Organising a conference is a big deal. With so many moving parts and the potential for hundreds (if not thousands) of attendees on the day, executing a professional event of this kind takes serious planning and consideration.
Don’t let that put you off, though. Conferences are an excellent means of meeting likeminded professionals and businesspeople, not to mention the perfect way for brands to reaffirm their expertise and offering.
If you’re tasked with organising an upcoming conference, we’re here to help. Our checklist guide to conference planning contains everything you need to nail your next corporate event – no matter how many delegates you’re expecting on the day.
Use the links below to navigate or read on below for the complete guide.
Since you’re reading this guide, it’s likely you’ve already decided that a conference is the right step for you or the business you represent. But there are still lots of things to consider before you rush ahead with finding venues and booking speakers.
Below, we’ve listed some of the essential things to think about at this early planning stage, all of which will make things much simpler later down the line.
· What is the purpose of your conference? And what are you hoping to achieve? Having a guiding objective in mind will help steer your event in the right direction from the get-go and make it easier to gain buy-in from any investors you hope to bring onboard.
· Who is your target audience? And why would they bother attending your conference? Think about what you can offer compared to similar events in your industry. This will help you and your team generate fresh ideas that will give your conference a unique edge.
· Do you have the time, money, and resources to pull it off? Remember, conferences can be expensive, particularly if you plan to offer free admission. A mindful approach to budgeting and resourcing at this stage is crucial to keeping your event achievable. If cash is tight but you’re keen to host an event, consider your options; investor backing, sponsorships, entry fees, and crowdsourcing are all legitimate means of financing your event.
With the initial minutiae of your conference down on paper, you can start the administerial legwork of planning the event – including setting a date and finding a suitable venue.
Choosing a date for your conference isn’t as easy as it sounds. You can’t work off your calendar alone – you need to think about your delegates too.
The event should be far enough in the future that you have ample time to prepare, but not far enough so that your aims and objectives become diluted and irrelevant.
Think about your industry; are there any periods that are typically quieter than others? This may be a good opportunity in which to host your event, ensuring that the maximum number of delegates feel they can attend.
Of course, you should also double-check that no similar events are scheduled for the same day. In fact, it’s best to plan your conference when few others are happening, so that potential attendees don’t feel oversaturated.
Finding a suitable venue for your conference can be tricky. With thousands of spaces to choose from and question marks over your anticipated attendance, whittling down your options is one of the toughest parts of conference planning.
To help get you started, here’s a checklist of requirements to consider:
· Location – where is the venue located? And what are the local transport options? In short, is it easy enough to get to and will delegates be willing to travel there?
· Size – the size of your venue is crucial. Too small and you risk over-capacity issues; too big and your event will feel lifeless and uninspired. Try to be as accurate as you can about your expected guestlist, and always book a space slightly larger than what you need to accommodate extra attendees.
· Conferencing tech – what conferencing technology does the venue offer? And are there any additional tech requirements you need to ensure your event runs like clockwork? Be sure to ask about wi-fi too, or you could have a roomful of unhappy delegates on your hands.
· Does it match the theme and tone of your event? – not all conference spaces are created equal, so you should explore different options to find the one that best suits your business and the tone you’re hoping to achieve. For example, if you’re an innovative tech start-up, hosting an event in a traditional, perhaps tired, function room may not be the wisest choice.
· Do they offer an events management team? – having an ally you can rely on to help plan your conference can be a huge help, so ask if the venue offers anything by way of an events management team. They can assist with some of the rudimentary parts of executing the day, so it’s great if you have someone you can call upon as an extra pair of hands.
With a venue booked, it’s time to flesh out your conference with speakers, activities and events that will draw people in. This is arguably the most important part to get right since a strong itinerary can make or break your event and ensure it’s memorable for all the right reasons.
Happily, selecting speakers shouldn’t prove too much of a challenge. Speaking at conferences has become hugely popular for ambitious professionals in all sectors, so a LinkedIn call out may be enough to attract the talent and expertise you’re looking for.
When choosing speakers, aim for specialists who can bring something new to the table. Remember, you want your conference to be as unique and valuable as possible, so try to source lesser-known experts who may not have previously shared their expertise at other events in your sector.
As well as speakers, consider the type of activities you’ll offer on the day. Few modern conferences rely on endless speeches and presentations, so mix things up with a roster of seminars, breakout meetings, and networking events that will add diversity to the day.
When it comes to planning your agenda, things can get complicated. You want to fit as much in as possible while avoiding overlaps and delegate fatigue.
Break up the day (or days) into blocks, with sensible start and end times that leave room for breaks and networking in between different speakers and events. If it’s a single-day event, be sure to factor in travel times, and leave a generous two-hour window for lunch so delegates can relax and digest the morning’s insights.
Once you’ve firmed up your agenda, you can focus on the finer details, including any additional services and facilities you’ll need on the day. Consider food, drink, and delegate comfort as a priority, working closely with your venue’s event coordinator to ensure no last-minute surprises.
Promotion takes up a significant proportion of your time and budget, so make sure you factor it into your planning schedule. You’re looking to maximise exposure and get bums on seats, so use all channels at your disposal to spread the word and promote your upcoming conference.
Social media is, of course, one of the best places to publicise your event. Create a dedicated events page on LinkedIn so that it shows up on the site’s public events calendar, and reach out to professionals within your industry who may be willing to help with your promotion efforts.
Elsewhere, it’s a good idea to ask your chosen speakers to help promote the event, sharing details on their own social channels. This is a great way to amplify your conference to new audiences who may not be aware of you and your business.
We hope this guide proves useful in helping you plan an upcoming conference. If you’re still at the venue-searching phase, take a look at the wide range of conference and events spaces available at The Mere. Providing professional meeting spaces in the heart of Cheshire, we can take care of your corporate event no matter your requirements. For more information or to book, visit the homepage or call us on 01565 830155.