Planning and executing a successful and engaging conference requires a lot of work and responsibility. It’s also a great platform to educate and engage your team, provide consistent messaging across your business, facilitate team building and networking, and produce an event that will provide valuable information to your attendees.
This guide provides a basic outline to planning a conference although every event is different so think about what the key goals and outcomes are for this particular conference:
- What do you want your attendees to take away from the experience?
- What key points you would like to deliver and how will this be done effectively?
- How will you create a memorable and engaging experience?
- Will this create further engagement with your attendees post conference?
The below checklist can be broken down into a time frame to suit, depending on how long you have to organise your conference.
Months prior to Conference:
- Select an engaged conference committee and consider creating two subgroups – one for logistics (room setups, catering and accommodation) and a separate group for programming (speaker management including proposal review and collation)
- All decisions should be documented in writing. If decisions are made during conference calls or meetings, assign someone to take notes and share them immediately with the meeting’s participants
- Collate a list of invitees to get an idea of expected number of attendees
- Select preferred and alternate dates for the conference
- Create a list of three to five potential conference sites that have the capacity for your attendee numbers and cater to all of your logistical requirements
- Submit Request for Proposal to each of the potential meeting sites with key event information included and once responses have been received, review proposals and select one.
- Negotiate terms and sign contract with the venue
- Prepare a realistic budget based on the signed venue contract and fees for registration and website
- Select a registration platform
- Create a conference website with details about the dates and location
- Consider creating an event app that attendees can download and provides them with vital information and additional features such as live polling and competitions
- Create theming for the event and marketing materials
- Create a proposal template to send to presenters for completion
- Create a list of potential presenters and key note speakers and send invitations
- Form agenda outline
- Email invitations with conference details to invitees
- Create and maintain a registration tracking spreadsheet
- Open registration to attendees and email to advise (ensure to ask for vital information such as dietary requirements)
- Arrange for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) points if relevant
- Organise after-hours activities (dinner, entertainment, off-site events etc.)
- Track registration and accommodation reservations each week
- Keep your venue contact up to date with numbers
- Track registration from presenters and contact those who have not yet registered
- Prepare a request for proposal for the audio visual provider
- Update the presenters by email with the presentation template and any guidelines. Advise them of the room set up and AV capability and check if they have any special requirements
- Begin finalising the agenda and share an abbreviated version on the registration site and event app
- Organise supplies (names badges/lanyards, pens, notepads, print outs etc.)
- Prepare room layouts for each session/dinner/event
- Organise event styling and entertainment where required eg. guest speaker/MC, team building exercises, band, DJ, photo booth, games etc.
Weeks prior to conference:
- Review proposals and finalise
- Finalise AV requirements
- Finalise food and beverage with the venue and advise of any dietary requirements
- Prepare evaluation forms for conference (can be included on event app)
- Send reminders/calendar invites to speakers with date, time and room assignment
- Finalise attendee numbers and advise the venue
- Send final email with conference details and logistics of the event including how to download the event app if applicable
- Arrange for signs to be printed, including signs directing attendees to registration and meeting rooms
- Prepare registration packets and name badges/lanyards
- Ship materials to the venue
- Share final catering numbers to venue
- Create a run sheet with agenda, logistics, contact details for all of these key venue and supplier staff members and other vital information for the day to provide to conference team (including the venue and AV staff)
- Prepare onsite materials for attendees and presenters
At the conference:
- Conduct a pre-conference meeting with venue staff, including those responsible for room setup, catering, and AV to cover final details
- Walk the meeting space with conference volunteers, noting locations of the restrooms, emergency exits, and details for contacting venue staff.
- Walk the area around the venue taking note of restaurants and attractions that might be of interest to attendees.
- Set directional signs and prepare registration area
- Prior to first session, do a walk through of meeting rooms to check seating and AV are set and working correctly.
- Meet with venue contact daily to discuss progress of the conference and to review catering, room set ups and AV for the following day.
- Send letters of appreciation to speakers and staff
- Email post-event survey to conference attendees
- Review and settle invoices from the venue
- Write a post-event report. Include registration and housing spreadsheets, final invoices, and notes about successes and challenges to share with the next conference
Please note, this is just a snapshot – there may be many more components that come into play such as attendee travel and accommodation.