Conference Planning 101 – Simple Tips to Ensure it Goes as Planned!

You’ve been entrusted to plan a conference. Your boss tells you it’s a large conference for professionals in your industry. But, you’ve never planned a conference before, let alone a large one. Where do you begin? Consider these tips to make sure you have everything hashed out, you’re prepared, and everything goes as smoothly as possible.

1) Just Start!

Start the planning process as early as possible. You’ll want to make a checklist with

  • Dates
  • Venue options
  • Attendees
  • Food management/catering
  • Rental equipment/technology
  • Hotels, and so forth

Make a list of everything you’ll need and begin calling around.

2) Set a Budget

Your boss will probably give you a budget but set your budget. Doing this will allow you to take care of unplanned emergencies if they pop up. And, you can set aside some cash for last-minute expenditures or changes your boss decides to spring on you a couple of months before the conference date.

3) Pick a Theme/Central Message

In choosing a theme, remember your audience. If your boss has given you some leverage you need to consider what message you’d like to convey and what the focal point of the conference is. If you have strict guidelines, you can plan a theme around those.

4) Create a Team to Work with

You’ll need help. It doesn’t matter how good of a planner you are, you can’t do everything alone. Ask your boss if you can hire a planner, or work with coworkers to help you plan for the conference. Make sure to choose

  • Efficient people
  • Those who know their role and meet deadlines
  • Marketers, organizers, planners, and tech-specialists

The more detail-oriented your team is, and the more specialists you have to help you in planning the conference, the more likely it’s going to be a success.

5) Set the Date

Locking in date is imperative. Make sure you begin calling hotels, conference halls, and other large establishments, as early as possible. This way you have a better idea of local rates, plus you can negotiate a bit and drive prices down. Also discuss the possibility of multi-day hosting, as many establishments will offer discounted rates.

6) Choose the Venue

This and point #5 work hand-in-hand. You’re going to call multiple hotels, conference halls, large arenas, and other establishments. Depending on the type of conference, who the attendees are, and what your theme (focal message is), you’ll find it easier to choose the right venue. And, you’ll have an easier time when you’re ready to book the venue for the date.

7) Decide on a Speaker

If you have a keynote speaker, make sure you choose the right person. Pick an industry expert (regardless of the industry/type of conference). Make sure they can make it to the date/venue location. Ask about

  • What their rates are
  • If you pay for hotel/airfare, and other costs (or if they cover those expenses)
  • What their hourly/daily rates are, and so forth

You have to stick to your budget, regardless of what that is. Therefore, you need to make sure you can afford the keynote speaker for the conference you’re planning. Call early and book as early as you have a venue in mind, to avoid complications, being turned down, or last-minute hiked up rates.

8) Vendor Management

You’ll have to set up food and drinks for the event. Many times you’ll have booths set up handing out fliers or other marketing materials. Start calling caterers, event planners, and other vendors as early as you have your dates and speaker lined up. Again, this allows you to save, and also make sure you have things locked into place in anticipation of the conference.

9) Create an Agenda

You’ll want to post this online as early as possible. Let possible attendees know

  • Who’s speaking and when
  • What events are planned
  • What the conference will teach, and more

The earlier you start posting the agenda/conference, the more attention you’ll elicit.

10) Promote it!

Today, you have to promote online. Use the power of social media. Share, like, post, tweet, and so forth. Get the conference dates out there, start selling tickets, and allow attendees to book hotel/airline and other accommodations from your website. Put as much information as possible online and do so as early as possible. You’ll garner more attention, and attract more attendees, making it easier to sell out the conference in no time.

Ready for the big day? Now that you’ve done everything early, and planned accordingly, you’ll reap the benefits (and praise) from your boss, for planning such a successful conference. Get ready for the next!