MN EA Week: Sarah Sevcik on Lessons Learned about Program Committees

My name is Sarah Sevcik and I serve as the Program Committee Chair on the board of the Minnesota Evaluation Association.  Our chapter hosts 5 events per year for our members, and I’m here to share some lessons learned about planning and hosting events and working with a program committee.

Lesson Learned: Multiple Program Announcements

Send 2-3 email announcements to your list-serve and include a link to an online RSVP site, such as Survey Monkey.  Three days prior to the event, send an email to the RSVP list.  Even with the best of intentions, many people will forget without the reminder.  Send another email the day after the event with a link to a short online evaluation survey and attached copies of handouts and PPTS from the presentation.  In the survey, ask for suggestions for topics or formats for future programs.

Lesson Learned: Designate Program Hosts

Planning for, coordinating and implementing programs for your members takes a lot of time and energy. Therefore, one strategy we use is choosing one or two main program hosts for each of our programs. That way, each program committee member has the opportunity to lead a program, and it reduces the risk of burnout and communication confusions that come from all/many committee members working on each program together.  The program committee decides the event’s theme, and the hosts plan the details of the event, such as contacting potential presenters, securing a date, time and location, and ordering food and beverage.  The Program Committee Chair provides support, keeps people on track with deadlines, and assists as needed.

Hot Tip: Involve students

Personally ask evaluation students to join the Program Committee. Students are often full of energy, ideas, and passion to see a program through, and it’s a wonderful networking opportunity for them.  Consider students from different universities and colleges in the area, as well as different disciplines, including public policy, education, health, and social work.

Hot Tip: Make it Multi-disciplinary

When planning programs, emphasize multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary interests. We’ve had a number of programs where people from ‘outside’ the field of evaluation join with evaluation experts to discuss a topic, such as Using GIS as an Evaluation Tool.  Ask the presenters to invite their colleagues to the program.  In our RSVPs and program evaluations, we ask if the individual would like more information about the MN Evaluation Association.  This has been a great way for us to increase our membership and diversity of expertise and interests.

Twin Cities Hot Tip: In Minnesota, grab something yummy to eat at Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant in St. Paul and then visit the Rose Garden, Peace Garden, and Bird Sanctuary while walking around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Minnesota Evaluation Association (MN EA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the MNEA AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MNEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “MN EA Week: Sarah Sevcik on Lessons Learned about Program Committees”

  1. Great ideas Sarah! Another one for small events is to consider using EventBrite. I’ve used them before for another group with which I work. It’s free for free events, and they can process registrations for a fee. Nice setup for registering and getting registrant lists and such.

    1. Thanks for the information about EventBrite, Susan! Since writing this point, we changed to a new website that allows us to do all the Survey Monkey features, and much, much more. Our website,, uses Wild Apricot and I highly recommend it!

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