

  1. First, obtain the support and approval from your zoo/aquarium management and volunteers to pursue a bid.
  2. Contact a hotel planner, or the Convention and Visitors Bureau in your city for aid in selecting a hotel/convention center with an area large enough to handle the conference. Attendance usually ranges between 175-275. Whether or not you use a hotel planner, the Visitor’s Bureau staff can assist with public relations material as needed.
  3. Obtain a proposed room rate from the hotel. Do not sign a contract with any hotel at this point, but do get in writing from the hotel the proposed room rates and other details discussed with them.
  4. Choose tentative dates for the conference so it will not interfere with the annual AZA conference or major religious holidays. Give at least a two-day window between religious holidays and the start/end of the conference to give ample time for travel. The Director, Conference Advisory will approve all conference dates.
  5. Research the ease of flying into the airport servicing your city. Are direct flights available from the major cities? What are the dominant airlines?
  6. Include highlights of attractions in and around your city that would be of interest to attendees and could be potential pre- or post-conference trips. We do not expect you to have trips identified, but rather a quick rundown of some of the possibilities available.
  7. Submit your 'Request to Bid' outlining the above via email to the Director- Conference Advisory at or see Symbiosis for current contact information.
  8. The AZADV Board Members approve bids to host conferences.

Bid Is Accepted - What To Do Next

  1. Accept the $5,000 in conference assistance funds provided by the AZADV Treasurer.
  2. Schedule the conference dates, to be approved by the Director, Conference Advisory. Preference is to start on a Wednesday and end with the final banquet on a Saturday. This will accommodate those who work and take advantage of lower airline rates.
  3. The conference should include the following:
    • A 3-day conference. (Delegates’ Meeting will precede the conference.)
    • A trip to the host zoo/aquarium.
    • Paper presentations and workshops.
    • An icebreaker event.
    • A closing banquet.
  4. Contact the hotel to set up definite dates and confirm room rates. It is preferred that all hotel accounts should be in the name of the host zoo/aquarium. Discuss with the Director, Conference Advisory, if this is a barrier to hosting.
    • Secure rooms for the Chairs, Co-Chairs or Steering Committee members to stay during the conference.
    • Secure a room for the Executive Board meetings held during the conference.
    • Secure VIP speaker accommodations.
    • Secure meeting rooms adequate for the number of attendees.
    • Make arrangements to accommodate the Executive Board interim meeting held approximately six months before the conference. Secure one meeting room for eight board members and four sleeping rooms, complimentary, or at the conference or staff rate.
  5. Determine the budget.
    • The Director, Conference Advisory must approve conference registration fees.
    • Financial backing (sponsors, underwriters, and fundraising events) is optional, as it is reasonable to expect registrants to pay the cost of attending the conference.
  6. The Director, Conference Advisory may visit the host zoo/aquarium if the Board deems it necessary.
  7. Start planning pre- and post-conference trips. The pre- and post- trips are extra items and should not be included in the registration fee. You will need to determine the trip cost per person and charge accordingly. It is allowable to add between $5-$20 to the fee to assist in your fundraising and to make similar trips the same price. Use your best judgement. The cost of the pre- and post-conference trips will be presented to the Director, Conference Advisory, along with a draft of the registration material.

AZADV Promotes Your Conference

The Director, Conference Advisory; Director, Extension; Director, Public Relations and Newsletter Editor will work with you to promote your conference on AZADV’s web page, closed Facebook group and newsletter. You are provided opportunities to speak at the Delegates’ Meeting, and at the closing banquet at the conference preceding yours. In addition, the AZADV travel program will not offer any trips that compete with conferences for members’ time and resources, and AZADV will not promote other organization’s conferences.

Presentation at the Delegates’ Meeting

This is typically a verbal presentation, with a microphone available, as this meets the needs of those present and is fiscally prudent. This is an opportunity to share conference info with prospective attendees. Additional equipment, such as projectors, is the financial responsibility of the zoo/aquarium speaking about their future conference.

Suggested Conference Schedule

Day 1: Wednesday

Pre-Conference Trip(s) (all day and 1⁄2 day)
Delegates' Meeting (after return of 1⁄2 day or full day trips)

Day 2: Thursday

Opening Session

Day 3: Friday

Zoo Day

Day 4: Saturday

Optional Lunch

Day 5: Sunday

Post-Conference Trip(s)

Interim Meeting

Approximately six months prior to your conference, the AZADV Executive Board will come to your city for their midyear meeting. The Director, Conference Advisory will work with you during the conference directly preceding yours to set up dates for this visit. The Board typically arrives Friday afternoon/evening and departs Monday morning. The Board will stay at the host hotel. During your negotiations with the hotel, try to secure the interim rooms on a complimentary basis, or at the conference or staff rate. The meeting requires four hotel rooms with two double beds each, and one conference room for eight people. The meeting room is used all day Saturday. Sunday morning is a tour of the hotel, with a review of planned locations for the conference activities such as Hospitality and Registration. Sunday afternoon you provide planning status and a tour of the zoo/aquarium.

Suggested Interim Meeting Schedule


Afternoon/Evening: Board members arrive at hotel.


Board meets all day at hotel beginning at 9 A.M.


Morning: Meet with conference chair(s) at hotel for a tour of the facility.
Late morning: Travel to your zoo/aquarium for lunch and to meet with your planning committee. The chair of each committee should be prepared to give a 5-minute status report on their plans. Please have eight copies of any handouts.
Early afternoon: Short tour of your zoo/aquarium to be completed by 2:30pm.
Late afternoon: Return to hotel by 3:00 p.m. to continue Board work; dinner break.
Evening: Continue meeting until agenda is completed.


Return to airport in the morning.

Budget Guidelines

Price registration fees to cover:
  • Gift (some kind of tote bag with paper and writing instrument)
  • Icebreaker
  • Buses
  • Zoo visit (including lunch)
  • Banquet
  • Breakfast (optional, two to three)
  • Miscellaneous expenses needed for the conference

Some local groups could help defray expenses (i.e. host organization society covers cost of some aspect of zoo/aquarium visit, a company or organization covers the cost of the tote bags, printing costs, sponsor a meal, etc.). Fundraising is optional. Non- AZADV members are charged a higher registration cost, normally an amount higher than a one-year membership.

Include a line for monetary donations to support the conference on the registration form.

Charge the for-profit vendors in the Wildside Room a table fee. Do not charge non- profit organizations a fee. You may ask all the vendors for a donation to the raffle/auction.

Budget Reminders

  • You pay the cost of audio-visual equipment for the official presentation at the closing banquet of the conference preceding yours. If you use the same equipment as the closing banquet speaker, you will not incur a cost. (This is typically what happens).
  • Conference registration fees and pre- and post-conference trips must have the approval of the Director, Conference Advisory.
  • None of the registration fee is to be used for the purchase of alcohol.
  • Assistance funds from AZADV are $5,000 and are distributed when the bid is approved.

Paying Back Assistance Funds

At the conclusion of your conference, after all expenses have been paid and optional raffle/silent auction proceeds have been paid out to the designated recipient organization(s), any surplus funds are will be remitted back to the AZADV Treasurer, but only up to the total amount of AZADV assistance funds received. AZADV understands the financial commitment of the conference host and appreciates that all or a portion of the conference assistance funds may not be repaid.

Hotel Requirements

Below are standard hotel room requirements. They will vary depending on your specific agenda and the maximum number of attendees you can accommodate. Past attendance in recent years varied from approximately 175-275.

Meeting Rooms

Interim AZADV Board Meeting approximately six months prior to conference - one meeting room for eight people, Friday and Saturday.


  • AZADV Board meeting room, 10-12 people needed the entire conference, starting the day before Delegates Meeting
  • Delegates’ Meeting – classroom style for 60-80 people with additional 50 chairs for observers and raised platform for eight board members
  • Rooms to house Hospitality, Registration, Raffles, and Photo Contest
  • Opening Session room, 175-275 people
  • Closing Banquet room, 175-275 people
  • Optional Luncheon room, 100-250 people
  • Six Concurrent Session rooms, 50 people each
  • Icebreaker room, hotel or offsite, 175-275 people
  • Two rooms for Newsletter and Conference Wrap-Up meeting, up to 20 people each - ‘Wildside Room’ art vendors, five -10 booths

Contact the Director, Conference Advisory, for info on recent hotel room block numbers (i.e., number of sleeping rooms).

Sleeping room requirements for the Interim Board Meeting approximately six months prior to conference are: four rooms, double occupancy for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Ask hotel to provide at the conference or staff rate; sometimes they will comp the rooms.

Paper Presentation Guidelines

The primary purpose of the conference is for sharing and exchanging program ideas, interpretive techniques and information that will help us become better volunteers. For this reason, the conference should include educational presentations. If possible, try to arrange about 75% given by volunteers and 25% by professionals. It is strongly suggested that the host provide concurrent presentation sessions to provide an attendee with different paper presentations they could conceivably attend. This does not include speakers presenting at the opening session, optional luncheon, closing banquet, workshops or other optional events. How the host committee schedules the papers is up to them. For concurrent sessions, it is common for a presentation to be offered twice to allow more exposure.

Call for Papers

When drafting your "Call for Papers" announcement, suggested presentation topics are:

  • interpretation/communication techniques
  • biofact information/techniques
  • presentation techniques
  • information research techniques
  • animal observation techniques
  • volunteer training/mentoring programs
  • education programs
  • enrichment programs
  • specific animal focused presentations
  • horticulture presentations
  • conservation programs and how your volunteers are involved

Choosing Appropriate Paper Presentations

As the host committee reviews presentations, be mindful of submissions that are not appropriate such as political topics, other highly controversial issues and fundraising/sales pitches. Prior to sending out acceptance letters, the host committee should coordinate with the Director, Conference Advisory who will review for variety of topics, controversial topics, problematic speakers from past conferences, and provide feedback to the host. If there is a low turnout of acceptable volunteer paper submissions, the host committee is encouraged to seek presenters from area organizations. Look for people from conservation related organizations, interpretation experts, and keepers and staff from your zoo/aquarium.

Suggested Committee Structure

This is a suggested listing of committee chairs and duties. The number of committee chairs varies from one host to the next. You may choose to combine tasks or come up with a different way of dividing up the work. Do whatever works best for your team.

Conference Chair, Co-Chairs, or Steering Committee

  1. Coordinate all conference details.
  2. Work on agenda with committee chairs.
  3. Serve as host at all AZADV general membership meetings during the conference.
  4. Coordinate with the conference committee to publish registration packet approximately six months in advance of the conference date.
  5. Works with committee chairs on submitting conference update articles for the Symbiosis newsletter and a follow-up article after your conference.
  6. Must have insurance coverage. (Check with your zoo/aquarium regarding insurance coverage for this type of limited event. If needed, a short term Rider to your zoo's/aquarium’s policy might be needed).
  7. The Chair or Co-Chairs or his/her designate will provide the Director, Conference Advisory updates for AZADV Executive Board meetings and may be asked to provide in- person updates.

Coordinator of Host Volunteers

  1. Work with committee chairs to establish volunteer requirements for each program area/venue. This is not necessarily a paid staff member.
  2. Recruit volunteers to cover needs before, during, and after conference.
  3. Plan appropriate training/orientation session for host volunteers.

Delegates’ Meeting Chair/Credentials Committee

  1. Work with the Director-Extension to prepare for the Delegates’ Meeting.
  2. Work with the host committee Registrar and Director, Extension to be sure all registered delegates are current AZADV members.
  3. Compiles a list of Delegates.
  4. Director-Extension will provide the delegate packet and will compile the final list of eligible delegates, per the credential forms.
  5. Assist the Director, Extension with arranging the room for the Delegates’ Meeting in the desired manner. The Director, Extension provides instructions (e.g., diagram). No early entry of delegates or spectators will be allowed.
  6. Make arrangements for liquid refreshments (i.e. coffee, soda, iced tea) to be served during a break at the Delegates’ Meeting. The AZADV organization pays for the refreshments.
  7. Provide voting cards for each Delegate (green for yes and red for no.) Pass these on to the next conference host and/or Director, Extension).
  8. Provide each Delegate with pencil/pen and paper.
  9. Arrange for staffing of a table or counter outside the door for Delegate Check-In. A minimum of two host members will staff the check-in area.
  10. Arrange for roll call of Delegates by the Director, Extension.
  11. Provide two people to act as the timers (use a cell phone for a timer or use stopwatches).
  12. Credentials Committee Chair will help keep the roll current during the meeting.
  13. After conference, mail Delegates' packet to all Organizational members not represented at the Delegates' Meeting. The AZADV Treasurer will reimburse host for the packaging and postage expense for this post-conference mailing.

Facilities Chair

  1. Coordinate bids and contracts for hotel and conference facilities.
  2. Serve as liaison in coordinating all other needs between committee chairs and hotel (room block, guest speaker accommodations, food, audio-visual equipment, meeting rooms, bus staging, deliveries, etc.)
  3. Coordinate all hotel details including rooms for the Executive Board meetings.

Food Chair

  1. Coordinate food and beverage events provided by the hotel.
  2. Make provisions for attendees with special dietary needs.

Gifts/Give-Aways Chair

  1. Coordinate items for the registration packet which includes a note pad and pencil or pen.
  2. Obtain door prizes (optional), and solicit raffle items.
  3. Must make it known to donors and participants the names of all organizations to receive the fundraising proceeds.

Hospitality Chair

  1. Provides seating for all those attending the closing banquet.
  2. Provides decorations (optional).
  3. Staffs Hospitality Room.
  4. Provides additional information on what the city has to offer (sightseeing, restaurants, public transportation, etc.).
  5. Provides an information table for use by next year’s conference committee.

Icebreaker Chair

  1. Locate a venue for the Icebreaker event that is scheduled at the beginning of the conference.
  2. Coordinate all aspects of the event including food, drink, entertainment, if any, etc.
  3. None of the conference registration fee is to be used for the purchase of alcohol.

Legal Counsel

Due to the number of contracts involved in hosting the conference, it is suggested to obtain legal counsel, perhaps provided by a volunteer or zoo/aquarium staff.

Photo Contest Chair

  1. This is an optional activity, solely at the discretion of the host committee.
  2. One issue to consider, and totally at your discretion, is if you want to include an affidavit on the photo contest form for photographer to indicate the picture has not been enhanced, whether it be taken digitally or with film.
  3. Obtain a photo release form from each photographer. Anything the conference host might want to do with the photos needs permission from the photographers.
  4. If you hold a photo contest, it is optional to ask the entrants, or the top three winners in each category, for permission to AZADV to post their winning photos on the AZADV website or in the Symbiosis newsletter. The AZADV photo release form can be obtained from the Director, Conference Advisory. After the conference, the signed AZADV photo release forms and pictures are provided to the Director, Extension or Director, Conference Advisory.

Pre- and Post-Conference Trips Chair

  1. Make arrangements for the pre- and post-conference trips and meals, if included.
  2. In general, travel time from the host city to destinations for pre- and post- conference trips will not exceed three (3) hours each way.

Print and Mailing Chair

  1. Arrange for printing and mailing of conference related materials as needed. Electronic communication is used to the maximum amount possible.
  2. Contact Director, Conference Advisory for permission to use AZADV logo.
  3. Print conference stationery/note pads (optional as these do not require the conference name or a logo).
  4. Print and mail registration forms as needed for special requests from potential registrants.
  5. Print conference program booklet (if hard copy used) and schedule-at-a-glance program summary.

Program Chair

  1. Contact and confirm the guest speakers. Speakers should be dynamic and the topics should be appropriate for volunteers. No guest speaker is allowed to charge a fee to those attending.
  2. No presenter is allowed to give a sales pitch in the presentation or use it as a forum for commercial or political gain.
  3. Secure the guest speakers’ housing and travel arrangements with Facilities Chair.
  4. Prepare, publish and distribute a Call for Papers and contacts the presenters.
    • Send Call for Papers to all Organizational members. It is suggested to include a flyer or brochure that provides highlights of the conference agenda.
    • Expect some submissions for presentations from the Education Grant committee.
  5. See previous section for more details on Paper Presentations.
  6. Select papers for the greatest value to all volunteers and considers the possibility of presenting some or all of them twice. Papers should be primarily from volunteers.
  7. Sens list of presenters and their abstracts to Director-Conference Advisory for review. This is done before host committee extends acceptance letters to presenters.
  8. Notify all those who submitted abstracts whether or not they have been selected.
  9. Confirm with each presenter the title and description of their paper.
  10. Work with the Director, Conference Advisory to coordinate speaker release forms.
  11. Provide edited copies of the papers as published in word format to the Director, Conference Advisory.
  12. Arrange for any audio-visual equipment needed during the presentations.


AZADV’s annual signature conservation project is the charity selected by the conference host. Funds are raised at the conference through a raffle or auction.

A mix of raffle items, and a few high ticket auction items is considered ideal. In some states, the process to obtain a license for raffle is quite lengthy. If neither a raffle nor an auction is possible, consider a sweepstakes.

It is suggested that the host follow the model used by their organization at their fundraising events.

Registration Chair and Registrar

  1. Coordinate all activities related to registration of attendees.
  2. Registration is primarily on-line. Ask your zoo or aquarium to accept funds. Have a way to register for those who cannot register on-line.
  3. Coordinate with the AZADV Membership Chair to verify the membership status of each registrant.
  4. Send out confirmations for registrations as soon as possible after they are received.
  5. Make name tags so they are easily read. Nametags should also contain the name of the zoo/aquarium and location (city and state). The name badge holders are recycled from conference to conference. They are collected at the final banquet and shipped to the next host. Over time some become useable due to food stains or odors, cull those in poor condition. The AZADV organization will pay for ribbons on the badge holders (Board Member, Speaker, and First Time Attendee). Ribbons are passed from one host to the next).
  6. Compile listing of those attending the conference (name, zoo/aquarium affiliation, city, state). Share with the Director, Conference Advisory prior to the conference, and post the list in the hospitality area. This list may not be used for commercial purposes.
  7. Organize registration at the hotel and dispenses conference packets.
  8. Conference packet must include a pad of paper and pen or pencil.


  1. Keep accurate notes of planning meetings.
  2. Help with committee correspondence.
  3. Help compile a Final Report to be sent to the Director, Conference Advisory within 90 days after the close of the conference.

Signage Chair

  1. Provide signs that are needed at all conference activities.
  2. Previous conference host should pass to you an AZADV 'Welcome Banner' for use at hotel and/or for displaying during 'Zoo Day'. You will then pass it on to the next conference host. The AZADV organization pays the shipping cost.

Transportation Chair

  1. Coordinate all transportation needs for the entire conference.
  2. Provide information about shuttles and/or other transportation from the airport to the hotel.
  3. Avoid the use of school buses on any trip that exceeds 30 minutes.


  1. Prepare and maintain an on-going budget of income and expenses.
  2. Keep accurate records of all financial transactions.
  3. Depending on how the flow of money will be handled, you might need to file income tax returns. Review this with your zoo/aquarium staff and an accountant.
  4. After paying all conference expenses, remit any surplus funds to the AZADV Treasurer, but only up to the total amount of AZADV assistance funds received.
  5. Note: the host zoo or aquarium may elect to handle all funds.

Wildside Room Chair (Art Vendors)

  1. The Wildside Room is optional.
  2. Arrange for a room in the hotel for the attendees to purchase merchandise.
  3. Use local vendors as much as possible. Look for potential vendors at art centers, artist guilds, art schools, farmer’s market, or artisan fairs. Vendors should not display or sell animal parts, except those naturally shed.
  4. Charge a fee to for-profit vendors (no fee for non-profit organizations). Also consider asking for a donation to your raffle/auction/sweepstakes.
  5. When deciding on the fee, consider what the hotel charges for tables and electricity, as well as typical fees in your community.
  6. Wildside Room hours are determined by the host committee.

Zoo Day Chairman

  1. Coordinates the day at the host zoo/aquarium.
  2. If possible:
    • Provides host volunteers/volunteers as guides.
    • Arranges behind the scenes tours or keeper talks.
    • Involves keepers/staff.
    • Arranges special programs.
    • Makes arrangements for discounts at the gift shops and food stands. This may not be possible if operated by third parties.
  3. Have buses available for early departure from the zoo/aquarium for those who wish to return to the hotel earlier in the day.

Closing Banquet Presentation

At the closing banquet of the conference immediately preceding yours, you make a short presentation highlighting the hotel venue, conference plans and city offerings for your conference. As everyone is riding high after the success of the current conference, you can take advantage of their enthusiasm and excite them about attending your conference the next year. The cost of audio-visual equipment for the presentation is at your expense. Sometimes you can use the same equipment used by the closing banquet speaker and forgo the additional expense, so check with the conference Program/AV Chair. It is permissible to have information flyers regarding your conference in the Hospitality Room or available at the closing banquet of the conference preceding yours. Please check with the host conference committee and Director, Conference Advisory with what you would like to do.

Final Report

The host conference committee will compile a final activity report consisting of reports from each committee chair. Information to include in the final report is listed below. Copies should be ready within 90 days after the conference. Email the final report to the Director, Conference Advisory for sharing with Executive Board members and future hosts.

Information to include in Final Report

Types of info to include in the report are: budget, key task timeline, sample correspondence and forms, quantities of items ordered, details on a process that really worked well for you, final hotel room pickup numbers versus the reserved block, final numbers on full registrants and guests, how you recruited volunteers to help, problems or issues that came up, what you might have done differently and common questions you encountered.


The Director, Conference Advisory is your contact for questions and guidance. Send an email to or see contact information in the Symbiosis newsletter.