So you decided to organize a conference, that’s great! But now what?
Getting people together in a room, sharing knowledge and experiences is terrific, but how do you make that possible? What needs to happen in backstage to make the show go flawlessly?
In this blog post, we show you the steps to organize your conference without missing any detail.
Great organization is the key to a successful conference
If you want to organize a conference or event without struggles it is extremely important to plan, organize and re-think every step. The larger the conference, the more time required to plan your event.
Make sure to start early. There are a lot of details that need attention and careful planning. Begin the preparations at least 6 months in advance to make sure that everything goes according to plan and no big stones will fall on your path. The clock starts ticking now! Below you’ll find the 10 steps we prepared for you.
Step 1: Decide on a theme
First things first. No conference without a theme, so make sure to set that first.
The theme, in other words – the title of your conference, must be appealing, abstract and open to a wide range of talks. In this way, you assure that you can reach different topics and ideas and gives the space for your speakers to be creative. The diversity of subjects will give the attendees the freedom to create their own connections and questions, providing a more startling and personal experience. “The Future of Technology”, “The New age”, “The complexity of the brain” and “The power of Marketing” are just a few examples of how broad your theme can be.
Step 2: Choose your team wisely
Okay – organizing a conference is definitely not a one-person job. There is a lot to do and the best way to accomplish this is to join forces. Choose the right people, preferably people you trust. You’ll be accountable for coordinating and delegating tasks and they’ll be in charge of specific areas while organizing the event. Below you’ll find a board with tasks delegated to each team or person.
Step 3: Set a budget and elaborate a business plan
A crucial part of organising a conference is your budget and business plan. Make sure to talk this through with your team. How much revenue will you make? And how does that compare to costs?. Elobrate on the budget and caclulate everything. This will create clarity about the financing you need. Make sure to make the right calculations!
You’ll find a list with some examples below:
- The location venue for your conference (ex: a hotel, museum, university, event pavilion)
- Transportation of people and goods
- Conference related activities
- Marketing and Advertising
- The expenses of your team
- Speaker Fees
Step 4: Set a date
When it comes to picking a date, there are several things you should consider:
- Avoid holiday times! Early-September until late-November and late-March until late-June are the best dates to organise your conference.
- Avoid other events in your industry. When you have a date, make sure you don’t collide with other events. This eliminates competition and prevents higher pricing for flights and accommodation. These factors are decisive when deciding to attend a conference, especially for individuals.
- Most conferences are work-related, if this applies for your industry too, make sure you organise your conference during the week. If not: Take the weekend. Also make sure you do it in the end of the week, so people are still able to get some work done, and maybe even enjoy the area in the weekend while they’re there. Also don’t forget to organise a party on friday-night!
Enough about dates – how about the length of your conference?
How many days should your conference take? This depends a lot on the size of your conference. The number of sessions, the amount of guests, other conference-related activities and the location of your event play a big role in this decision. If a good part of your target audience needs to travel a long way to attend your event, it’s more efficient to do a 2 or 3 day event.
Step 5: The Venue
The location and the building where your conference takes place is extremely important. There is a wide range of options and it depends a lot on the budget you have available.
Hotels are the most-used locations for a conference. They might be the most-expensive option, but they do offer an all-in solution: Catering, facilities and accommodation.
A cheaper option is universities. They offer the facilities to receive conferences on a smaller scale. The perfect space for conferences related to academic purposes.
If you’re planning a conference with a specific concept and atmosphere, you’re better off choosing an independent venue. There is a big variety of venues specialised in hosting events and conferences.
Still having a hard time finding the right venue? Check out Cvent’s venue index or Venue Finders.
Organising your conference in the United States? And you’re not sure about the city yet? Then you might want to check out Smart Assets’ blog post.
Step 6: Important considerations
This point is a continuation of the previous one and is focused on the things you should weigh when choosing the perfect location. Here’s a list:
- Space and atmosphere – The size matters and the chosen location must provide the right amount of space you need to host your conference. When a space is too small or too big it can make people feel tight or give the idea that the number of attendees is not enough. You want people to feel comfortable and have a good time during the event. Having nice surroundings and areas where people can relax and enjoy the event will help your visitors build good memories of the event and will create a higher chance of them joining a future event.
- Transportation options – Make sure you choose a place that is easily accessible by public transports. Also make sure to provide enough parking space for those who travel by car.
- Access to the airport – A big and important conference usually attracts people from all over the world. Choosing a location close to the airport make sit easier for people to travel and attend your conference.
- Staying – If your conference doesn’t offer accommodation consider choosing a location with hotels close by or other unities that can provide accommodation for your attendees.
- Catering – Many conferences choose to offer a catering service during the event. This allows people to socialize and network during lunch breaks and of course enjoy the event even more. However, if this is not within your budget it is important to opt for a location with cafes and restaurants.
- Facilities – Depending on the type of conference you organize you might want to consider offering specific rooms to fill the needs of your visitors. For example consider having a business room for meetings, a silent room for a moment of peace, a laptop-friendly space where people can open their computer and work during breaks, an area dedicated to workshops and others.
- Cultural attractions – The city where the conference takes place can be an influential factor in deciding to attend a conference. It’s nice if the visitor can combine attending the conference while also doing a bit of sightseeing.
- Technical equipment – IT equipment at a conference is a crucial factor. If the place cannot provide good quality audio and video hardware, make sure you hire a company or rent the right equipment to have your event covered.
Step 7: Speakers list
The speakers play a major role and – to guarantee the success of your conference – it is important to have influential names on your agenda. Renowned speakers will create a more professional experience and will attract a lot more visitors.
Create a list of the names you would like to bring to your conference and contact them via e-mail or telephone. If they’re not able to attend, ask them if they can recommend others. Also – don’t forget to save some of them as a back-up in case one of them runs into an issue which doesn’t allow them to attend the event. Always keep a plane B!
Start with the big names, and build your credibility by securing one influential speaker for your event. After this, others will follow and the chance of having important orators filling your agenda is higher.
When summoning speakers there’s a couple of aspects you need to take into consideration:
- a compensation or fee for their participation
- Accommodation and transport to the event location
- Special food requirements
- Special IT equipment for the presentation
If you want to avoid major investments when calling up speakers, a good tactic is to invite local speakers.
Step 8: Agenda and promotion
After you have a list of speakers it’s time to decide the content of your agenda. What is the main goal of your conference? What do you want people to learn and how you want to inspire them? What are the subjects of the presentations? What kind of expectations do your visitors have? Is the event going to have simultaneous sessions happening in different rooms?
Decide on the number of sessions, the times, the coffee and lunch breaks and the activities during your conference (Q&A sessions, workshops, exhibition rooms, business meetings).
After deciding on a schedule and covering all the points above it’s time to start promoting your conference.
Make sure you have an online presence to start promoting your conference. Make sure you have the following points covered:
- A website – should contain all the information about the event. We’ll talk about this point in more detail in the next step.
- Write a press release – target and send a press release to different media types (national and local as well as niche media more focus on your conference category – IT, Health, Arts, Engineering, among others). Also – invite journalists to be present at the conference.
- Social media: Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook (understand your target audience to decide what kind of social media platforms are the best to advertise your conference and use the hashtags and the right keywords to make it easier to find).
- Communities and forums – Reach out the ones that are related to the area covered by your conference.
- E-mail campaigns – Use tools like Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor to send e-mails that stand out and deliver all the information about your conference. E-mail campaigns are one of the best ways of promoting a conference and they have a lot of potential.
Step 9: Signing up
It’s time to have visitors signing up for your conference. They need a place to get their tickets and register for the event. The best way to do it is by creating a website where people can have all the information about the conference and register. Let’s see in more detail what kind of content a website conference must have:
- Location and date
- Title and description of the event
- Team (who are the people behind the event)
- Directions (how to get to the conference and what transports are available to the place)
- Information about the catering or places in the area to eat
- Attractions and sightseeing
- Agenda with the days, speakers, sessions, organizations
- Tickets and registration
- Photos of the location
- Photos, contacts, and information about the speakers
- List of sponsors
- Countdown Timer (to make people aware of the time they have left to attend the event)
- Newsletter area (send updates and important information about your event to the people who sign for it)
- Social media icons linking to the profile pages of the conference or the company/entity organizing it
- Promotional video about the event
Sympose offers online solutions for your conference. Contact us to work with us for creating your conference website, or download the free Sympose WordPress plugin to get started yourself.
The WordPress plugin adds functionality for creating an agenda with all the information about the days, sessions, speakers and sponsors. And allows you to quick start your event.
Sympose also offers extensions that add extra features to your conference website.
Step 10: The big day
Make sure everything is set and ready for the big day. Decide where all the activities are going to take place and make sure the team and staff is ready and know exactly what to do during the event.
Also decide on the host who will speak open the conference, introduce the speakers and provide information to attendees during the event.
Try to collect information on what people think about the event. The follow up is important not only to know the opinion of the visitors, but also the team, volunteers, speakers and other people involved in the conference.
Collecting feedback is extremely important to know what went wrong and
what worked great so you’ll get knowledge about what you can improve in future conferences you organize.
Don’t forget to thank all the people involved!