Tips for Planning the Instruction Section Soiree

Prepared by the ACRL Instruction Section Membership Committee May 2006
Revised by the ACRL Instruction Section Local Arrangements Committee May 2008
Revised by the ACRL Instruction Section Executive Committee December 2011


The Instruction Section Soiree is held two times a year at the ALA Midwinter and Annual conferences. The soiree provides an opportunity for present and new IS members to gather socially and exchange information.

Ultimate responsibility for coordinating the soiree rests with the IS Chair, who appoints a Local Arrangements Chair during his/her term as Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect. The IS Chair should be consulted throughout the planning process.

These tips cover general considerations for Local Arrangements Chairs and are meant to provide guidance on choosing a site, publicizing the event, and handling the financial arrangements (if any) and registration for the soiree. Specific arrangements will vary according to location. It is recommended that planning for the IS Soiree at Midwinter start upon appointment. For those planning the IS Soiree at Midwinter, the timing of some elements of the Timetable may need to be compressed.

The document will be reviewed and revised as needed, by Local Arrangement Chairs.

Timetable for IS Soiree Organizing

  • 7-8 months before planned soiree: Receive appointment from IS Chair; submit Special Events Request form to ACRL if working with donations or contracts
  • At conference prior to planned soiree: Attend IS Soiree
  • 6-7 months before: Verify soiree date and time
  • 5-6 months before: Evaluate possible soiree sites
  • 5 months before: Submit ACRL Special Events Request Form
  • 4-6 months before: Select site
  • 3-4 months before: Submit publicity
  • 2-6 weeks before: Send RSVP information to chair of the IS Membership Committee so enough nametags are brought to event
  • 1 week-2 months before: Make final arrangements
  • Soiree date: Attend, greet guests, and enjoy the soiree
  • 1 Day after: Follow-up and brief report to IS Advisory Council
  • 1 day-2 weeks after: Send thank-you note to restaurant or host location
  • 1-2 months after: Prepare final report and submit to IS Chair; also send to succeeding Local Arrangements Chair with soiree information packet
  • 1-2 months after: Review “Tips” and send any revisions to the Web Administrator(s).

Receive Appointment

It is recommended that the Local Arrangements Chair be appointed by the IS Chair during his/her term as Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect (at least 7-8 months before planned soiree). The Local Arrangements Chair must be a Section member. Whenever possible, the Local Arrangements Chair should be a resident of the area where the conference will be held.

If planning to solicit donations and/or if a contract will be needed to secure a soiree location, immediately submit a Special Events Requests form to ACRL. The ACRL Executive Director must approve your list of potential donors before the IS Local Arrangements Chair can begin contacting them. And, in the best interest of everyone concerned, all contracts must be signed by the ACRL Executive Director—not the individual(s) planning the soiree. In this case, other tasks on the Timetable above will likely need to be completed sooner than expected. See “Tips” at the end of this document for more information.

Attend Next IS Soiree

The Local Arrangements Chair should be appointed by the IS Chair well in advance of the conference date to allow sufficient time for planning. The Local Arrangements Chair should be appointed prior to the conference before the actual soiree to allow the person to attend an IS soiree and to exchange information with another Local Arrangements Chair. For example, the Local Arrangements Chair for the IS soiree at Annual should be appointed before the preceding Midwinter conference.

The IS Chair should pass along to the Local Arrangements Chair these tips, as well as the report and any announcements submitted by the past Local Arrangements Chair.

Set Soiree Date/Time (6-7 Months Before)

This can be done at any time since the soiree is always held on Friday evening before the conference.

The IS soiree is held on the Friday evening of the ALA Midwinter and Annual conferences, usually from 5:30 – 7:00. This time offers the fewest conflicts with other meetings and does not require additional travel. The exact date and time should be verified with the IS Chair soon after the Local Arrangements Chair is appointed. Note: Friday from 5:30-7:00pm is considered a no-conflict time for ALA Midwinter and Annual conferences; as a result ALA will not include the Soiree in the ALA Conference Scheduler or the printed conference program.

Evaluate and Select Site (5-6 Months Before)

When choosing a site for the IS soiree, it is very important that the Local Arrangements Chair visit the location under consideration. Although this is not always possible, a site visit is highly recommended and should be performed by the Local Arrangements Chair or another member of IS to effectively evaluate possible locations for the soiree. Location in or very near a conference hotel is highly desirable.

Be sure that the areas used for cocktails as well as the restrooms are accessible for the disabled.

Suggested Criteria for Evaluating Possible Sites:

Bar/Restaurant Location and Layout

  • Is it accessible for people with disabilities? – Disabled access is a key criterion in the selection of a location for the IS Soiree; locations that do not offer disabled access should not be considered unless no other viable facilities are available
  • Is it accessible to the conference hotels?
  • What transportation is available — car, bus, walking, etc.?
  • Is it in a safe area?
  • Is adequate parking available?
  • Are there separate smoking and non-smoking sections?
  • Is there a separate area for soiree?
  • Attendance at IS soirees varies, with an average of about 90 attendees. Will the bar/restaurant accommodate this number of people?
  • Is the seating arrangement flexible enough to handle more than this number if needed?
  • Is it close to local restaurants?

Bar/Restaurant Availability

  • Is the bar/restaurant available for the scheduled time and date?
  • What is the total time the bar/restaurant space will be available to IS? (Consider time before for setting up the table at the entrance, after the soiree for socializing, etc.)
  • Can the bar/restaurant provide a table for setting up registration materials before the soiree?
  • If the bar/restaurant provides an outdoor area for dining, climate permitting, is there an indoor space of adequate size available as a backup in case of inclement weather?


  • Are drinks reasonably priced? Are non-alcoholic beverages available?
  • Is a deposit required? ACRL will not reimburse for costs of socials without prior approval, so do not commit to a deposit without consulting the IS Chair first.


  • How many service people will be assigned to the soiree?
  • What is the name of the supervisor on the night of the soiree? Is the management responsive?
  • Is there a convenient telephone from which attendees may call taxis?
  • What happens if the event last longer that the scheduled time?  Is there an additional charge?

Submit ACRL Special Events Form (5 Months Before)

Once the location and cost of the events have been finalized, the Local Arrangements Chair should submit the ACRL Special Events Request Form.

ACRL handles all of the deposits, contracts, checks, and payments (if any) to the bar/restaurant.

Submit Publicity (3-4 Months Before)

The IS soiree is advertised in the Instruction Section Newsletter published before each ALA conference. Check with the newsletter editor soon after the conference preceding the planned soiree to determine the deadline for submissions. If the precise location is still yet to be determined, a “save the date” notice should still be included in the Newsletter.

The soiree should also be advertised on listservs including, but not limited to ILI-L. Reminders should be sent to the listservs several times to encourage people to get their registration in by the deadline.

To post messages, send a draft of the message to the IS Chair for approval, then send the message send to:

The soiree announcement also should be posted on the IS Web site. After it has been approved by the IS Chair, send the announcement to the IS Web site Administrator(s) to be posted on the Web site.

The following information should be included in the announcement:

  • Day, date and time
  • Location: name, address, general statement about the bar/restaurant
  • Cash bar information
  • Area map
  • Transportation options, including approximate times for each, if safety is a concern, recommended forms of transportation
  • Accessible for the disabled
  • RSVP deadline – 1 week before Soiree
  • Email address of the Local Arrangements Chair to which RSVPs should be sent specifying:
    1. Whether this is the first IS soiree for the person and if the person would like another IS member (“host”) to provide introductions to other IS members at the soiree
    2. That each person should return information about their name, institution, address and e-mail address so they can be contacted if there are questions about their RSVP.

Processing RSVPs (1-2 Months Before)

The Local Arrangements Chair creates an Excel spreadsheet of RSVPs on a weekly, and if necessary daily, basis. The spreadsheet should include columns for:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email address
  • ADA requirements (if any)
  • Whether this is the attendee’s first time attending the IS Soiree
  • Whether the attendee would like to be matched with an IS Veteran (“Host”)

The deadline for RSVPs is one week before the Soiree. The Local Arrangements Chair should forward a copy of the spreadsheet to the IS Chair and to the Chair of the IS Membership Committee as soon as possible after the RSVP deadline. (The spreadsheet provides the information for keeping a record of attendees at the event and for use in conducting a follow-up survey, if requested by the IS Executive Committee.)

Provide the final reservation count to the bar/restaurant by the date specified, if necessary.

Final Arrangements (1 Week – 2 Months Before)

Confirm arrangements with the bar/restaurant one week before the Soiree.

Veterans (“Hosts”)

A few weeks before the Soiree, start recruiting assistants to “host” first-timers on the night of the soiree. IS soiree “veteran” hosts (someone who’s attended at least one soiree in the past) can help first-timers, including those that asked to be paired with a veteran, feel welcome and comfortable at the event.

Contact the chair of the IS Membership Committee and ask for “host” volunteers from the committee. “Hosts” may also be recruited from the IS Advisory Council (via the IS Advisory group mailing list).


The IS Membership Committee is responsible for bringing blank nametags, markers, and colored stars (or something similar) to the event. Stars affixed to the nametags of first-time attendees and any requesting a “host” serve as a reminder to others to make these people feel welcome.

On the Night of the Soiree

The Local Arrangements Chair should set up a table near the entrance where attendees may pick up nametags and meet their host (if requested). Ideally, there will be two or more people at the table to help with the flow of traffic as attendees arrive and to ensure that those requesting a “host” are introduced to theirs. Your RSVP list will be essential for this; it is helpful to highlight the names of first-time attendees and those requesting a “host.” Also, remember to keep a tally of how many people attended the event for your report to the IS Advisory Council.

The Membership Committee can also help attendees with their nametags, introduce first-timers to their host, or as needed by the Local Arrangements Chair.

Follow-up (1 Day to 2 Months After)

At the next meeting of the IS Advisory Council, usually held the morning after the soiree, the Local Arrangements Chair should provide a brief report on the success of the soiree, including details such as the number of RSVPs, the number actually attending, and the number who were attending their first IS soiree.

The Local Arrangements Committee should send a thank-you letter to the restaurant or host location, particularly if the service was outstanding.

Final Report

A final report on the soiree should also be provided to the IS Chair. See the Annual Reporting section for Local Arrangements for complete details.

Include information on any unexpected problems and attach a copy of the soiree announcement from the IS Newsletter to the report.

Forward any pertinent materials to the next Local Arrangements Chair, if named, or to the IS Chair if the Local Arrangements Chair has not yet been selected. Include a list of the last 2-3 IS Local Arrangements Chairs with their contact information (email, phone, etc.) to contact for advice or support.


Changes to the “Tips” document are made by the Local Arrangements Chairs and should be sent to the Web Administrator(s).

Soliciting Donations & Working with ACRL

If you plan to solicit donations to cover the cost of reserving a space for the soiree and/or appetizers, you will need to work with both the ACRL office and your IS Chair. At least eight (8) months prior to the event you will need to submit a Special Events Request Form to ACRL, including date, time, and location of the event, as well as estimated expenses and ALL sponsors (vendors, schools, etc.) you intend to contact. Your request must be approved by the ACRL Executive Director before you can begin contacting potential sponsors.

If you do work with ACRL to plan the IS soiree, the ACRL office can also help with publicity and RSVPs.

For complete information see:

ACRL Guide to Policies and Procedures, Chapter 4.9 Section Special Events