Planning and hosting a conference is a lot of work, but it can be a rewarding experience. Meetings are important no matter the industry, but ensuring it’s effective is critical.
The famous quote, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”, is accurate in business and life.
Whether it’s your first time or you are an experienced pro, having a checklist of items to tick off as you go helps. Here’s a conference planning checklist to help make sure you don’t forget anything.
Goals and Objectives
First things first: define your goals and objectives clearly so you can measure the conference’s success at the end. Without having an end goal, it’ll be challenging to determine whether your conference was a success and worth the effort.
Some things you may want to consider when setting goals and objectives include the following:
- The purpose of your conference
- Who are you trying to reach with your conference
- What do you want attendees to take away from your conference
Start planning your conference at least a year ahead. Develop a timeline of events, so you have enough time to plan and execute everything.
Create a month-by-month or week-by-week timeline of tasks. This will help you stay on track and avoid last-minute scrambling.
Create a Committee
You’ll need a team of people to help you plan and execute the conference. Create a committee with various people in charge of different aspects of the conference. Put other people in order of logistics, marketing, and finance.
Setting up a Website
Nowadays, it’s essential to have an online presence for your conference. A website is a great way to promote your event and keep attendees updated on the latest news.
Make sure to include important information like the date and location of the conference, as well as an agenda and speaker lineup. When it’s time actually to plan the event, there are a few key things you’ll need to take care of.
How much money do you have to work with? This determines factors like the size of the venue, the number of attendees, and the length of the conference.
You will need event staff to help with set-up, registration, and other tasks on the day of your conference.
Make sure you have a plan for how you will staff your event and that you have enough people to cover all of the tasks that need to be done.
Create an Engaging Agenda
An essential part of any conference is the agenda. This is what determines the flow and overall tone of your event. When creating a plan, include a mix of activities and speakers that will appeal to your target audience.
Strike a balance between informative and fun so that people leave feeling like they’ve learned something new while also enjoying themselves.
Some things you may want to include in your agenda are:
- A welcome session
- Keynote speeches
- Breakout sessions
- Networking opportunities
The next step is to confirm the date and venue for your conference. There are many important considerations when deciding on a platform, like capacity, sufficient exits and entrances, amenities, and accessibility.
Consider AV equipment, Wi-Fi, power outlets, electricity supply, and other technical needs when choosing a venue. Make sure the venue you select can accommodate all of your needs.
Your conference speakers are an essential part of your event. They should be chosen carefully to ensure they are relevant and interesting to your target audience.
When choosing speakers, make sure to consider the following:
- The overall theme of your conference
- What your target audience wants to hear
- The speaker’s credentials
- How the speaker will deliver their presentation
Marketing Your Conference
Once you have all the logistics sorted out, it’s time to start promoting your event. This is an essential step in making sure people show up.
Create a marketing plan and budget for promoting your conference. Then, spread the word through social media, email marketing, and other channels.
Some things you may want to consider when marketing your conference are:
- Your target audience
- Your marketing channels
- Your conference website
- Conference branding
You need sponsors for your event to cover the costs of hosting it. Sponsors provide financial support, as well as products or services that are used at your conference.
When looking for sponsors, consider the exposure the sponsor will get for the level of financial support the sponsor can provide. Make provisions for them in your marketing so they feel like it’s a fair trade.
Food and Drink
Food and drink are an important part of any conference. Attendees will need to be fed and hydrated throughout the day, so make sure you have a plan for this. You may consider catering or providing snacks and drinks that can be purchased on-site.
When planning food and drink for your conference, make sure to consider the following:
- The number of attendees you are expecting
- Any dietary restrictions that attendees may have
- The location of your conference
- Your budget
Conference swag, aka promotional items, is a great way to promote your brand and thank attendees for coming to your event.
Some ideas for swag include t-shirts, tote bags, water bottles, and notebooks. Put this in your budget and make sure that each attendee will be able to receive a swag bag.
It’s always a good idea to have event insurance if anything goes wrong.
This will protect you from any liability if something happens at your conference.
Evaluating Your Conference
After your conference, it’s essential to take some time to evaluate what went well and what could be improved. This will help you plan an even better event next time around.
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