CALS Conference Services debuts improved, comprehensive system

In 2016, CALS Conference Services (CCS) purchased a new registration system software. They didn’t realize at the time that it was much more than a simple upgrade.

“We simply could not offer this level of one-stop, in-house service before. I think that makes us unique on campus right now. It is a great tool and we are very excited to share it with the CALS community,” says Leah Leighty, program manager at CCS.

Students in associate professor Michel Wattiaux's Dairy Agrosystem class sit in on a bilingual video conference with college students in Mexico. Photo: Bryce Richter/UW-Madison.

Students in associate professor Michel Wattiaux’s Dairy Agrosystem class sit in on a bilingual video conference with college students in Mexico. Photo: Bryce Richter/UW-Madison.

With the new software package, it is easy to build quick event websites; set up abstract collection portals; create onsite attendee apps for mobile devices; build exhibitor, sponsor, and audio-visual technician portals; create event run sheets; build onsite organizer apps; include surveys; and view budget scenarios. The communication system is also robust. Users can send out uniquely-created communications, and the system automatically tags recipients and saves a copy of the correspondence.

“I wouldn’t even call it a registration system anymore. It truly is an overall event management system,” says Leighty. “We can’t believe the upgrade in terms of functionality.”

Previously, CCS utilized a myriad of scheduling, budgeting, and registration software programs. Changes, especially those of the last-minute variety, became very difficult to manage and communicate across multiple platforms. Adding to the complexity were external conference partners, such as sponsors, volunteers, and vendors.

The first real test of the new system occurred prior to the International Conference on Quantitative Genetics in 2016. Professors Guilherme Rosa from Animal Sciences and Natalia de Leon from Agronomy contacted CCS for assistance in planning a national and international week-long event with nearly 500 guests expected. De Leon cited the fully-integrated software system as one reason the conference was so successful.

“[CCS] took care of all the details, from setting up a professionally looking webpage that included registration and abstract submission capabilities to taking care of all contracts, travel, lodging, and financial details of the conference. We wouldn’t had been able to organize such a successful meeting without the help of CCS,” says de Leon.

Leighty is encouraged by the early returns of the system, and encourages CALS employees and departments to utilize the software whenever they need to schedule outreach programs and conferences.

To find out more, contact CALS Conference Services at 608-263-1672 or at conference@cals.wisc.edu.