Location is very important to any conference, but every detail that goes into conference planning is equally as important. If you're planning a conference or event and don't know where to start you're in the right place.
To plan a conference that runs smoothly, and guests will love, keep reading our how-to guide below.
The First Step to Conference Planning - Knowing Your Goals and Objectives
Before planning your conference, you should know why you are planning it. What is the overall objective of this event?
After figuring out your objective it's time to start thinking about who you want to invite. Will everyone be attending the conference in person or can some guests livestream the event?
Is the goal of the event to make or raise money? If so, you should be setting a goal and coming up with a presentation on why this money is important.
Remember that your goal should be realistic and not turn away attendees. While planning, you should also think about how much tickets will cost and where they can be purchased.
You can have an exclusive event where tickets are available to those on a mailing list. If you want this event open to the public, start talking to stores and businesses in the area in which you are targeting and see if they will sell tickets.
The Brainstorming is Done, Now It's Time to Crunch Numbers
The second thing on your conference planning checklist is to figure out expenses and your budget. This can be a long process, so we recommend starting right after you decide to throw the conference together.
If you're trying to turn a profit, raise money, or just throw an event for the fun of it, you must see how much it will cost. The overall cost is important for how much your company or business will be putting out. It will also help determine the profit you will make when the event is over.
The best way to go about budgeting is to look at past events. From pulling these records you should be able to see how much it was to host previous conferences and what the overall profit was. Even if you didn't end up turning a profit from your previous events, these records will help to give you an idea of how much money will need to be spent to plain the overall event.
Your budget will most likely include expenses for the following:
- The Venue: Cost to rent and any catering and audio and visual expenses that are included.
- The Marketing Plan: Will you be marketing this event through outside channels? Even sending invitations to a select list of people should be included in the marketing budget.
- Catering: If you're going through the venue for food and drink this expense will be included in the venue's bill. If you're going through a caterer of your choice, know how much it will cost.
- Entertainment: This includes any speakers or live music you will hire.
- Decorations and Supplies: If you have your team decorate the space you will need to budget for supplies. You can even hire someone to decorate the venue for you.
- Staffing: You will need waiters, cleaners, and IT people to help the event run smoothly
- Goodie Bags: Will you be handing out free merch to guests? If so, start thinking about what will go in these bags and how much it costs to produce them.
If there are any holes in the budget, you will have to fill them in with educated guesses. These holes can come from unaccounted money not being represented in past plans or if you’re planning an entirely different event than before. We recommend estimating high, so no surprises pop up.
Make sure everything is accounted for in your budget. You want to know where the money is coming from and what it's being used for. This is very important, especially if you have sponsors for the event.
Pull Together Your All-Star Team for an Awesome Conference
The key to event planner conferences is the team behind the organizer. Without a great team, your conference may not go smoothly.
To run a conference, you will need a team of trustworthy and hard-working people to make sure everything runs smoothly. You should have one Event Manager to work under you and help you plan and schedule events. The Event Manager will be someone you can go to with any problems and should be able to lessen your workload without a lot of training and help.
Under the Event Manager, you should have your hand-picked team of workers to help plan and organize the conference. This team can have individual roles assigned to ensure tasks are planned accordingly and executed in a timely manner.
Adding a speaker or two to talk about your cause or goal can be helpful and entertaining for your guests. If you're hiring entertainment, it's a good idea to start looking and communicating with the entertainers right away.
If you need any sponsors to help fund the event this is a good time for you and your Event Manager to begin reaching out. Sponsors can help put together giveaways and help to provide funds for the conference.
Even vendors should be contacted at this time. You should reach out to vendors that support your cause or business to see if they would like to set up a booth at your conference. These vendors can sell items related to your goal or hand out information on it.
Your team should help you create a budget for the overall event. They can also help you fill in gaps and mediate where money should be spent.
Select a Date for Your Conference
You have your all-star team assembled and also have a rough idea of the budget. Now it's time for you to pick a date for your conference.
You should select a date that is six to eight months away. This will give you enough time to plan every detail and to patch any problems that may arise.
It's ideal to not plan around any major holidays because you want your attendees to be free. If you're doing an event that relates to education, make sure to avoid any school holidays so guests can attend.
You will also want to check dates with your speakers and entertainers. Sometimes working around their schedule is a great way to select a date to ensure they attend.
Find the Perfect Venue
Location is everything when it comes to your conference. Choosing the venue carefully is very important for the success of your event because it can either make it or break it.
After pulling together your team, determining your goal, and figuring out a budget, it's now time to choose the venue. The perfect venue depends on what type of conference you're throwing, but overall you will choose the best venue to fit your event planning needs.
When choosing a venue you want to keep the people who your conference is for in mind. Try to choose a location that is easy for them to travel to. Also, try to have a rough number of attendees in mind so you get a big enough space.
While looking at venues it's a good idea to know what your conference will consist of. Will there be presentations? Will you have speakers? Will there be entertainment?
These are important questions to ask when you plan a conference because you must find a space that can accommodate you, your guests, presentations, and speakers. It's a good idea to make sure the event has ramps and elevators to make it accessible for everyone.
It's also good to keep in mind that your venue will determine some expenses. These expenses include catering and audio and visual costs. The venue will likely charge you for these items in your bill.
If you will not be going through the venue for these items, then you should already have a roundabout idea of what your third-party services will be charging. This should be figured out while you are budgeting the conference.
Finding a venue early in your timeline is ideal. When you advertise later you want to provide guests with the exact time, date, and place.
Marketing and Branding Your Conference
Now that you have finalized the date and venue, it's time to begin marketing your conference. Your marketing strategy should also include creating a brand around your event.
To brand your conference, you will want to choose a theme that sets you apart from the competition. If you are raising money, try to make the theme the charity or goal of the fundraiser. If you are throwing an educational event try to brand around what you will be informing guests of.
Creating a website is a great idea to help establish your brand. It will also show potential guests what they can expect when attending your conference.
If you have established any partnerships or sponsors this is a great way to show guests who you're aligned with. You can put sponsors on the invitations and even link them on your website.
Use email and social media to your advantage. Create a mailing list that will provide guests with exclusive information. Make social media accounts tailored to your conference to generate excitement and interest.
Paid advertising through local news channels, radio, and local television commercials can reach new guests. This will get the word out about your event and generate awareness.
Create a Plan for Your Big Day
The most stressful time of planning a conference is the day of. If you prepare beforehand, the day will be smooth sailing and stress-free.
Meet with your team one to two months out from the conference. At this time, you should begin to put together a schedule. There should be a schedule made for the overall conference and then one tailored to each team member so they know what they should be doing and when.
You should make sure everyone has the same overall schedule and that all individual schedules are correct. One month before the conference all speaker scripts should be signed off on and approved.
All agendas should walk through every detail of the day. This includes setting up, opening doors, and even clean up.
By this time your RSVP date should have passed, giving you the exact number of attendees. Communicate your final headcount to the venue and caterers. Double-check your schedule with any speakers and entertainment to ensure everything matches up.
You should also have the on-site details worked out. Know where vendors will be set up and their floor plan. Also, know exactly where food and drink will be served and where speakers and entertainment will be presenting.
Knowing these details will help work out any issues you find before the big day. It will also help to ensure that the schedule matches up and runs smoothly.
Enjoy the Big Conference Day
Months went into planning this moment, so you should enjoy it. You have put together an amazing team that has made sure no disasters happen to ruin this day. Your speakers and entertainment are on time and the guests are loving your conference planning techniques.
Try to enjoy this time as much as you can. After all, you're the one that put the time and effort into planning it and now it's happening. Good job!
For more information on event planning check out our website here.