Hosting a conference is a big deal for any business. To make an impression, you’re going to need to make sure your conference goes off without a hitch. Even a beginner can learn to pull off a fantastic conference with the right hints and tips. From planning the day’s activities to putting the practical arrangements in place, there’s a lot to make sure you get right in time for the big day.
Host the perfect event with these conference planning tips that every business can use!
Decide on the theme for your conference
It’s all well and good to decide to throw a conference, but it’s important that you choose a theme that people will be interested in. To fill up those spaces, you’re going to need an agenda that’s relevant and topical that will attract people from all over your industry.
When choosing the right conference theme, you’ll want to think about:
- What’s hot in your industry at the moment – are there burning issues or trends that could be featured?
- Who are you pitching your conference too? If it’s for others in your industry, clients or the general public, you’ll want to think carefully about the content of your conference and how it can appeal to them.
- Think about what you want to achieve from your conference – what do you want people to take with them when they leave? This will help you think about the most important aspects of your conference.
Plan as far in advance as possible
One of the most beneficial things you can do is to plan your conference in as far advance as possible. This gives you time to notify delegates so that they can make travel arrangements, plan the agenda as well as make all of the practical arrangements.
Aim to start your planning at least 6 months in advance. This will give you time to form a conference planning checklist that you can work from. When it comes to planning a conference, or any event for that matter, working backward can help.
Start from the date of the conference and work out what you need to do and when. This will allow you to plan out when to set the RSVP deadline, when the catering needs to be ordered by and so on.
Team up with partners
Where small businesses are concerned, planning and financing a conference can be a big step to take all on your own. Teaming up with other local businesses could help you to build links within your community as well as shoulder the burden of having to plan it all yourself. Different businesses can be responsible for different aspects of the day to keep things varied and interesting.
If planning a conference with partners isn’t a suitable solution, you could always ask for sponsorship to help you cover costs. Local businesses can sponsor a portion of the day, or have an advert featured in your program.
Choosing the right location
Choosing the right location for your conference is vital, and there are some things you’ll want to consider when settling on your ideal venue, such as:
- Hire costs
- Is the venue easily to get to?
- Whether or not there’s on-site accommodation
- What facilities are available
- Are there breakout spaces?
- Do they provide on-site catering?
- Is the venue accessible?
Some common locations for conferences include hotels, colleges, conference centers, and music venues. To make sure you get a good idea of what’s out there, you’ll want to narrow it down to a few choices and then visit each one in turn. Consider the pros and cons of each location to you decide on the best one. Remember that the cheapest might not always be the best.
Arrange some must-see guest speakers
One of the things that attracts someone to a conference is the speakers. The right guest speakers will sell out your conference and guarantee a crowd. If you’ve got the budget for it, it’s worth paying for a well-known speaker, someone who knows the industry inside-out and can offer something of value to your guests.
If you’re unfamiliar with the presentation style of your prospective speakers, then you can usually find some of their work on YouTube. You can also get a feel of whether they’re the right speaker for you by attending other similar conferences and events.
There are many ways you can find speakers for your conference, and the sooner you can confirm them, the sooner you can advertise your conference.
Make it accessible to all
When arranging your conference, it can be easy to get consumed in the physical part of your conference, but why not open it up to people who can’t make it? There are many reasons why you should live stream your conference and by live streaming your content, you can still reach a lot of people who can’t physically be present.
By offering a live stream of your sessions, you can make them more interactive as well as provide useful content following your conference. You can offer the live stream as a paid-for service, providing a special login for those wishing to participate online.
Keep content varied
It’s easy to fill your conference with a day of lectures and seminars, but being talked at all day will make your attendees switch off. Break up the day with interactive conference ideas that help to keep people interested and engaged. Break out sessions and Q&As are perfect for adding some variety to the day and helping your audience to interact and share their own ideas.
Ensure your catering is top-notch
Aside from a great venue and interesting sessions, what else do people remember or look forward to the most at a conference? The food. Good catering is a must for your conference. You should consider a range of dietary requirements as well as provide food that is easy to eat. Any breaks for food should also give people a chance to network and mingle, so make sure there’s plenty of space for people to sit and socialize with other delegates.
Event Catering Tips
Take a look at some event catering tips to help you hit the right note. Make sure you’ve got all of the basics in place.
There are plenty of practicalities that you need to take into account when arranging your conference. Some things to think about include:
- Printing all of the delegate packs in advance and making sure there are enough copies
- Display your WiFi code everywhere – it’s one of the questions you’ll get asked the most during your conference!
- Make sure you’re familiar with the housekeeping of your venue and communicate it to your guests.
- Having all of the tech in place in advance can mean that you won’t run into issues during sessions and that you deliver
presentations of high quality – ask for presentations in advance so that you can check them first.
- Check on your speakers’ requirements in advance of the conference. Provide them with lecterns, clickers, water and anything else they need to feel comfortable. Appoint someone to introduce them before they begin their lecture.
- Ask your guests about any access requirements they might have as they register to make sure that everyone can attend the conference without any problems.
Promote your conference
To encourage people to register for your conference, you need to promote it. An effective marketing campaign should kick off as soon as you confirm details of your conference to help you maximize the opportunities to sign up attendees.
From promoting your conference on social media to sending out a mailshot to your existing clients, there are plenty of free ways to advertise. You can also list your conference on Eventbrite to attract people who browse for local event listings.
One tip to encourage some early sign-ups is to use an early-bird deal that offers a discount on the ticket price for the first people to sign up. You can continue to offer incentives such as giveaways and further discounts if numbers are a cause for concern nearer to your conference date.
Draw up a promotion plan for your conference that will cover you from your launch to the conference itself. Devise a hashtag that you can run with throughout the whole campaign and encourage people to use it to generate a buzz around your conference.
Ask for feedback
After your conference is over, remember to get feedback from your attendees. Feedback is important to help you identify areas for improvement and to find out what worked.
Feedback can be gathered on the day or you can send a survey out to attendees in the days following the conference to thank them for attending. If your conference is a success, you can let them know the date of the next conference and encourage them to register early.
Planning a conference is hard work, but if you’re prepared and willing to dive in – you can pull it off. Make sure your first conference goes off without a hitch to deliver some great results for your business.