How to Organise a Conference: Step-By-Step Guide
So you have decided to organise a conference. Quite a task!
You need to begin planning the conference about 6 months before the date. (For larger conference, the planning may start annually in advance.) You will be keeping track of a great deal of moving parts.
You will need to have a million questions on the brain of yours. Where do you start? How can you chose the best speakers to invite? Which venue will best suit your needs?
Not to worry.
The fact is, though organising a conference is a demanding endeavour, you are not the very first one to experience it. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. It is all about following several specific steps.
We have prepared this top level guide on how you can organise a conference. It will take you step the key steps involved as well as link you over to valuable articles and tools which will help make the job of yours a great deal easier. The steps are not strictly chronological—you may well start contacting potential speakers before you have secured a venue—but they give you an approximate idea of what you should concentrate on original.
Ready to start arranging that conference?
Step one: Decide on a theme
Every great conference must have a theme. What is the unifying message that the speakers of yours will deliver as well as what is the primary key takeaway for conference attendees?
The greatest themes are trigger, relatable, and catchy an emotional response. You need the conference to inspire and stimulate conversation. Your theme has to allow that.
For example, “Stronger as a team” is possibly a much better theme than “Achieving improved efficiencies through increased cross functional collaboration.” ikea Abu Dhabi
The theme is much more than simply a rallying cry for all participants; it’ll also guide your promotion and branding, from developing a logo to coming up with social media hashtags to printing your other, brochures, and posters collateral.
Further reading & tools
A great guide from TED: Create a theme
An excellent idea list to help with brainstorm: 127 themes & concepts for a new business event
Step two: Assemble the A-team of yours
Chances are, you will not be organising an entire conference all by yourself. (In fact, we would be shocked if that had been the case.)
You will need your own team of individuals to assume responsibility for various elements of the planning, promotion, and negotiations. The core team of yours will probably include:
Planning team: Conference venue, activities, accommodation, catering.
Administration team: Budgeting, ticket sales, attendee registration. This team/person will even be the primary point of contact for questions associated with the conference.
Marketing team: Contacting the media, creating marketing material, managing your social, blog, and website media activities.
Sponsorships team: In charge of securing sponsors, applying for grants, and fundraising. (Only relevant for conferences that rely on outside sources of finance. Obviously)
Volunteers: Helping with all on site activities on the day of the conference: door management, ticket scanning, keeping track of the guest list, manning the wardrobe, guiding folks, etc.
The main task of yours is going to be to coordinate the team, set priorities, and assign tasks.
Step three: Prepare a budget & business plan
Whether your conference is funded by sponsors or otherwise, you will need to developed a budget. You have to know exactly where your money has been earned and spent.
Working with a budget will even enable you to put the cost for participating in the conference. Listed here are the most common things you will want to budget for:
Team members Preparing a budget with realistic estimates will are available in handy when searching for venues and negotiating contracts.
Further reading & tools
Quick guide to budgeting: Money, Money, Money: Developing a Budget for The Conference of yours
Ready-to-use template (from Bonjour Events): Conference budget template
Step four: Find sponsors & grants [optional]
When you are financing the conference by yourself and aren’t searching for outside sources of revenue, you are able to easily skip this step.
If not, you will wish to head out looking for sponsors or perhaps arrange fundraisers. The crucial point to bear in mind would be that the sponsors and the values of theirs should align with the theme of your conference. (Would you would like McDonald’s to sponsor your “Let’s Get Fit” conference?)
Start by finding sponsors that will fund events that are similar or perhaps are associated with your conference’s main themes.
Determine just how much say the sponsors must have in the way the conference is run. Will you allow their logo and branding on every item of equipment? Will they have the ability to bring in their very own speakers?
Remember: It is a good sense of balance between getting funded and sacrificing the integrity of the conference of yours. You are the judge of where you can draw that line.
Further reading & tools
Great guide on approaching sponsors: How you can reach out to sponsors
Marketplace for finding sponsors: SponsorMyEvent
Step five: Settle on a date
Today it is time to decide when the conference of yours is going to take place. As discussed, that date should be between 6 months to a year ahead.
Additionally you have to discover just how long the conference will last. Industry consensus suggests that a convention with around 300 participants calls for 2 days that are full. Larger, more in depth conferences may stretch for a lot more time.
Here are a few great rules of thumb to help keep in mind:
Pick a date that does not conflict with other major events as festivals. City-wide events make booking flights costlier and generally hinder transportation back and forth from the conference. Besides, you do not want the conference of yours to compete for attention with great events.
Stay away from summer and winter holiday periods when folks are likely to go on holiday. It is better to strive for a particular date between the middle of End and March of June or from early September to late November.
Never plan a conference during the weekend. For the majority of participants, attending a convention is a component of the work of theirs, so schedule it during the workweek.
Try to strive for the conclusion of the week, so that traveling attendees get the opportunity to remain behind and sightsee during their time off. The perfect days for a conference are Friday as well as Thursday.
Establishing a date is going to give you a fixed point to count back from to better plan the preparations of yours.
Step six: Book the venue
When you know the date, you are able to start searching for free venues that match the requirements of yours.
Generally, venues might fall into 3 categories:
Faculty campuses: These’re most suitable for smaller, academic events and are fairly cheap to hire.
Hotels: These typically have dedicated very own catering and conference facilities. They are perfect all-in-one choice since they offer both conference and accommodation space. They also tend to become most expensive option.
Independent venues: This category has all other kinds of venues that can host conferences. A number of these specialise in certain events types.
But the price of the venue is only one element of the puzzle. Listed here are several additional factors to consider when searching for the right venue:
Size: Booking a too small venue where everybody has to press into a small space is obviously a terrible idea. In the same way, securing a huge venue for a fairly modest crowd won’t just hurt the wallet of yours but also make the conference feel empty and poorly attended.
Location: It is better to pick a fairly secluded location so that participants are better in the position to concentrate on the convention itself. Even more effective if the venue has calming, picturesque surroundings to help folks relax.
Atmosphere: It is essential that the vibe of the venue suits the target audience of yours and theme. You do not want to host a business conference inside a giant gym, for example.
Facilities: Does the venue have the correct format as well as the right conference room styles for your requirements? Does it have the required facilities like e.g. smaller rooms for breakout sessions?
Accommodation: Does the venue provide accommodation or perhaps are there hotels nearby?
Catering: Is catering included or perhaps can external catering companies easily get to and work inside the venue? If not, exist suitable restaurants and cafes in the area? (Keep in mind any special dietary requirements: vegan, nut-free, kosher, etc.)
Transportation: How easy is it for participants to travel to the venue by public transport? Are there sufficient parking spots for all those who drive?
Technical aspects: Does the venue have the best IT, video equipment, and audio? You will need projection screens, microphones, plenty of charging spots for participants, and—of course—solid WiFi access.
When negotiating with potential venues, try to arrange for early access to the place so you are able to do a “dry run” or perhaps a walkthrough with the team of yours before the conference. You ought to be ready to make sure that every detail is in place before the big day.
Quick tip: In case you discover an excellent venue that is simply out of the budget of yours, determine in case you are able to negotiate a reduced fee in exchange for a multiyear contract (provided you are organising a recurring conference). In case you think finding the proper venue is very demanding, consider getting a venue finder to look after it for you.
Further reading & tools
Great tool to estimate capacity and find venues: Room capacity calculator
Step seven: Arrange catering & various other vendors [optional]
Usually, a separate conference venue will additionally provide on site catering. If that is untrue, you will have to bring in external vendors.
Determine what variety of refreshments you would like to offer and just how many breaks there will be for food. Reserve as much as one hour for lunch and several 15 20 minute breaks for snacks and coffee. Remember: If there is room in the budget of yours, it is usually better to go for appropriate hot meals rather than sandwiches with regards to lunch.
You need to make certain that the catering company is able to deal with the logistics on the day of the event. The best bet of yours is usually to locate a neighborhood business close to the conference venue to stay away from potential traffic related issues and delays.
Do not forget to check out the distance in advance the caterer needs to know the final headcount, the menu, and any specific dietary needs. The way you will also know what “RSVP by” date to place on the conference invite.
Think about every other outside vendors you could possibly have, like a decorating company or perhaps suppliers of special IT equipment.
Further reading & tools
Suggestions for finding great vendors: six Tips for Choosing probably the Best Event Vendors
Plan the conference of yours with Billetto. Develop a conference page to sell tickets, register RSVPs, and collect info about the delegates of yours.
Plan the conference of mine
Step eight: Line up the speakers of yours
This might be the most crucial step of all. Your speakers are the stars of the conference of yours. You would like a great lineup to be able to attract attendees and guarantee a specialized experience.
One sure way to gain traction here’s to first secure one big name speaker. Someone who’s extremely popular and respected within the industry. This can boost the credibility of yours in the eyes of other potential speakers as well as make them much more apt to sign up.
Start searching for thought leaders that focus on the exact same themes as the conference of yours. Make a prioritised list of potential speakers you would love to invite. Then begin making those calls and writing those emails.
Allow me to share a couple of things to address:
Compensation: Do they need a speaker fee or any other types of compensation to participate?
Supporting equipment: Does their presentation rely on specific IT equipment or any other props?
Special requirements: Do they’ve certain dietary preferences? Will they have to have transportation and accommodation arranged for them?
Work through the list of yours as you slowly fill up the allotted time slots with quality speakers.
But do not throw away that list just yet! You need to have plenty of backup speakers in case several of your first priority ones cancel. You need to constantly have a Plan B.
You are able to also think about recruiting some local speakers. You will save on transportation and lend an air of authenticity to the conference.
Further reading & tools Great insights on what speakers want: Organising a Conference? Below are ten Things the Speakers Want You to Keep in Mind
Tips on tracking down speakers: three Inventive Ways to Track Down Potential Speakers for A new Event
Step nine: Put together an agenda
Right now that the primary key components are in place, it is time to shape them right into a comprehensive agenda. Ideally, you would like the agenda of yours to be in place a minimum of 4 months before the convention starts.
Keep in mind that the conference’s main objective is usually to motivate folks as well as expand the horizons of theirs. You cannot do that without an understanding of the attendees of yours.
Attempt to get inside the head of a regular attendee and answer a couple of key questions: What are their expectations? What knowledge do they already have and what would they love to read more about? What types of sessions (presentations, workshops, etc.) could better help them absorb the ideas discussed?
Equipped with this info, you’ll be able to begin drafting an agenda. A really top level conference agenda might be something as this:
Theme-setting keynote speech by an important speaker
Day two as well as onward:
Shorter hands on sessions and workshops
Networking and team building activities
Motivational speaker to end on a very high note When it involves the shorter sessions, there are lots to choose from: Small group lectures, Q&A sessions, interactive sessions, workshops, and many more (see linked article below).
They’ll generally range from one to two hours and rely on the conference theme. You will also have to decide whether to have everyone get involved in all the sessions or perhaps have a selection of them running in parallel and let folks pick their preferred topics.
Further reading & tools
Ideas for an engaging conference: Interactive Conference Ideas to Engage The Audience of yours
Ideas for sessions that are short: five Creative Ideas For Conference Sessions
Template for making a conference agenda: Conference agenda (Basic Format)
Step ten: Start registering attendees
It is finally time for what’s arguably the most thrilling part: Getting folks to sign up for the conference of yours!
The best choice of yours is usually to make a professional site for the conference. At the very least, that could include:
An appropriate domain (i.e. www.myconferencename.com)
Must-know details about the conference (where, what, who, when, why)
Browsable conference calendar / programme
Registration form where people are able to sign up or purchase tickets You will be adding your conference site to all information and marketing material going forward.
Do not have the resources to create a dedicated site? The other option of yours is a third party ticketing site as Billetto. Below, you are able to quickly produce an event page for the conference of yours with all of the key details.
Moreover, ticketing sites take care of issuing tickets as well as processing payments on the behalf of yours, saving you the headache of worrying about extra management tasks.
Further reading & tools
Guide to selling event tickets: How you can sell tickets for an event
Sample registration form: Conference Registration Form
Step eleven: Promote the conference of yours
You now have the venue of yours, key speakers, an obvious conference programme, and a site (or event page) to guide folks to. In the future, the main focus of yours is encouraging the conference via all available channels.
If your conference is not free to attend, you will wish to settle on the proper price. On the one hand, the conference fees should help cover the costs of yours. On the flip side, you do not wish to price interested attendees out as well as end up with a half booked conference. You are able to consider a sliding pay scale based on people’s career status (e.g. pupils pay lower fees).
Promoting your conference offline? You would like to create an excellent booklet with the conference agenda along with a visible link to the site of yours or perhaps the ticketing site.
Online, you’ve numerous ways to promote the conference of yours on essentially small budget:
Social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – all based on your audience) Relevant forums where potential attendees might hang out (e.g. a community for engineers in which you are able to promote your tech conference)
Very own press and blogs releases If your promotion relies a lot on social media, think about a catchy hashtag you are able to use any time you post about the future conference.
Do not forget to encourage the speakers of yours to market the conference to the market of theirs by themselves channels. They’ve a vested interest in doing this and will expose the conference to folks that are much more prone to have an interest (after all, they already love the speakers of yours, right?).
Invite journalists within your chosen niche to cover—and maybe even attend—the conference. When reaching out to the media, it is better to keep your pitch simple as well as brief (up to one page), focusing primarily on the 5Ws (who, where, when, what, and why).
Further reading & tools
Guide to conference promotion with a list of announcement sites: Promoting The Conference of yours
Tips on internet promotion: ten Free Ways to Market your Event Online
Step twelve: Take care of on site planning
In this step you get right down to the nitty gritty details to address how attendees will physically navigate the venue on the day. Below are just several of the questions you will want to answer:
Will there be a wardrobe?
Who’ll male the doors and scan tickets?
Which locale will be employed for the main event?
What areas should be reserved for the breakout sessions?
Where will refreshments be served?
Will you’ve an exhibition area where vendors and sponsors are able to create a booth?
The most effective way to go about this’s to stroll through the day’s agenda and place yourself in your attendees’ shoes. Try to imagine just how they are going to act on the day and what needs they may have.
As we previously pointed out, it is better to get first access to the venue so that you are able to look at the room and prepare a comprehensive plan in advance. If you’ve various other vendors or external caterers, plan a walkthrough so additionally, they familiarise themselves with the layout, the location of the cooking area, etc.
By checking things out in person you are more effective prepared to deal with some problems which may come up on the day of the conference. Speaking of which…
Step thirteen: Host the conference
The important day is finally here!
Provided you have followed all of the above steps and also have a group of volunteers in charge of on-the-day activities, there should not be very much that you can be concerned about.
Below are a few situations which might require your attention:
Calling up backup speakers in case of any last minute cancellations
Personally introducing the conference and also the primary speakers
Making sure presentations do not run past the allotted time
Participating in social networking and facilitating conversations
Gathering in person attendee feedback as the conference unfolds
Communicating with journalists and others reporting on the conference Today, you reap the fruits of the efforts of yours as well as get to enjoy the (hopefully) inspiring conference.
Further reading & tools
Tips on gathering audience feedback: Gathering Feedback at Events [Best Practices]
Step fourteen: Follow up after the conference
After it is all over, you will still have a little bit of work to do.
You must follow up with all of the folks involved: the team of yours, vendors, volunteers, speakers, and—of course—the attendees. You need to follow up for 2 primary reasons:
Say “Thank you”: You should thank everyone for their efforts and participation. Not merely is this a common courtesy but you will also get to keep a good impact. There is a good possibility this is not your last conference, so you need to nurture some connections you have made.
Collect feedback: This’s the best chance to hear what folks thought of the conference and what might be done much better in the future.
The simplest way to gather input is usually to email everyone a link to an online survey. Keep it fairly short and focus on several main themes: What did they like probably the most about the conference? Exactly how would they rate the various elements (presentations, accommodation, refreshments, etc.)? What would they change as well as improve?
Make an effort to follow up within a couple of days at nearly all, while the conference remains fresh in everyone’s mind. Individuals have schedules that are hectic and a limited attention span, therefore do not wait long to get in touch.
Further reading & tools
Top-level tips on gathering audience feedback: Evaluating the Conference Experience: How you can Get Useable Feedback From The Delegates of yours
Certain questions to ask: five Questions to Put in Your Post Event Survey
Good luck with the conference of yours!
You finally have a significantly better on idea on how you can organise a conference and what key steps are involved.
It is time to set the wheels in motion. We know you are able to do it!