Planning a conference is an exciting and challenging task, bringing like-minded people together to share insight, learn and develop, and network. To create a successful conference, a lot of things need organising, from budgeting to marketing, and you need to know where to start and the correct order of business.
Conference planning just got easier with our conference planning checklist, full of helpful tips you need to plan the conference of the year! Follow along and check them off your list to ensure everything is covered.
Preparing your event budget
Before you search for a venue or get excited looking for guest speakers, you need to outline your budget. That way, you avoid disappointment if you find the dream venue which ticks all your boxes, only to find it falls outside what you can afford.
When you’re establishing a budget, break it down into categories. Make sure you research to get an idea of costs and what you can afford. Here are a few areas you will need to budget for that your event simply can’t happen without:
· AV and technology
Creating an airtight budget, and sticking to it throughout the conference planning process, is the best way to avoid disappointment and any nasty surprises.
Choosing the perfect conference venue
When creating a shortlist of conference venues, look at the bigger picture. Where is it located? Can delegates and speakers get to the venue easily if they’re travelling in from further afield, or internationally?
Next, look at the size you want your conference to be. Ask yourself, does the venue have the capacity to comfortably seat all your guests in your desired layout? Will you require separate break-out rooms? Don’t forget to consider delegate flow and factor in how delegates will move around the venue.
It's important to think about the accessibility of a venue too. You want your conference to be as inclusive as possible, so a wheelchair-friendly conference venue with hearing loops is a must!
Lastly, find out whether AV and catering come with the venue hire, or whether you have to outsource. Don’t forget to include these in your event budget if you have to look elsewhere.
This is where things start to get exciting! Your speakers will form most of the conference content so ensure you’re choosing speakers who target your delegate's interests.
Try to incorporate a mixture of guest speakers, from high profile to lower profile with a few niche speakers thrown in there too. The high-profile speakers will bring the celebrity WOW factor to your conference and attract a large audience. Incorporating some lower profile or lesser-known guest speakers, and specialists in unique areas, allows delegates to expand their network, hear new thoughts and opinions, and learn new things.
Organise your speakers
Conference sponsors are an excellent way to reduce the cost of your event, and help spread the word. Make a list of potential sponsors who work within your niche and industry, and get busy prepping. Remember, potential sponsors want to hear how sponsoring your conference benefits them.
Include some hard facts and figures, sponsors want to see the room for return on investment. Come armed with a few examples of the proposed marketing endeavours and how you plan to promote their brand before and during the event so they can see what their money is getting them.
Don’t fall into the trap of pitching the same proposal to everyone, create a comprehensive and personal proposal for each one. Bespoke pitches explaining the purpose of your conference and how that relates to their company will encourage sponsors to come on board and support your event fully.
Marketing your conference
By this point, event planning is well underway, and the date is creeping closer - so it’s time to start marketing your event. Utilise social media platforms where delegates spend their time and create a branded hashtag so people can easily find your event online. Request logos from your sponsors so you can include those in your material.
You will no doubt have an extensive email list for your niche already, so make the most of it! Get people engaged with your event through newsletters or targeted emails to maximise your reach from the beginning. You could even include an early bird offer or offer group discounts and referral schemes to boost your number of attendees.
There are many ways you can drum up a buzz for your event, so don’t hold back. We’ve popped a few of our favourites below so you can start to get some ideas. Remember, the more interactive, the better!
· Guest speaker bios and introductions
· Live polls or Q&As
· Time lapses getting the event spaces ready for action
The week before the conference
In the final days before your event, revisit your event’s schedule and content agenda, and analyse how the conference will run from start to finish.
Brief your hosts and speakers so they know where to go, and what to expect. Use this opportunity to ensure they have everything they need and double-check their AV requirements and planned content.
The day before the conference
It’s almost here! The last day before your conference can feel stressful and fraught, there are usually some last-minute changes to the agenda or a speakers session, but that’s all normal and part of event planning.
If you’ve booked set up to begin the day before, ensure all the signage is in place and the registration desk is ready for delegates. Test the AV and lighting and make any tweaks you think are necessary.
And most importantly… get a good night’s sleep!
On the day of the conference
Have a few people present to greet your speakers and delegates as they arrive, directing people to their seats or any of the other facilities. Check all speakers arrived prepped for their session. Go through any final questions with them to make sure they feel comfortable and confident.
If you’re managing the events marketing, take some time to capture a few photos and videos throughout the event. Live event marketing will encourage guests to visit next year if you’re hosting an annual event and be very helpful when promoting your next conference.