Prepared by Luciano Boglione, Operations Chair, IMS 2009

Update by Paul Ferguson, Operations Chair IMS 2013

Table of Contents

Purpose and Duties

The Operations Chair (OC) oversees the functioning of a number of subcommittees which are focused on the logistics and coordination of the activities required for a successful operation of the International Microwave Symposium.

The main purpose of the OC is to coordinate the subcommittees' activity and report to the General Chair (GC) on a regular basis and to Steering Committee Members during the regular meetings leading to the IMS.

The main duties of the OC based on experience acquired over several years, are as follows:

  1. Work with Operations subcommittee chairs to define their responsibilities, task, and the schedule by which the tasks must be accomplished.
  2. Ensure that Operations subcommittee activities are progressing as planned through regular contact and reporting on progress and/or challenges. Assist the subcommittee chairs in overcoming any challenges prior to escalating the issue to the GC or other Executive Committee (EC) member as appropriate.
  3. Communicate Operations activity to the EC on a regular basis and flow information from the EC to subcommittee chairs in a timely manner.
  4. Assist with Operations Committee duties during the IMS as needed and increase regular contact with subcommittee chairs to learn when and where assistance is required and then to provide or coordinate that assistance.

It should be pointed out that the dedication of all volunteers in Operations has been exceptional and extremely focused on providing an outstanding IMS experience the attendees. Thus little or no intervention of note has been required of the OC and the position is primarily one of two way communication of information between the subcommittees and the EC.

Figure 1: Typical Steering Committee Organization Chart

Suggested Membership Structure

The organization structure of the operations committee evolved over time and it is suggested that flexibility is maintained over the long period that leads to the actual conference. A typical Operations committee structure is highlighted in the steering committee organization chart shown in figure 1.

It is important that the Finance subcommittee is defined and operational very early for two equally important reasons:

  • The OC must support the GC and the Finance chair in defining a budget to be submitted to the MTT-S AdCom for approval about 1 year in advance of the IMS; and
  • The OC must support the Treasurer in coordinating payments to and receivables from subcommittee members and vendors.

The registration subcommittee is the main contributor to IMS income after the exhibit income. This subcommittee must be in place at about 1 year prior to the event in order to define registration fees and options for the attendees. Coordination with the publication committee and the committees under the technical chairs is key for a successful registration of attendees.

Protocol chair and Gift chair have been organizationally located within different subcommittees depending upon executive committee preference. The nature of their activities calls for a strong, direct interaction with the GC so specific subcommittee alignment is not critical.

Exhibit Chair and Conference Services Chair are committee positions that have largely been obviated by the continued support of professional conference coordinators from IEEE/MTT, private contracting services (such as Amanda Scacchitti), and MP Associates.

Timeline and description of events

Steering committee planning meetings typically start about 24 months prior to the Symposium and are attended initially by executive committee members. Meetings are on an as needed basis until approximately 12-14 months prior to the IMS when they become more frequent and include the entire steering committee. Monthly all-hands meetings and weekly executive committee meetings are typical during the 6 months immediately prior to the symposium. The following table captures the major Operations Committee planning events and their approximate timing relative to the IMS. (it is assumed that the IMS conference takes place in late May or early June)

Months prior to IMS

Task Name





Work with the Finance chair to

  • Provide initial budget estimates of funds available to subcommittees chairs;
  • Work with available subcommittee chairs for the definition of an initial estimate of their financial needs;
  • Update the budget with new estimates;
  • Work with GC to generate a viable budget to submit to MTT-S in January for approval at the June AdCom meeting.

The OC's goal is to help estimate a budget, within IEEE constraints, to discuss at the January AdCom meeting of the year prior to the IMS; and to submit for approval at the subsequent June AdCom meeting 12 months prior to event. Note that Robert Alongi has been of immense help in guiding both the budget estimating process and establishing the registration fee schedule.

The request for budget inputs is a continuous task that spans the duration of the steering committee's life! Major contributors to the budget are vendor exhibits and registration (income); publications, local arrangements, and technical activities and meetings (expense).



Expense approval policy and process

Work with the GC and Finance chair to institute an approval chain for members' refunds (e.g. for individual subcommittees meetings) and vendor contracts within the IEEE requirements. IEEE requires that contracts for more than USD25,000.00 must be approved by IEEE. The table shown in fig. 2 was defined and shared with every steering committee member; expense reimbursement forms were made available on the IMS sharepoint.

It is important that the OC and the Finance chair

  • assist the subcommittee chairs in providing a fair dollar amount associated with a given budgeted activity. The budget may cover single items (e.g. notes, handouts, coffee breaks, lunches, cds, etc.) or bundles (e.g. basic room setups with PC, microphone, pointer, etc.)
  • make the subcommittee chairs aware of the possible IRS implications of their activities (e.g. best student awards' students must submit a W8 or W9 form in advance of receiving the monetary award); and
  • institute a clear chain of individuals (OC/FC/GC) who can be of help when in doubt

IRS forms or other supporting documents can be made available on the IMS sharepoint.

All subcommittee members that interact with external vendors for official IMS business should use an ieee.org email address (available for free on the IEEE website). This policy should not apply to paid vendors supporting the IMS activities (e.g. exhibit management company)



Budget Submission

Submit an initial budget to MTT-S AdCom January meeting for discussion and inclusion in the MTTS budget


12 - 14

Registration fee schedule

GC, OC, Finance chair and Registration chair to establish registration fees and options for attendees in coordination with other Chairs



Visa letters

The International Liaison shall establish the procedure for vetting visa letter candidates and providing them with an invitation letter. Ensure that the webmaster has included a page on the IMS website detailing the procedure and allowing online applications to be submitted. Establish application deadlines and include those on the webpage.


University Booth Solicitations

The University Booth chair shall establish the list of universities that will be given invitations to have a free booth at IMS. The list from the previous year is the best starting point but can be tailored to include additional schools local to that year's symposium. Write the invitation letter and work with MP Associates to get them sent to all universities on the list. Follow up with schools of particular interest and answer questions.


Historical Exhibit

The Historical Exhibit chair shall identify local sources of relevant, historical content and begin soliciting the loan of that content to the IMS exhibit. Get approvals in writing and agree on pick-up and return timing. Include indemnification language on the written approval documents. The Historical Exhibit chair shall coordinate with other chairs for transportation of loaned historical artifacts.

The Historical Exhibit chair shall contact the MTT permanent historical display coordinator Steve Stitzer in Baltimore, MD. Make arrangements to have the permanent display shipped to the IMS location, set up, taken down, and returned to storage.

During IMS

Registration Assistance

The Registration chair or his/her designee shall be available during all open registration hours to assist by answering questions or arbitrating disagreements that may arise during the registration process.










Expense Level (as of 2013)












































$$$< $2500












** Executive committee members only








(GC) General Chair








(FC) Finance Chair







Figure 2: Spending approval chain for steering committee members.

The following sections "Problems Encountered", "Suggestions and Recommendations", and "Conclusions are repositories of notes detailing issues encountered and suggestions for improvement by the Operations Committee by year. While other sections are more general and updated as the IMS evolves, these sections should remain running accounts so that future committees can look back to insure that previous learning is retained year over year.

Problems Encountered

IMS 2009 Boston: No major problems were experienced in the months leading to the IMS 2009 conference. This is remarkable since Boston 2009 was the first conference to transition to a new management company. The smooth transition is testament of the devotion of all IMS volunteers, in particular of the General Chair who worked extremely hard to set in place tools, people and policies that could deliver yet another successful IMS. The transition made clear that it would be important for future IMS steering committees to leverage off a few key logistic components that stay in place from year to year. Specifically,

  • Finances: starting from IMS 2009, the budget includes all receivables and payments. Quickbook Enterprise software that allows multiple users (e.g. finance chair and exhibit management company) was acquired to facilitate the daily operations of the conference. The learning curve associated with a proficient use of the software may be steep and it is important to maintain the knowledge that has been acquired and pass it on to the next steering committee.
  • Budget: The budget has been revamped and made compatible with the new software and with the new requirements imposed by the new arrangements related to the management of the exhibit. This change took place in preparation of the IMS 2009 and created some uncertainty as to what budget lines should be considered in the budget and how to record the inputs from the subcommittee chairs. It is believed that major issues have been addressed and solved.
  • Communications: it is important to remind all the subcommittee chairs of their budget inputs on a regular basis in order to meet the budget submission to MTTS AdCom 18 months out. Further, the requirements related to securing contracts with vendors (e.g. imposed by IEEE or by the Internal Revenue Service) ought to be explained clearly to all volunteers and prior to initiating contact with vendors. This is key for a smooth operation of the conference and beyond (for instance, an audit is required to close the books after the event and supporting documentation is key for a successful completion of this task).

IMS 2010: No report

IMS 2011: No report

IMS 2012: No report

IMS 2013 Seattle: Few problems were encountered by the Operations Committee during planning and execution of IMS 2013. A few small issues were encountered but did not have any appreciable negative effect on the outcome of the symposium.

        Getting committee members engaged and instilled with a feeling of ownership takes time and effort on the part of the executive committee members. A clearly written statement of expectations and tasks would go a long way to bringing committee members into full participation. This document could serve as the beginning of such a statement but a timeline with events and owners might even more clearly communicate what duties fall to each member and when they will need to be completed.

Suggestions and Recommendations


IMS 2009 Boston: It is likely that the next steering committees will enjoy the work that has been started in 2009 with the new exhibit management company and with the new financial and budgeting tools. Boston 2009 could not build on past experiences and it is clear that future IMS can make the most of the Boston's experience if continuity can be maintained in some key positions related to operations such as treasurer/finance chair. This is particularly true for the Treasurer, whose involvement in a multi-million dollar operations may require professional skills that volunteers may not have the inclination and, above all, the time to develop. It is suggested that either a professional is hired for a multi-year collaboration; or shadowing by future treasurer/finance chairs is put in place for one or two years prior to the conference.

In general, continuity is key for a successful operation of the conference. While a fresh approach provided by new volunteers is important for a successful technical event, steering committee members with experience in conference organization are also key for a smooth operation and collaboration with the other entities involved in the Symposium. Further, having regular meetings paired with ad-hoc conference calls keep the communication channels open and, as a consequence, everyone on the same page.

IMS 2010: No report

IMS 2011: No report

IMS 2012: No report

IMS 2013 Seattle:

        Ensure that each subcommittee member has sufficient time available to accomplish their duties. Excessive travel will limit a person's availability and may result in insufficient time for planning and executing their committee responsibilities.

       Take advantage of counterparts from previous symposia. Most are very willing to share their experiences and to offer helpful thoughts about the respective position. Contact them early, especially the previous year committee, while memories of still fresh.


IMS 2009 Baltimore: The OC's experience in the period leading to the IMS 2009 has been extremely positive and a task that appeared heavy and extremely demanding when taken on, turned out to be very manageable and pleasant. The key was to be surrounded by very devoted volunteers who consistently delivered on time; and open communications between everyone involved in performing a task. Prompt and focused responses to the issues brought up by a volunteer would provide a tangible support to the person directly addressing the issue; and enforce the sense of belonging to a team focused on achieving a common goal. Selection of the major chairs within the steering committee is the GC's task and the smooth operation experienced by the OC in 2009 is a testimony to the GC's ability to put together an outstanding team. Wish the future operation chairs the same enjoyable experience!

IMS 2013 Seattle: Ditto the conclusions from 2009. Additionally, the experience of the 2013 OC was made infinitely more rewarding and meaningful due to the GC's continual insistence that the committee act professionally, responsively, and dutifully, but at all times maintain the perspective that we are all volunteers and deserve respect for all implications surrounding that fact. In acting accordingly we were encouraged to make the IMS 2013 an enjoyable and even fun experience for all involved. It was!