All industries hold conferences for a number of different reasons; to raise knowledge of a product or services, to recruit staff members and to discuss developments are only a few. Planning a conference can however be difficult requiring great levels of organisational ability. Not only do you need to find a venue, but your must also organise the delegates as well as producing a schedule that will be to the attendees liking. In addition, all those who attend will want a great lunch, without one, your conference may not make the impact you desire.
Naturally the first step in planning a conference is to find a venue; while this used to take considerable effort, the task is now made easy with the many venue finder services on the internet. Even so, it is still a major consideration, while you may want a venue that is striking, choosing a location that is too remote will mean less people will attend. In addition, a venue finder service will give you information on how busy certain times of the year can be whilst detailing any restrictions on hire.
Once you have decided upon the venue and the date it is time to spread the word. It is important to let as many people from your industry sector know that your conference is going ahead. Utilise your mailing lists and send it to everyone. Use email and send direct messages to those you expect to attend giving details of the reasons why people should turn up. As well as mailing known contacts, it is also advisable to utilise industry publications and in the local newspapers where the venue is located.
Organising your first conference will be the hardest, after using a venue finder and advertising the date it is often difficult to decide what to do next. Great advice is to visit other conferences and get an idea how they are organised. In addition, when attending these competitor's conferences it is possible to sound out presenters and get an idea what subjects will be good to discuss. Using this tactic can also help you look into poaching speakers who are successful with the crowd.
Deciding what price to charge can be difficult. Ultimately you need to cover your own expenses such as the venue and any speaking and catering charges. Profit should not be a major issue unless you are holding the conference as a service for another company; ultimately there are other ways to make money from a conference rather than tickets. Some big industry players may sponsor your event and even some speakers may pay if they are pushing a particular product or service.
The importance of getting your name out there when holding a conference cannot be underestimated. Put in place advertising material around the venue while producing keepsakes such as pens, key rings and stress balls can also help to improve knowledge of your company or service. Trying to make these items individual can also help in keeping them fresh in attendees' minds. Bigger prizes may be a consideration, holding a prize draw can be great way to distribute these. Most importantly you want those attending to remember who was holding the conference so they may think of using your services again.
Once everything is ready it is easy to sit back and let the conference come around. This however is not advisable, keeping the effort up and make sure people are aware of the conference right up until the day before. On the actual day, make sure you greet attendees and try to make the entire day not purely about work, introducing fun, great catering and interesting presentations will let attendees enjoy the experience and more likely to attend in the future. By following this advice your conference should be an unbridled success.
Industry expert Thomas Pretty looks into why using a venue finder can help in hosting a great conference.