Researchers, marketing experts or aspiring experts, scientists, doctors, and pretty much all professionals striving towards excellency love going to conferences at which they can learn or impart wisdom and innovation in their respective fields. Conferences are a great way to network, forge connections and even create new business venture opportunities. This is why it is of the utmost importance that a conference is impeccably and flawlessly organized, not just for the sake of short but also long-term goals. If your conference is flawlessly executed and everything goes swimmingly your reputation will rocket and you will establish yourself and your organization as a professional and serious one; one worth cooperating with in the future. Therefore, it is important to follow these steps, particularly if you are a conference or organizational neophyte in order to avoid glitches and mistakes that can cost you your reputation.
Step 1: Matters of the budget
One of the main responsibilities of a well-prepared organizer is to build the event budget. There is no way you can start implementing a plan without knowing how much money you can spend. The key is to set monetary limits and make sure everyone adheres to them.
Step 2: Choose a theme
Choosing a theme from early stages is paramount as you will need to create a logo and other themed items about four months prior to the event. Your conference needs a name too. Marketing-wise, both the theme and name of the conference should be adequate to the industry field the event addresses, and invite everyone to talk about it too.
Step 3: Time and date
They say timing is everything, and they are not wrong. Punctuality is a feat highly regarded in the professional and business world and this is not a mistake you can afford to make. When planning a conference the date to choose is six months from the present time. That gives you enough time to prepare everything else, and it also ensures a large turnout as you will have provided people with enough notice to work the conference into their schedules, especially if a number of your attendees are coming from remote cities and countries. There may be also other types of constraints on the time you choose owing to particular situations. There may be other events taking place at the same time such as festivals or political campaigns, and even elections. Make sure you conduct an onsite research and find out the industry norms in your area so your event does not clash with another important one. Avoid weekends and national and religious holidays as these are the times people are most reluctant to work on, and conferences are indeed work. The length of the event is also important and depends on how many participants will attend. Estimate the number of speakers and attendees. It is recommended to plan two full days for a conference of 250-300 people. This seems to become an international norm. Of course, create a realistic itinerary and make sure to stay on top of thing in regards to a timely start, moderate breaks and such, as people need coffee and lunch breaks to stretch and recharge. Put pen to paper and make sure you have all of the segments of the conference covered to avoid delays and tardiness.
Step 4: The perfect venue
Step 4 is connected to step 3 as planning the conference six months ahead is not only important for the attendees but also for venue options as they can quite often be booked months in advance. In order to have your pick of venues, start scouting on time and read as many hotel reviews as possible. The second goal of a professional organizer is to find the venue that suits the type and overall concept of the event. Generally, there are three types of venues you can book in your city: University buildings which are great for small academic gatherings and do not cost much. Another option is an independent venue; these are more expensive and distinctive, but are limited in seats and availability during the year. Your third option is a hotel conference room which is the most expensive out of the three, but ideal for corporate events that benefit from a large budget. If you are looking for a peaceful location, a complex surrounded by beautiful gardens and even set in lush woodland is your best choice. One important factor to bear in mind is accommodation; you need to ensure that you attendees have a place to stay, preferably in near vicinity to the conference venue. In addition to these, if the venue does not provide dining rooms, or coffee lounges, make sure there are restaurants and other points of interest nearby to facilitate accommodation and additional event networking opportunities. Of course, before you choose a venue, make sure what your budget is so you avoid financial constraints down the road.
Step 5: technical equipment and other details
Before booking the venue, ensure every conference room has the necessary audio-visual equipment and tech support. These include but are not limited to: Projection screens and cordless microphones, Wi-Fi access, heavy duty cables and charging stations, light fittings and power points. When welcoming your attendees make sure to prepare some form of identification. Name tags are tedious and nobody likes to wear them, so perhaps you could take the innovative route and opt for silicone bracelets with imprinted conference name and date. Also, not all of your attendees will remember to bring a hard copy of the itinerary so make sure you have plenty of hand-outs to go around.
Step 6: catering and refreshments
This is one of the most crucial elements of a successful conference. People require regular meals in order to stay alert and productive and the same goes for coffee and refreshments. If the location you choose also provides food services, that’s even better. Otherwise, you will need to contract another service and supervise the coordination of suppliers. Be mindful of different dietary habits and therefore make arrangements with your catering service to provide a variety of meals suitable for diabetics, vegetarians and vegans. This may seem like a small thing, but your attendees will greatly appreciate this gesture and attention to details.
Step 7: Gather a great team
As a conference coordinator you will take major decisions, but you will also need support. Therefore, before you select the right people for each job, you should call together a conference committee. Make sure you have the right people for the following key positions: Administration Team that is in charge ticket sales, budget and attendee database. Communication and marketing team; this team handles media partners, promotional materials, social media and website and their role is crucial in the digital age, so choose wisely because the key to a well-attended conference is one that is well-promoted. The event team takes responsibility of the venue, catering and leisure activities. Finally, choose enthusiastic and professional volunteers to handle on-site issues and registration.