Conference-Budget World 2013-Details

Event Report: Budgeting World in Government

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Overview and Purpose

This page is for the benefit of the sponsoring and contributing organizations.  They may choose to use it to remember how this event was organized, note what worked and what they would change now that it is over.  The page is available in a public space although some details have been modified to protect the privacy of individuals.  If you make use of or are inspired by any of this material, it is available free of charge assuming you provide the following acknowledgement:

The organizers wish to thank the following Canadian organizations, and for making these materials available.  Originals are available from

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Origin of the Idea

The initial idea was conceived by the Alberta Chapter of FMI*IGF Canada in the Spring of 2012.  Through personal contacts, IPE and IPAC were invited to participate.  The organizing committee was composed of the following:

  • Project Manager: Frank Potter
  • FMI Lead: Shawn Melnychuk, President of the Alberta Chapter
  • IPAC Lead: Mike Coverhill, Program Coordinator, Edmonton Region
  • IPE Lead: Bob Ascah, Director

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Project Initiation

From the start, the organizing committee choose to have a generally ‘meeting free environment’.  As a result, the group made significant use of teleconference technologies and email.

  • Next-Time: Establish a collaboration site to share project artifacts and reduce the issue of having multiple versions of documents and access to the documents.

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Main Project Roles – Organizing Committee

Roles for the project were assigned based on past experience.  Bob Ascah used his contacts to recruit all but one of the panelists.  Shawn Melynchuk used his experience with the Shaw to manage the venue, book the space and be the primary liaison with the conference centre.  Mike provided a critical overview to the project.  Frank’s experience as project manager allowed the conference to be staged with minimal duplication of effort or missed activities.

The organizing committee met twice in-person at the initiation of project and both times were in a local pub.  The latter is mentioned as it was important that the committee had a level of trust and the ability to communicate honestly to resolve most issues before bringing other individuals.

The organizing committee had largely completed the overall planning for the conference by November, 2012 including the following:

  • Recruitment of panelists and moderators
  • Recruitment of a master of ceremonies
  • Establishing the overall agenda
  • Selecting and booking the venue
  • Determining the look and feel of the conference

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Operational Project Members

Completing the overall planning work was important so that the next stage of detailed execution could be completed.  The detailed work involved recruiting individuals to work on specific operational tasks and responsibilities.  Within the project work plan there were the following two tabs:

  1. Volunteer-Roles: a list of the roles and bulleted expectations.
  2. Contacts: a map of the person to the role along with the email address and other contact information.
  • Next-Time: Not all of the roles identified were filled and other functions were completed which were not specifically documented in the plan.
  • This was still successful because both FMI and IPAC had seasoned volunteers who were comfortable in their roles.
  • The Volunteer-Roles would be more important for organizations with less experienced volunteers.
  • The Project Plan worked well to keep the team on track.  It contained the following key documents:
      • – Detailed Agenda for the event
      • -Contact List of those involved in the conference
      • -Volunteer roles and responsibilities
      • -Venue requirements
      • -Over all Project
      • -Risk and Issue Logs

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Communications and the Media

Communication for the event primarily used existing channels namely FMI and IPAC distribution lists, their and IPE’s websites and some secondary communication channels.  The secondary channels included broadcasting via the Government of Alberta’s Senior Financial Officer’s Council as well as the CMA and CGA societies.

Winnie Yiu-Young, Chair of the Alberta Government's Senior Financial Officers People Committee.

Winnie Yiu-Young, Chair of the Alberta Government’s Senior Financial Officers People Committee.

IPE issued one press release which produced moderate interest amongst a number of media outlets.  Most of the interest, however, was for the political panel.  The Edmonton Journal’s produced two articles on conference.  Taxing dilemma for Alberta’s Finances and Thomson: A taxing time to read Alberta politics.

Media scrum after the political panel completed their segment.

Media scrum after the political panel completed their segment.

Given that the event was over-subscribed with a waiting list, the above communication and media activities were sufficient.  A media liaison position was considered but not formally assigned although Bob Ascah took on some functions of this role.
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The initial thought was to have 3 registration methods.  One each for FMI and IPAC members and a third method for the public via a 3rd party venue.  The 3rd party withdrew in October as they were not certain that they could collected paid registration.  As a result, registration was done via two websites, FMI and IPAC.

At the conference itself, a greeter asked individuals walking in whether they registered via FMI, IPAC or were a panelists.  Based on the response, the individual was steered towards one of three tables.  A common name tag was prepared for all participants, which included the FMI, IPAC and IPE logos, was produced by an IPAC volunteer.

IPE scanned the registration list for dignitaries (e.g. had registered privately).  The resulting list of names was provided to the Master of Ceremonies so she could acknowledge their presence in her opening remarks.  IPE maintained the list of panelists, moderators and interested members of the media.  The organizing committee add all of the various lists together (e.g. FMI + IPAC + Panelists + Media) to come to a final breakfast tally.

Raj Sherman takes his seat. One of the acknowledged guests.

Raj Sherman takes his seat. One of the acknowledged guests.

Overall, registration was considered to be efficient and effective.  In addition, approximately $111 was collected for the FMI initiative to raise funds for local food banks.  This amount was matched and increased to $xxx by the organizing committees.

FMI program to collect Beans for the foodbank.  Set up outside of the salons by the registration tables.

FMI program to collect Beans for the foodbank. Set up outside of the salons by the registration tables.

  • Next-Time: The proposed use of a third-party registration method was an unnecessary distraction given that FMI and IPAC had long established registration processes.
  • The organizing committee should have better planned and anticipated the need for a combined list of registrants and the creation of a common name tags.

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The Venue

The Shaw Conference Centre is a familiar venue to both IPAC and IPE.  Its staff were very helpful in the planning and the cost of venue, excluding media, was very reasonable (about $25/plate).  The layout of the salon was satisfactory for a breakfast buffet. A coat rack in the back proved satisfactory.  Unfortunately it made it more difficult for back tables to see the panelists.  A video feed with projectors would have been ideal albeit beyond the initial budget of the organizing committee.  During the earlier portion of the conference, sound to the stage-left was poor but was later remedied by the contract technician.

Breakfast Buffet

Breakfast Buffet

The committee opted for a single projection screen which turned out to be sub-optimal as half of the room had trouble seeing the slides.  In addition the power intensity of the projector meant that some of the slides were washed out.

  • Next-Time: Locate a sponsor to cover the cost of suitable audio visual including having closed circuit-projected feeds of the panels.
  • Estimated cost circa $10,000.

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The Panels

The first panel, Budget Setting from the Political View, Panelist Discussion, was acknowledged as the best received and most interesting to the attendees.  It was also the panel with the strictest application of time constraints.  More time could have been set aside for questions although there was a reluctance from the audience to ask questions.

Panels were kept on time through the use of a time-keeper and the use of time cards.

Karen White Explains the Time Cards - including the dreaded RED Card.

Karen White Explains the Time Cards – including the dreaded RED Card.

  • Next-Time: Allow for audience members to post questions via smart-phone before and during the panel.  Have panelists respond to their preferred questions.
  • Have two panels with more time for breaks, networking and questions.
Mark Prefontaine, Assistant Deputy Minister of Alberta Treasury Board and Finance asks a question to the second panel.

Mark Prefontaine, Assistant Deputy Minister of Alberta Treasury Board and Finance asks a question to the second panel.

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The following solicited comments where received in regards to the conference:

Thanks so much for letting us know that this was on. I went, and was truly fascinated!
I must admit that I thought it was going to be a technical talk, but the speakers and panels were populated by incredibly knowledgeable people, and I learned a lot. Including that where we are going with CAMP and RBB are the right things to do.

Really enjoyed the political panel, and hearing from Robert and the others.  So nice to hear from our-ex premier.  His public speaking has improved tremendously since hes retired!  Ive always enjoyed his great sense of humour,  I just didnt have time to stay for the municipal discussion. 

Great job to you and your team for putting this together.  Seems to be a smashing success to me!
I thought this morning’s sessions were excellent!  The panel members brought a wealth of experience and presented their thoughts in a way that really encapsulated the complexities of the problem and the many conflicting stakeholder interests.  I was taking copious notes all morning and will find this very useful for my class at NAIT on Public Sector Financial Management.  Kudos to everyone that was involved in organizing this event.
I think it went very well. I only heard good comments from those who were there. I think the panelists all did a great job and had lots of relevant information to share. … tightened up the opening comments on (one) panel but I still think they touched on the majority of the themes from the prepared questions.
I enjoyed the session.  For me, the first panel was the most engaging.  Perhaps because they were all former elected officials, they are more comfortable speaking ‘off the cuff’ … found the second and third panels to be progressively less interesting.  Maybe it wasn’t so much the content as the delivery … some of the panelists were reading prepared notes/comments, which definitely made it harder to stay focused on what they were saying.
I liked the venue … breakfast was great … conferences come and go, but people always remember the food J
Thanks for giving us the heads up on this … pretty sure I wouldn’t have otherwise been aware of it.
I thought the conference was informative and overall interesting.  My personal favorite panel was the first one, I found the thoughts and ideas of the politicians helped shed a light on the type of audience we have to tailor our products to.  The format worked well I thought with the only thing I might change would be to have the speakers have shorter times between passing it off to someone else.  I thought this was done well on the first panel but didn’t seem to continue as the final panel had each individual speak at length without any ability to have the speakers address what each other were saying.
At the end of the day though I definitely found the whole thing quite informative, it’s interesting to see the budget from the different senior officials’ points of view.
I would like to thank you once again for forwarding us the information on this event. It was very interesting and informative to see budgeting ‘from the other side’ (editor: Agency)  the world of politicians. Seeing the view from all perspectives political through municipal gave insight into some of the differences between the various levels and how they approach the budget process. The speakers were excellent and the passion they demonstrated for their positions showed the level of commitment they have for their various points of view. It was also interesting to hear that we, at the operational level of budgeting, weren’t the only ones who felt the ‘directives’ when it came to our budgets and that the ‘pain’ wasn’t only ours.
All in all a very worthwhile morning and your thoughtfulness for sending this to us is very much appreciated

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