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How to organise a conference?

​Organising an event can seem like an incredibly overwhelming task, without organisation and thinking ahead, it can be. However with good forward planning and preparation you can ensure that the event runs smoothly.

Here is a summary of the points to consider when planning an event;

1. Strategic planning

Decide on the top three goals you want to achieve and who will be your target delegate audience.

2. Determine the planning team

Recruit the necessary personnel appropriate for the different roles. Allocate who will be responsible for the various tasks such as registration and travel, liaising with speakers and collating presentations and of course the venue management.  

3. Budget

It is very important to work out your budget at the early planning stages of an event, considering all anticipated costs and setting a realistic delegate rate. Trying to obtain sponsors (e.g. branding, exhibiting) for the event will help with the budget.

4. Dates and venue

Decide on when would be the most appropriate time of year, day of the week and length of the event. Remember to bear in mind anything that could clash with your event such as a competitive event, public and school holidays and other major events being hosted in the area.

When choosing the venue it is important to consider the location in terms of access to public transport, ease of travel by car and whether or not car parking is available.  If possible , it is definitely worthwhile making a site inspection at this stage to ensure that the venue fulfils all your requirements.  As well as viewing the facilities this will give you an opportunity to meet the venue's conference staff and discuss details of your event in person.

5. Programme

Try to make sure that the programme is varied and tailored to maximise differing energy levels which will vary according to the time of day. Enthusiasm is low after lunch so consider some workshop or team building activities during these periods. Why not offer a chance for people to try something new or develop a new skill? Remember to schedule in enough time for setting up these activities when booking the venue.

6. Marketing the event

If you are organising a conference for external companies to attend you will need to consider the best ways to let people know about your event. In this scenario it's best to market the event early in order to maximise attendance.

7. Conference material

It is very important to establish a conference identity which can be used in the run up to the event, during the event and post event. This will be used by the organisers in printed and electronic materials as well as by attendees in social media and blogs. Remember to give your event a hashtag # for social media to increase awareness.

8. Layout & seating

Delegates will probably be seated for quite a while so make sure that the meeting room is appropriate and comfortable. Check for adequate lighting and ventilation to keep people alert and make sure there is plenty of circulation space available. Consider the conference programme when deciding the best set up for the meeting room.

9 . Equipment

Check what equipment is available in the conference rooms and if there are any hidden costs for equipment hire as this can add up. Each presenter may have different requirements so ask them what equipment they will need. Arrange to test the equipment in advance of the event to ensure you understand what's available and how it works - this will reduce stress on the day. Other things to consider include registration table cloths, access keys, photo-copying and Wi-Fi codes.

10. Presentation kits and delegate packs

Delegates will find it useful to be given information about the conference programme upon arrival. You could consider putting together a pack of useful related information to give them which could include promotional 'giveaways'.  Find time to assemble these prior to the day of the event as they could take longer than expected to prepare.  Better still consider putting all this information on a branded USB stick or making it available via a mobile app.

11. Catering

If you are on a day delegate package check exactly what's included and that it meets your requirements.  Discuss the menus with your venue's Conference Co-ordinator who will be able to advise you as to the best options for your group. Catering is one of the areas that always gets a lot of feedback so take time to choose something appropriate and pleasing and consider special dietary requirements and healthy eating options. Check that the catering set up will be able to cope with the number of delegates in the allocated time available.

12. Run through and final preparations

Run through the entire day from start to finish and detail every activity in a check-list. Consider if there is enough time given for each element including time for delegates to move from A to B and how you will manage late comers. Tick off all your materials you need to take with you, including any flowers or prizes.

Download our Event Planning Check-List and the Greener Events Guide