important note: we have an updated version of this blog post available: Successful Conference Management For The 21st Century
With many years of collective, collaborative experience in conference management, we have acquired a lot of insights along the way. It can be an intimidating exercise, especially when planning your first conference as there are multiple components to piece together.
In light of this, we have put together these 7 steps for conference management paper for your guidance.
1. What Is Your “Why”?
Before you so much as think of a name, or what time of year you will be holding your conference, you need to down with the partners of your association or organisation and establish the end goal of the conference. Whether that may be to generate revenue, acquire new memberships, or to create awareness, this should be the fundament of all your planning.
2. Set A Budget For Your Conference Management
Event sponsorship can benefit your association in many ways. How will you pay for your event? Aside from exploring free resources through your network, the importance of a carefully planned exhibition and sponsorship strategy is immense.
Sponsors are constantly on the lookout for new partnerships, which means meeting planners and organisers have many possibilities to establish connections that bring value to all stakeholders. It all depends on your approach.
If you acquire sponsorship, then prepare a budget listing the major cost items of the bucket list you have created.
Be mindful of the following:
- Venue Hire
- Staff time
- Marketing expenses
- Registration expenses
- Air and ground transportation
- Food and beverage
- Entertainment and recreation
- Speakers and training
- Taxes / gratuities
- Other Service charges
- Audio-visual equipment and production costs
- IT / internet costs
Through experience, we recommend adding 10% of all costs on top of your already established budget as there is always the possibility of expenses running over.
3. Create a conference planning checklist
A conference planning checklist is extremely important because of the complexities and quantity of things you will need to consider.
This is where employing the services of others for assistance is instrumental in accomplishing it all. Your list should look like this:
- Conference name and primary topics/theme
- Decide on the location
- Set the conference dates
- Determine daily start and end times
- Establish a preliminary budget
- Apply for industry experts as keynote speakers
- Create a preliminary list of potential speakers
- Get into contact with potential speakers
- Finalise your list of speakers
- Schedule your speakers’ deliveries
- Inform speakers of schedule
- Send out official invitations
- Negotiate contracts with speakers
- Book their accommodation
- Travel assistance
- Arrange hospitality and transportation for speakers
- Arrange conference teams and committees
- Arrange a system of payments
- Systematise staffing, volunteers/staff registration
- Establish a system of participants registration
- Arrange accommodation for staff/volunteers
- Create a preliminary list of participants
- Plan entertainment, arrange banqueting requirements (food & beverages)
- Determine the schedule of events for each conference day
- Finalise list of participants/attendees
- Arrange accommodation for participants/attendees
- Decorate conference location
- Arrange all necessary items are purchased
- Book entertainment in advance (You are catering for a lot of people)
- Send invitations to all attendees
- Arrange and book technicians for audio-visual equipment
- Arrange and book technicians for IT/internet requirements
- Book lighting and sound engineers
- Test all the equipment (sound checks etc.)
- Organise the presentation committee
- Arrange delegate activities
- Arrange social programs and functions
- Check Disaster Management compliance, emergency evacuation
- Check Fire and Para-Medic compliance
- Ensure all parts are operating accurately
4. Choose from the list practically
For instance, the venue you choose should be in the city you are targeting. Either that or at least very close to it. You do not want participants perceiving your event as a major expense. It is also imperative to consider how many people will attend. Your chosen venue’s size needs to cater for that.
Depending on your budget, you may not get the exact speakers you want, but there is no harm in trying to connect with them. Twitter and LinkedIn are usually the platforms where industry professionals will prefer to converse.
It is also worth setting up a poll across your social platforms to find out what it is conference attendees look for in an event. The world is rapidly advancing and it is imperative you stay on top of current trends.
5. Finding speakers
Choosing who speaks at your meeting is arguably the most crucial aspect of conference management. People like to be a part of things and this is even more true for your audience. We recommend reaching out to your network to identify the speaker(s) who will best assist in achieving the conference’s objectives.
Once you have compiled a list of prospective speakers, conduct research on them. Get in touch with associations who have had them speak at their events before. Once you have found your speakers, ensure they are managed properly and that they are provided with a thorough brief.
6. A modern website
Another aspect that can easily be overlooked is having a modern, easily navigable website. When it comes to marketing for associations and their conferences or meetings, having a website and online presence strategy allows you to market your association and its conferences online, to engage with a wider audience and to establish credibility as an organisation.
You will need to establish a direct and simple online user journey for prospective attendees when they are wanting to purchase tickets to your conference. All roads need to lead to your website, so make sure it is excellent.
7. Digital Marketing
There really is no point going through all the trouble of organising an event if you do not market it online. In the digital age, this is the primary way of creating awareness around your meeting. Without a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, you will limit attendance. You can increase your reach and reception online by creating engaging content and ensuring you support this with a clear call to action.
Follow these steps to host a successful, well-orchestrated conference. You may need some assistance to guarantee it runs seamlessly. If you do, we are here to help. As experts in conference management and a member of the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, we hold the know-how and human capital needed to design, plan, manage, and coordinate every facet of your conference from start to finish, ensuring that nothing is left to chance. Contact us.
Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations and corporations.