(revised April, 2007)
What is the AALL Chapter VIP* Program?
* [Valuable Invited Participant]
Visibility in your community (city, state, or region)...connections with your colleagues in related fields...if these are things your chapter has been seeking or could use, then the AALL Chapter VIP program can help move you in the right direction.
The AALL Chapter VIP Program presents an opportunity for your Chapter to invite special guests from your area's legal, governmental or information communities to receive a complimentary full registration to AALL's Annual Meeting. In order to emphasize and publicize AALL's preeminent role in legal information management to the community at large, individuals selected to participate in the Annual Meeting's educational and networking experiences shall not be AALL members.
How does the VIP Program benefit our chapter?
The VIP program can benefit your chapter in a variety of ways. It is a good means of building a strong relationship with someone important to your chapter. By exposing them to the wide variety of issues law librarians face daily, you will increase their understanding of our challenges. By exposing them to the professionalism of the group, you will increase your stature in their eyes. By spending social time with them, you will establish more of a personal relationship. The visit will result in more meaningful discussions about law library issues. It can even be used as the starting place for a specific project. Finally, the visit can be used to generate positive press coverage. All of these are good reasons to participate in the Chapter VIP Program.
You can feel confident that if you get your chosen VIP to the meeting, they will be impressed and rewarded by what they experience. Invariably, visitors to the AALL Annual Meetings have commented enthusiastically about the interesting people they have met, the high quality of our programs and social events, and the efficiency and organization of the entire operation.
How can we identify potential candidates?
The VIP Program allows your chapter to establish new relationships or augment existing ones with members of your local legal and information communities. The individual(s) chosen should be influential within your area's legal, governmental or information community. You should consider persons with whom a relationship would provide long term benefits, either in the form of cooperative projects or even press coverage. Among the individuals that your chapter might consider as potential VIP candidates are:
- President of your local or state bar association or the chair of bar's technology committee
- Chief administrators for your local or state courts
- President of local, state or regional chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators
- Dean or faculty members from your local or regional library school
- Dean or faculty members from your local or regional law school
- Judges of any local, state or federal courts within your region
- Presidents/chairs or members of local law library boards of trustees
- Individual who has responsibility for local or state government web site development
- Editor or reporter for a local, state or regional legal newspaper
- Your state librarian
- A state representative, senator, or other official who has been active in library or technology issues
If there is no apparent candidate, or in the case of regional chapters where it might be difficult to identify someone from a specific state, AALL's official representatives and SISs can assist you with your selection.
Should your funding allow two invitations, it might be a good idea to invite an individual with whom your chapter already has a relationship (perhaps someone who has been a speaker at a chapter meeting) along with an individual with whom you would like to establish a relationship.
It is a good idea to develop a list of potential VIPs ranked in order of preference. If an invitation is declined, you will then be prepared to invite the second or third individual on your list. Save the list of names you don't use as a good starting point for future years, since the AALL Board plans to continue the VIP program for subsequent Annual Meetings.
How much will this cost our chapter?
The chapter must decide whether it will offer to provide any sort of financial support for transportation and hotel, or whether it will try to work out an arrangement with the VIP to have his or her own firm, association, or institution pay all or part of those expenses.
To help you estimate your chapter's share of the expenses for VIP guests, consider the following sample budget. Remember that your invitees may offer to pay for some of their own costs. You may want to offer them a certain reasonable expense allowance and let them handle the rest. Individual chapters may decide to invite only one guest, to keep costs down.
SAMPLE VIP GUEST BUDGET (based on averages)
- 2 nights lodging in conference hotel $380
- round trip airfare to/from annual meeting $350
- 2 meals (not covered by full registration) $40
- ground transportation to/from airports $75
How do I present the VIP Program to my board and members?
Be positive. Understand the program yourself so you can answer questions and address concerns. Emphasize that this is an opportunity, not a requirement. Provide examples of benefits for your chapter that can result from participating in the program. Encourage creative thinking about names of appropriate invitees and about related activities that could be arranged with them both before and after the AALL Annual Meeting. Be organized and prepare a calendar to show your Board an outline of the process (Appendix A).
How do we invite the VIP to the Annual Meeting?
Because potential invitees have many interests competing for their time, you will need to "sell" the AALL meeting to them as an experience that will benefit both them personally and their institution, constituency, or professional group. In other words, you tell them what they will get out of spending 2-3 days at our Annual Meeting with 2000 law librarians and other invited guests.
If one of your chapter members knows your chosen invitee personally, that is the ideal person to make the initial contact. Many people within the legal and information communities are familiar with AALL and its activities, so you probably will not have to tell them everything about our purpose and activities. A brief memo illustrating local and national activities may be helpful. Of course a friendly phone call or face to face conversation is even better.
If you have chosen someone whom your chapter members do not know personally, but whom you want because of their important position or reputation, then simply tell them that. Most people are flattered to be singled out and may even feel obliged to represent their group or institution when asked to participate in something of national significance. Do a little research on your VIP to find out what his or her special interests and accomplishments are. That will enable you to emphasize how those matters tie in with topics to be discussed at the meeting. Rather than approach such individuals "cold" without any warning, it would be a good idea to call their office to alert their secretary or assistant that an important invitation is coming so that they will remember you when the mail brings the mysterious mailing.
Now your chosen VIP has been alerted to expect an invitation. In your next correspondence you should identify the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW. Your actual letter needs to be direct and to the point, but in addition to the basic logistics, it must explain exactly why the person is being invited, what benefit he or she will gain from attending the meeting, and what will happen afterwards to maintain and strengthen the value of the relationship with your chapter. A letter explaining the theme of the Annual Meeting and giving examples of programs, speakers, and opportunities for informal discussion may accompany your invitation. A sample invitation is included in this manual (Appendix B).
It's good to follow-up with a phone call to make sure that your letter has reached your target and been read. In fact, tell your prospective VIP in the letter that you will be calling within the week after it arrives in order to provide any additional information needed and to answer questions. That way your VIP is much more likely to be prepared to talk to you. If you find that your letter hasn't been read, you can set up an appointment for another follow-up call.
Before you make your phone call, be sure that you know as much as possible about the Annual Meeting, and be able to personalize the experience to fit the characteristics of your VIP. Say a bit about how much you always gain from attending the programs and from meeting impressive colleagues. Talk about how important it is for the wider legal community to understand the issues presented by the electronic information revolution, the need to implement new technologies, and the drastic changes in both commercial and government publishing. If your chapter supported a "delegate" to a previous annual meeting and that person and your chapter had a good experience, tell about that. Emphasize that the Annual Meeting will feature opportunities for participating in informal discussions about interesting program topics.
After the candidate says "Yes"
Assure your VIPs that both your chapter and AALL's meeting planners will keep them informed about everything they need to know to receive the maximum value and enjoyment from their experience before, during, and after the Annual meeting.
Once your candidate has agreed, you should maintain an active connection with him or her before the Annual meeting. These activities can lay the groundwork for collaborative efforts which can continue after the meeting. Among the activities you might consider are the following:
- Touch base with the VIP monthly, more frequently as the meeting date approaches;
- Provide the VIP(s) with information on the activities of your chapter (copies of the chapter newsletter, of chapter brochures or reports);
- Provide the VIP(s) with information on the activities of AALL (e.g. copies of Spectrum);
- Add the VIP(s) to your chapter newsletter mailing list;
- Invite your VIP(s) to a chapter meeting (if feasible);
- Schedule the VIP as a speaker at a chapter meeting;
- Appoint a committee to brainstorm with the VIPs about potential collaborative efforts.
Will the VIPs need an escort throughout the Annual Meeting?
Of course this will be determined by your VIP guest. Some guests may know many AALL members and wish to be on their own. However, you should assume that in most cases, the VIPs will want an escort to introduce them to other VIPs and AALL members.
At a chapter meeting, post the schedule and ask your members to volunteer as escorts. This is an excellent opportunity for the members to have one-on-one time with your VIPs. Try to include newer law librarians as well as the more experienced. This should benefit everyone in the chapter, not just those that are already familiar with AALL leaders. Promote your VIPs' names and biographies to your membership. The chapter members attending the Annual meeting should be able to identify your VIPs and introduce themselves if the VIP appears lonely or isolated.
Should the chapter send a thank-you note after the Annual Meeting?
Thank-you notes are always a pleasant way to end a social activity. The note gives you, the chapter, the opportunity to close the event with a thoughtful gesture.
Thank-you notes can be written on simple cards. The card does not need to be engraved or illustrated but should always be handwritten. A few kind words expressing gratitude and wishes for a continued relationship are all that is required. Two examples are available in Appendix C.
If you wish to follow up with an invitation to a chapter event or activity, do so separately.
How can we maintain this relationship after the Annual Meeting?
The conference is over, you've cleaned out your bags and reviewed all the literature you picked up. You've sent your VIPs a thank-you note and are beginning to wonder how to continue the relationship you built during the meeting. Your chapter will surely benefit if you can keep the momentum going.
Various follow-up ideas are listed below, but do not limit yourselves to them. Be creative. Do whatever will work best for your chapter, but gear your activities to the expertise of your guest. What benefits a judge will be different from what benefits a court administrator or journalist. Ask yourself what will help them in their job? If you can provide assistance, do so! Coordinate these activities with those you schedule prior to the Annual meeting and avoid duplication or redundancies.
- Send a free subscription to your chapter newsletter.
- Provide free membership in your chapter.
- Invite the VIP to speak to your chapter about the annual meeting.
- Invite the VIP to write an article for your newsletter.
- Suggest that the VIP write an article about his or her experience for the newsletter or journal of his or her professional organization.
- Invite the VIP to bring some interested colleagues to a chapter activity.
- Invite the VIP to lecture at a legal research class the chapter sponsors.
- Invite the VIP to speak to your chapter about their area of expertise.
- Invite the VIP to an activity at your local library school.
- Schedule a meeting with your VIP and some of the local library directors or managers.
- Involve the VIP in National Library Week.
While the meeting is still fresh in your mind, write up an evaluation of the VIP program. What was successful? What would you like to do differently next year? Since the AALL Executive Board plans to continue the VIP Program for future annual meetings, your feedback will be critical.
Appendix A: Chapter VIP Program Planning Timetable
January - Identify VIP Candidates
February - Extend invitations to VIP candidates (earlier if possible)
March - Confirm acceptance with candidates, notify AALL headquarters
April - Follow-up phone call
May - Schedule escorts
June - Schedule events/activities with VIP
Appendix B: Sample Chapter VIP Invitation
Our ___________________ Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries, whose members manage the law firm, law school, court, and government libraries throughout the state, would be very pleased and honored if you would be our special guest at our national association's Annual Meeting July (insert date and location). The theme of the program, (insert theme).
The leadership of the American Association of Law Libraries believes that law librarians have both a great deal to give and to learn by sharing, discussing, and collaborating with colleagues in the wider community affected by information management and technology issues. Consequently, the AALL Executive Board has created a program to help the local, state, and regional chapters of our national association bring influential members of the legal and information communities to our Annual Meeting. Our thirty chapters from all over the country will be inviting judges, practicing attorneys, law school deans and professors, court and law firm administrators, government officials, technology experts, and members of the legal press to attend and participate in our educational programs and informal discussion groups with us. It is our sincere desire that the relationships and cooperative arrangements that are formed at this event will blossom into ongoing endeavors to benefit our institutions, firms, and communities back home.
AALL is offering you complimentary registration for the meeting. Our chapter will cover the cost of your airfare and hotel with arrival on July (insert date) and departure July (insert date). Of course we shall provide you with detailed information about all of these arrangements if we are fortunate enough to receive an affirmative answer from you. Members of our chapter will serve as your hosts making sure that you meet many colleagues and attend the sessions that most interest you.
I will plan to call you around the end of next week to provide any further explanations and answers. In the meantime, if you would like to contact me, please call me at my office at (insert telephone number) or send me an e-mail (insert address). I shall certainly look forward to talking with you and sincerely hope that you will accept our invitation.
Very truly yours,
President, ___________ Chapter
Appendix C: Thank-you notes
Thank you for attending the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries as our guest. We appreciated having the opportunity to spend more time with you and look forward to continuing our relationship. I particularly enjoyed attending the ______ function with you and meeting _________ .
[President's or other escort's signature]
I wanted to thank you for your attendance at the American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting. I am particularly pleased that you were able to attend as our guest and look forward to working with you further.
[President's or other escort's signature]