Free-and-easy tech for your regional conference

Dear SPJ regional conference director:

So, are you having fun yet?

If you’re like me, you agreed to organize your region’s conference because you wanted to book mind-blowing speakers. But you didn’t realize the job – and it is a job – would bog you down with mind-numbing tech like setting up a website and a PayPal account.

Well, now you don’t have to.

In 2009, I took charge of the Region 3 conference in sunny South Florida. I built a 12-page website in Dreamweaver and set up a PayPal account linked to my chapter’s bank account. What a giant pain in my ass that was.

But now my pain is your gain…


These days, you gotta offer online registration and payment. But setting up a PayPal account is much harder than using one. So here’s some advice: Don’t bother. Use ours.

For our 2009 regional, SPJ South Florida opened a PayPal account. We still have it. We’re offering it to any conference director who’s interested.

We’ll handle the back end and generate reports for you (so you can be assured we’re not ripping you off). Whenever you want, our treasurer will cut you a check for whatever your owed at the moment. You’ll pay the usual PayPal fees, but we won’t charge you anything extra.

Why is SPJ South Florida being so friendly? Well, besides just being nice folk, we have an ulterior motive: We want SPJ National to offer this convenience next year. If we can prove how easy it is, then maybe it happens.

Speaking just for me, I believe the national board and headquarters staff should handle as many of the boring logistics as possible – so our members have more time to do the fun, creative stuff. That’s how you boost both membership and morale.

If you’re interested, email


How cool would it be if your regional conference had a smartphone app just like the national Excellence in Journalism convention did in New Orleans?

A company called Guidebook offers a small-scale mobile app that really works. How do I know? I’ve messed around with it, and I’ve quizzed a company rep at length.

I organize a college media convention in Manhattan, but it’s too big to take advantage of the free app, which limits the number of downloads to 500. But if your conference has less than 500 attendees, this could be perfect. And it’s a breeze to use.

The Guidebook website says the free app was only available till Sept. 30, but I can get that extended for you. If a number of conference organizer desire the app, we can hit up Guidebook together in one fell swoop.

Email me if you’re interested.


Last year, some regional conferences used a free website called Eventbrite to promote themselves and register folks. It’s not a bad way to go. But it’s also not the easiest on the eyes. And it doesn’t give you much room to blog about your amazing events in advance, much less cover what’s happening.

So check out what the Asian American Journalists Association did with an equally free Tumblr site for its national convention this year. If you’ve never tried Tumblr, it’s simple to use and easy to update.

Of course, if you’re working a large regional conference that partners with an active chapter, this isn’t a problem. Check out Region 1, which is the first to have its website go live and really has its shit together – thanks to the Press Club of Long Island. But if you don’t have that kind of support, check out Tumblr or Eventbrite.


The problem with Eventbrite and Tumblr is that the list of all your sessions is confusing if you have them running on tracks – which means two or more sessions are presented at the same time.

Sched takes care of that in a very appealing way.

Basically, Sched makes a color-coordinated flowchart of your sessions. It’s easy to scan, and getting more info is just a click away. Check out what the Texas Tribune Festival looked like. Cool, huh?

Since Sched is free, even the excellent organizers in Region 1 could use it – just plug in the sessions and then link to it from your homepage.

So that’s every pair of shoes in the place. Hope it helps. Any questions, holler.

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  • MichaelCarl

    A name change will accomplish little and only further muddy the waters. Presently, the name focuses on the practitioners, a personal touch that conveys concern for the professionalism and quality of those in the profession. Changing the name will create the impression of an impersonal focus on the art, not the artist.

  • SPJ AirPlay

    I don’t want to say I liked any Kotaku pieces from this year, lest i influence the judges. (I’m not one, but still.) I’ll look for pieces from 2014 that I thought were well done.

  • Pesty

    That’s certainly understandable. You might just want to hold on to the list until after judging for the Kunkel awards has been decided then. Personally, I think it would be nice to recognize the good pieces of journalism that were done even at bad outlets, lest they get lumped in with the rest of the refuse and forgotten.

    In the last few years, gamers and consumers in this industry have built up quite the portfolio of bad examples either meticulously catalogued ( or just held in their own memory. I think it would be a good next step to make a concerted effort to remember examples of good reporting too.

  • chizwoz

    Suggesting that women don’t qualify as minorities is a bit sexist 😉

  • chizwoz

    If they were doing on a site-wide basis, you’d have to remove nearly everyone on that list.

  • Aidey

    About 50% of the worlds population doesn’t qualify as minority.

  • chizwoz

    I know. Hence the wink.

  • chizwoz

    Haha you thought you’d only get 50. You have much to learn young padawan.

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