The final keynote speaker just wrapped up their presentation, and the audience stands in applause. Your team are patting you on the back and attendees are congratulating you on an incredible event. That is exactly the kind of finish you want for your conference. Regardless of the specific context of work or business that you are involved in, if you are preparing to put together a conference or an event, here are the key elements you need to address.
A launch team
Unless you are planning a very small conference, it will be impossible to do all the work yourself. Pull together a team of individuals you trust; identify individuals who will compliment your strengths and pick up in your weaknesses.
Gathering the momentum
Once you have the launch team together, brainstorm the topics that you want to cover in the conference. Have a group networking session- there may already be connections to presenters and speakers within the group. Break down some of the finer details of the conference: how many days will it run for? How many speakers will you have? Who will be your keynote speaker?
Speakers & Presenters
Your speakers have the potential to make your break your event. This is where most of your money will be spent. Seasoned conference speakers will have a set amount and expect travel expenses. At the same time, there are many newcomers on the speaking circuit who will give a presentation for free. Send out very specific letters to your keynote speakers. You will want to organise your speakers and potential speakers well in advance to make sure their schedule allows.
The scale of your event will determine your mix of breakout sessions and plenary sessions. Breakout sessions with individual speakers will go more in depth into their topic of expertise. You may want to get a group together for a question and answer panel also. You certainly want to make sure you do not wear out your guests for the plenary session with the keynote speaker.
Budget & Finances
Calculate costs for a location to hold the event, the food and drinks, sound and light equipment, and how much you will pay each speaker. Look for sponsors for your event. Polish up a detailed pitch that will convey why it will be profitable to invest in your event- how many people are you expecting will be there? What kind of exposure will your sponsor receive?
Depending on what sort of a profit (if any) you would like to make, you can then decide how much to charge per person. The most basic pricing strategy is to calculate your expenses, add your profit margin and then divide the sum by the lowest projected attendance figure. Keep in mind your expenses typically run a little higher than you first planned. Often, there is something left out until last minute. Give yourself a financial buffer. The other option is “market pricing,” where you set your price based upon the perceived value of your event and taking into consideration the current market pricing of other similar events.
Keep tabs on the ticket numbers as they are purchased- it will be up to you to decide whether tickets need to be pre-purchased or available at the door. Pre-purchased will give you the exact number of attendees but will cut off any late-comers to boost your numbers.
Create name tags with a logo for the conference. People love to hear the sound of their names and you want them to feel that they are welcomed and appreciated for being a part of the event.
Get your launch team to turn into a promotional demolition team. Get on all the social media platforms, get everyone in your network sharing and talking about the event. Build the excitement. Send out emails to fellow colleagues and those who would benefit from the event. Put together your fliers and posters and make your event spread like wildfire. You may want to buy some radio advertising or look to get on a local television station to talk about your event.
Your promotional team then turns into your support team during the event. From the minute the guests enter into the event to the minute they leave, good service and support is crucial. Have clear signs for each room and session. Have your staff in clear uniforms or with name tags to guide your attendees around. Good service is remembered.
Something to take away
Whether it is a compilation of speaker notes and further resources, some usb drives, or a book, give your attendees something to take away from the event and to keep them talking about it. This will be crucial for getting them to return to any of your future events.
Have a method for gathering email addresses and information on your conference attendees. Use this information to follow up and get feedback on the event and figure out what areas you may need to improve on Notify them of future events. Email addresses are gold.
Coordinating and putting together conferences can be very stressful, but if you are able to tick all of these boxes then you should be able to at least enjoy some of the event as it is unfolding!