The host country prepares the conference program in consultation with the Secretary to the Standing Committee.
The program includes:
- The meetings of the Standing Committee;
- The opening ceremony which is held on the first day of the conference (arrival and registration of the delegates occur the day prior to and/or same day as the opening plenary);
- An opening plenary session;
- Possible working sessions (break-out groups for each topic with an appointed Chair and a rapporteur);
- Plenary sessions with a different lead presenter for each business item (followed by the Chair of each break-out group who presents a report on the discussion in his/her group — if applicable) (two half-days usually suffice for the meetings);
- A closing plenary session with the election of the members of the Standing Committee for the forthcoming conference, and
- A tour or historical visit organized by the host country at the end of the conference (optional).
CSPOC membership is restricted to the Speakers and Presiding Officers of national parliaments of all independent sovereign states of the Commonwealth. It consists of 22 bicameral parliaments and 30 unicameral parliaments for a total of 74 members from 52 nations (up to 180 people attend a typical conference, including the Clerks/Secretaries-General).
Delegates are Speakers and Presiding Officers of national parliaments as stated above. If a Speaker or Presiding Officer is unable to attend the CSPOC, a substitute may be sent, customarily a deputy.
The Clerks and Secretaries-General of national parliaments are invited to attend as observers. When the host is a federal state, the Speaker or Presiding Officer may extend an invitation to the Speakers and Presiding Officers from other jurisdictions within the country. Invitations may also be extended to presiding officers from other jurisdiction (e.g. the Channel Islands, Scottish, Wales or Northern Ireland Legislatures).
It has also been customary to invite as an observer to the Conference the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).
Invited High Commissioners and guest speaker(s) are not observers at the conference. They are usually invited to attend only the Opening Ceremony and the reception or dinner that follows.
The official delegation therefore includes the following:
- Speaker or Presiding Officer and their spouse /partner; and
- Clerk or Secretary General and their spouse /partner.
In an effort to limit the number of participants at the conference, it has been customary that delegates and observers attend without staff. If a delegate wishes to be accompanied by other person(s) /staff, the host country is under no obligation to provide hospitality. All the meetings and events are intended for delegates, observers and their spouses/partners.
Agenda items are determined by the Standing Committee every two years and are forwarded by the Secretary of the Standing Committee to all CSPOC members. The Secretary is also responsible for preparing the Chair's annotated agenda.
The host country usually invites a guest speaker to give a keynote address at the opening ceremony. It is customary that the guest speaker be a high ranking official (e.g. Head of State, Head of Government, Chief Justice or Minister). The guest speaker prepares his/her own speech and makes it available to the delegates, observers and guests after the opening ceremony.
The lead presenter introduces the business item to be discussed. The lead presenter is chosen by the Standing Committee in consultation with the Secretary of the Standing Committee. Each lead presenter prepares his/her own presentation.
Chair of Break-out Group
If a break-out group format is chosen, the chair of each break-out group presents a report of the discussion in his/her group. The report is prepared with the assistance of a rapporteur (usually a parliamentary staff member). The chair is selected by the Standing Committee in consultation with the Secretary to the Standing Committee.
The host country will hold a reception/dinner after the opening ceremony, a lunch and dinner the next day and a lunch /reception after the closing plenary session. Formal invitations can be prepared for ceremonial and hospitality events but are not mandatory. One evening is kept free to allow High Commissioners the opportunity to receive their respective delegations.
Program for Accompanying Persons /Tours
The host country prepares a program for persons accompanying conference participants. It may also organize social events or sidetrips which are open to all participants (delegates, observers, spouses/partners). The host country may also assist participants in arranging visits to local points of interest and institutions.
The Secretary to the Standing Committee will forward to the host country a list or database of names, addresses, fax numbers and email addresses of all the CSPOC members. The host country is responsible for issuing invitations as well as sending out information packages and registration forms to be completed by delegates and observers. Participants are required to send their registration/travel forms directly to the host country.
Some delegates have very long names, honorifics and titles which cannot be accommodated in databases. Registration forms should specifically request that participants indicate clearly how they wish their names to appear on official lists, badges, etc.
The host country also sends out invitations to the observers and guest speaker(s) of its choice. Guidelines for issuing invitations for hospitality events should be clearly defined so that participants know in advance if they are invited to a function or not.
All expenditures associated with the organization of the conference are borne by the host country.
Accordingly, the host country is responsible for the following expenses:
- General expenses involved in the preparation and local organization of the conference;
- Expenses involved in welcoming participants;
- Local transportation for participants (between airport — hotels — meeting venues — receptions — excursions);
- Rental of furniture and equipment (computers with the required PC programs, photocopiers, telephones, fax machines, etc.) for secretariat offices as well as related maintenance and technical assistance;
- The installation and operation of recording and audio-visual equipment, including technical support;
- The installation of various on-site services for delegates and observers: telephones, fax machine, internet access, travel assistance, photographer (optional);
- Office supplies, including paper, and printing services;
- Receptions and dinners hosted during the conference;
- Refreshments provided in meeting rooms and during meeting breaks;
- Security measures;
- Civil liability insurance (for damage caused by or to participants);
- Travel, accommodation and per diem expenses for on-site conference staff, including transcribers;
- Travel and accommodation and per diem expenses (if applicable) for the guest speaker;
- Miscellaneous administrative and general expenses, including supplies and material for badges and the printing of the program and documents;
- Tours or sightseeing trips arranged for participants and their spouse/partner (optional); and
- Conference gift (optional).
Delegates, observers, accompanying spouses/partners and staff are responsible for the following expenses:
- The full costs of their travel and visa;
- The full cost of their hotel accommodation or any cancellation fees;
- All personal expenses such as room, movie and mini-bar service, telephone calls, faxes / internet (if not provided free of charge by the hotel), bar/food bills, laundry/dry cleaning, valet service, tips, etc.;
- Expenses incurred before or after the official conference dates;
- Local transportation outside the official conference dates;
- Car rentals and chauffeur services; and
- All expenses incurred by accompanying staff.
Travel and Transportation
Prior to the conference, the host country provides participants with all relevant information regarding the airport where they will land and the hotel where they will be staying. The host country should also inform participants of entry requirements or provide a website address containing information on visas, passports, vaccines, customs, firearms, duty-free articles and airport taxes if applicable.
Each national parliament is responsible for their members' traveling arrangements to and from the city where the conference is being held, and for providing the host country with their travel itineraries.
Delegates generally arrive together in small groups. Arrangements can therefore be made at the airport for a lounge where light refreshments can be served while delegates are waiting for ground transportation. If possible, the host country should set up a welcome desk at the airport to assist delegates clear and handle luggage. Those High Commissioners wishing to greet delegations at the airport could also use the desk.
The host country provides ground transportation for all participants between the airport and the hotels, the conference site, the official receptions, visits and tours.
The host country should prepare a list of arrival times in order to determine how best to greet the participants and to let them know what type of ground transportation is available during the conference (shuttle buses, coaches, taxis, cars with drivers, car rentals, parking facilities etc.).
Departure forms should also be made available to the participants in order that the host secretariat be able to organize return transportation to the airport.
Accommodations for Participants
The host country ensures that an adequate number of reasonably priced rooms are available in hotel(s) near the conference site. While not essential, it is customary for the host country to set aside number of suites and deluxe rooms which are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. A description of the hotel accommodations should be included in the information package sent to all participants.
The host country should:
- Reserve well in advance of the event, a number of hotel rooms, with the understanding that these rooms can be released by a specific date if they are not needed;
- Provide members and observers with information concerning hotels and reservation conditions (including cost of suite or standard room and any other service negotiated with the hotel such as breakfast, VIP floor /lounge with type of services provided, priority check-in and check-out, internet and telephone accessibility, etc.);
- Advise the hotel(s) on a regular basis of the rooms required (according to the wishes expressed by each delegation);
- Make pre-registration arrangements with the hotel if at all possible and advise local High Commissions of the arrival and departure dates of their delegates;
- Provide, if possible, a notice board in the hotel lobby;
- Arrange for accommodation expenses to be paid directly by each delegation (which requires the host country to ask for credit card numbers to guarantee the reservations). For those regions who do not use credit cards, the hotel often accepts a maximum cash deposit account to which daily expenses are deducted and the remainder is given back to the delegation on their departure date; and
- Ensure that the host country delegates, observers, staff and guest speaker(s) have made hotel reservations.
Staffing the Conference
Organizing a conference requires a large number of staff. The following can be used as a guide in setting up a conference secretariat:
- A Conference Coordinator to head the team of conference officers and oversee all aspects of the conference;
- Liaison Officers to coordinate arrangements with High Commissions and national parliaments;
- Transportation Officers responsible for facilitating arrivals and departures and for organizing ground transportation to the hotel and the conference site;
- Registration Officers responsible for arranging and booking all accommodations and registering delegates;
- Facilities and Operations Officers responsible for reserving meeting rooms and lounges, arranging for recording and audio visual equipment and for providing logistical and technical support for all of the conference facilities; and
- Protocol Officers responsible for ceremonial/hospitality events, scenarios, invitations, activities and programs for accompanying persons.
Meeting Rooms and Offices
The host country arranges for the following meeting rooms:
- A plenary room (for opening ceremony and plenary session);
- Three or four working session (break-out sessions) rooms, if applicable;
- A bilateral meeting room (one or two to be used for informal meetings);
- A registration office;
- An office for the Secretary to the Standing Committee;
- A Conference Secretariat;
- An administration office (typing pool, reproduction unit, document control and distribution); and
- An Internet Café.
Conference Room Set Up
The conference may be held at the host Parliament or at the hotel where the delegates are staying. Staff should have access to the conference rooms two days prior to the start of the conference to allow for set up.
The opening ceremony and plenary sessions can be held in the Chamber of the host Parliament or in a hotel meeting room that can accommodate between 175 to 200 people, classroom style, with chairs at the back for guests and staff. No simultaneous interpretation is required as the working language of the conference is English. At the front of the room, there should be a raised platform with a head table for six people and a speaker's podium. A table could be set up at the entrance to the room to accommodate four staff members.
Break-out Groups (if applicable)
The number of rooms required for the working sessions is determined by the number of topics on the agenda and at the time of the sessions. The number of people per group depends on interest expressed for each topic, as indicated to the Secretary and confirmed during the conference. The preferred seating arrangement is a hollow square or a U-shape. Inside the meeting rooms, tables can be set up for documents.
The rooms should be equipped with a projection system and laptops with technical support standing by. The host country provides the furniture, equipment and supplies required in all offices and meeting rooms.
- One conference microphone per person at the head table;
- A few microphones in the hall for questions; and
- One lectern microphone for the speaker's rostrum (plenary hall).
In 2004, the following equipment was used:
- All computers were equipped with English versions of Windows and the full MS Office Suite. The PCs should be sufficiently powerful and have sufficient hard disk space to run the above software in a high production environment and should be equipped with an appropriate network card, and a CD ROM.
- The printers were capable of printing at least 12 ppm and capable of using HP PCL 5 or 6 drivers. The PCs were configured with appropriate printer drivers. A supply of ink cartridges was provided.
- All Secretariat PCs were capable of accessing the Internet.
- Technical Support
- In addition to the manpower needed to set-up, troubleshoot, and take down the hardware infrastructure, and to prepare the initial server and PC software installation, a computer technician was available to provide user support during Secretariat working hours (this included some evening hours).
The reproduction unit should have one high-volume photocopier/printer.
Verbatim Report of the Conference
A verbatim report of the conference is required. The host country is responsible for ensuring that all conference proceedings are recorded. These recordings should be transcribed and forwarded to the Secretary to the Standing Committee.
Signage and Stationery
The host country provides the sign-posting to indicate the location of meeting rooms and offices. The host country provides stationery for use in meeting rooms (writing paper and pens).
The host country may wish to inform participants that it does not cover the cost of long distance and hotel telephone calls and ask them to verify with their own telephone service providers if they can use their cellular telephones or wireless PDAs abroad. The host country provides mobile telephones (limited number) and telephones for use by its staff members and fax machines for general communications.
Conference registration should take place in a central location where identification photos and information kits can be handed out. This ensures that each participant is greeted appropriately prior to the conference. It is best if the Secretariat is located apart, or at least visually separated, to avoid heavy traffic in the working areas. If the conference is held at the hotel, conference registration can be done immediately after participants have checked in at the hotel.
Information Kit /Conference Handbook
At the conference registration, the host country provides participants with their identification badge, a draft list of participants, the Conference Handbook which contains the program, a biography booklet, invitations to social functions as well as the conference material. Because of last minute cancellations and/or substitutions, a final list of participants should be handed out to all delegates no later than the day following registration.
Each delegation is asked to submit, well in advance, pictures of participants for the biography booklet. The pictures can also be used for the identification badges. The badges can be color-coded using the following categories to assist the host country staff in coordinating activities:
- Speakers/Presiding Officers;
- Accompanying staff;
- Conference secretariat staff; and
- Guests/High Commissioners.
Brochures and Documentation
The Conference Handbook is prepared in close collaboration with the Secretary to the Standing Committee. A large number of handbooks should be available at the registration desk and for the conference staff. High Commissioners and special guests should also be provided with a copy. The Program for Accompanying Persons is prepared by the host country and can be included in the Conference Handbook or printed separately. In order to reduce waste, tourist brochures or any information the host country believes maybe helpful or interesting can be displayed on tables.
If the host country believes that members of the press would be interested in covering the conference, it should prepare a communication plan and provide an on-site media relations officer. It is customary to send a press release to members of the media a week prior to the event. Only the plenary session(s) is open to accredited members of the press.
Copies of all speaking notes should be available for participants and the media.
Services to Participants
The host country provides participants with refreshments throughout the conference. Participants should be provided with water during plenary and working sessions. Refreshments such as coffee, tea and soft drinks should be available during the breaks. The breaks usually occur once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Participants should be advised of the smoking policy.
Travel Support Office
The office includes:
- A counter for booking flights and issuing tickets; and
- A representative from the national tourist office to provide tourist information to participants (optional).
Telephone and Fax
Pay phones should be available for local, long distance or international calls. Fax machines are optional.
If possible, an Internet Café should be provided to participants with access to e-mail and internet research at the conference site. At least eight to ten computers should be available to avoid long queues. The hotel may offer access to Internet as part of the contract agreement, which would reduce costs. For security reasons, the Conference Secretariat Office should be set up on a different server system.
Security and Medical Services
The host country should provide the participants with emergency numbers for health and security matters. Participants should be advised prior to the conference that they are responsible for all medical expenses and that health insurance coverage should be obtained. High Commissions should be made aware that their assistance will be required if participants are unable to pay for their medical needs.
A nurse or doctor should be on call for the duration of the conference. Some security measures that the host country may wish to consider are:
- Surveillance and protection of the interior of the building where the conference takes place;
- Access control to meeting rooms;
- Surveillance and protection of hotels in which participants are staying; and
- Surveillance and protection during official meals and receptions, as well as during the transportation to and from these functions.
Protocol and Hospitality
The conference begins with the opening ceremony and is usually followed by a opening reception and dinner. The protocol office is responsible for selecting of a room large enough to accommodate approximately 250 people (theatre style) with a platform at the front for six people and flags. The host country may choose to tape this event and may invite the observers from other jurisdictions within the country, special guests and the High Commissioners to this function.
Presiding Officers officially begin the conference with a procession, wearing their ceremonial regalia. The order of speeches can be as follows: welcome remarks by the host; an address by the former host; an address by the guest speaker; and closing remarks by the host of the future conference.
Two sets of flags comprising those of the host country and the participants' countries are normally required. One set is placed outside the main building used for the conference and the other behind the podium in the plenary hall. Only national flags are displayed and are flown in alphabetical order (English).
Event Scenarios /Speeches
The host country is responsible for preparing scenario notes for the opening ceremony. Copies of the speeches can be made available.
There is no official gift exchange policy, only guidelines which call for reciprocity in the case of a visitor who comes bearing gifts. It is customary that each delegate receive a gift from the host and that each observer receive a gift from the host Clerk or Secretary General. In choosing gifts, consideration should be given to the:
- Cultural and social aspects of the region;
- Gender of the person receiving the gift;
- Perceived value of certain gifts (the material from which it is made); and
- Official order of precedence within the group.
All gifts (and gift boxes) should be inspected for flaws or defects and should include a "compliments of" card. In packaging the gifts, their destination should be kept in mind. If gifts need to be shipped, they should be protected from possible damage.
As part of the official program, a group photo is taken following the opening ceremony and is given to all Speakers and Presiding Officers following the conference. It is up to the host country to determine if a photographer should be hired to cover the different activities of the conference. Photos taken during hospitality activities and official meetings can be put on display in the reception area and made available for purchase by participants, or transferred on to CDs and distributed to delegates.