Conferences are excellent opportunities to educate and inspire, encourage industry players to network, or synchronize team members’ efforts for a common goal. When organizing a conference, it is important to consider not only the obvious elements such as speakers and seminar topics, but also many behind-the-scenes details that make the event go smoothly.
A conference plan is essential to its success. Let’s examine several elements to include, making sure no smaller or secondary details are overlooked until the last minute.
The Basic Elements
Here are the core elements to conference planning. It is crucial to make firm decisions about each point before any other steps can be taken.
- Conference committee. If the event will involve a large number of attendees and speakers, it is a good idea to delegate responsibilities for different areas to several motivated people. This way, no one person will be overloaded with work, and more resources will be available while organizing.
- Agenda. Carefully plan sessions around the conference’s theme and objective. Prepare for problems such as missing or late speakers by organizing a few concurrent activities and keeping your organization flexible. Ask speakers for outlines of their presentations, which may be printed well in advance.
- Venue. Whenever possible, hold the event in the office space already available to the organization. Evaluate the following three considerations when deciding whether an outside venue is necessary:
- Budget. Is there funding available for the event’s location? Costs can easily run over in other areas such as accommodation of speakers and last-minute equipment needs, so consider minimizing the location cost by avoiding certain dates or reserving space for a half-day when possible.
- Length. What will be the conference’s duration? As a rule of thumb, shorter conferences pack more punch, so hold important sessions while the crowd has the most energy. Build in time for refreshments and movement to and from rooms between sessions.
- Attendance. Be sure to allow sufficient time for attendees to plan for the event. If a fee is involved, arrange for an easy online registration and payment system where possible.
Commonly Overlooked Elements
While these considerations may not necessarily be forgotten, they tend to be addressed later in the conference planning process than they should be, and cause unnecessary disruption.
- Contact person. Choose an organizer or committee member to be the go-to person for questions and other issues.
- Catering services. Avoid leaving refreshment arrangements for the last minute. A simple-sounding item like coffee is surprisingly difficult to serve in large quantities, so investing in service in this area will be worth the expense.
- Lodging. If the event is to be held at a hotel, plan well in advance to work out accommodations. Blocks of affordable rooms will be available to those who apply early.
This checklist will go a long way to planning a conference that will run itself, allowing even the organizers to participate in the proceedings. A little effort early on during conference planning will spare a lot of hassle and anxiety closer to the event.