The most important points of the conference planning process
You’ve decided to take on the task of planning a conference for your business or organisation… now, where to begin? Planning a conference for the first time can be an arduous task that takes between six months to a year, and sometimes much more. But, with the right action steps, you’ll be able to sail through the experience with ease. There are a number of crucial things to note when it comes to organising a conference, however, as this process differs significantly from other events. Conferences are usually large-scale events that require additional steps to the standard events planning process, resulting in a seemingly endless to-do list.
Take a look at our useful guide to help you make sure that you don’t forget any steps along the way.
Begin with the Basics
First off, you will need to decide on the basic details for your conference. Focus your aims in order to specify the purpose of the conference, and brainstorm for some possible titles for the event. Then choose the event dates and times, begin thinking about the ideal location to host your event, and who the interested delegates would be, as well as the ideal number of attendees. It’s also important to have a set of alternative dates or locations, to ensure flexibility when it comes to finalising the details. If you’re unsure about what dates would be best to organise your conference, the end of summer or beginning of winter period could be ideal. It’s important that your conference doesn’t clash with other major events happening at the time, and summer and Christmas periods are best avoided so that people won’t be on vacation during your event.
Choose a Theme
Set yourself up for success with a great theme for your conference. Decide on a unifying message that will connect your speakers and identify the main takeaways that you want to pass on to your attendees. Do you aim to inspire and stimulate conversation about a topic? Your theme should reflect that. Next, design logos, come up with social media hashtags and other collateral that will help reach your audiences, both online and offline.
Prepare a Budget
Putting together a budget will determine the rest of the steps in your conference planning process. Whether you’re looking for sponsors or self-funding, you need to know where your money will be spent and earned. Things to consider when planning your budget include venue, accommodation, transportation, catering, speaker fees, activities, and marketing and staff fees.
Delegate Work to Team Members
You’re going to need to assemble a strong team who will help to deliver a successful conference. Look out for team members who work well together, self-starters who are here to get things done. Your core team should be divided into at least 3 sections; planning, administration, marketing. These persons will handle the main aspects of the conference, from curating the programme, to handling sales and spreading the word. If possible, someone on your team could be tasked with searching for and securing sponsors and fundraising. Volunteers are also a highly valuable part of your team, who can manage on-site tasks such as door management and guiding delegates on the day.
Select a Venue
Once you have a good grasp of what you aim to achieve your conference, the next step is to choose the venue. Think about the environment that you would like your conference to be held in, and of how many people you want to have attending. Then, you can start searching for venues that will be able to offer the ideal size, ambiance and facilities that are necessary to make your conference a success. Hotels can be an ideal option, as you’ll be able to use their exhibiting halls, meeting rooms, banquet halls and hotel rooms, all at once.
Secure your Speakers
Do you wish to invite certain keynote speakers to give your conference that extra edge? Make sure to reach out to them early so that, once secured, you can provide as much information as possible to people upon registration. Think about organising hospitality suites for your speakers, too, once confirmed.
Set Up Online Registration
If you’re going international – then online registration is a must. If you expect to attract large crowds, especially, online registration can be an efficient way to manage payments, track registrations and organise a list of attendees.
Apart from having your speakers lined up, think about what meetings you want to host during your conference. This will be helpful to enable delegates to share useful information and discuss important points.
Finalise the Programme
As your conference dates draw closer, you should begin to finalise the full programme to provide to your attendees. Create a plan and structure your days to include a good variety of meetings, keynotes, networking sessions, coffee breaks and lunches.
Handling food and beverage
Once you’ve got an estimate of the number of attendees and have secured the venue – it’s time to choose the right providers for food and beverage that will sustain delegates throughout the conference. Decide on how many breaks you’ll have and what kind of food you like. Of course, this will depend on your budget and it’s worth checking whether your chosen venue have on-site catering services.
Be Prepared for Last-Minute Changes
Sometimes, even if we follow all the necessary steps, last minute changes can catch us off guard. You can prevent disasters, however, with the right preparations in place. Have a list of back-up speakers in case of cancellations, leave the on-the-day work to yourself by acting as host, ensure speaker presentations are not too long, and gather as much feedback as possible as the conference progresses so that you can adapt to changes as necessary.
When planning your conference, don’t cut corners. Use our guide as a skeleton for your plan, adapting and altering it according to your requirements. Most of all, don’t let the stress prevent you from enjoying the event once the day arrives. Make the most of your hard work and, after the day is done, follow up with attendees to thank them and leave a positive, personal impression.