How to Organise a Conference Event Management Step By Step

conference event organisers

A conference is a formal event that usually takes place over several days and mostly occurs on annual basis. Conferences gather people of common interests and are typically organized for business, academic or political purposes. Conferences are usually paid, closed to the public and are dictated by one-way communication where experts do most of the speaking.

Conference management is what ensues after a plan and objectives have been set; it entails overseeing the overall execution of the event, monitoring the progress of team members with their assigned tasks and resolving any situations or issues onsite. Conference management can either be done in-house within a company or by a third-party agency, commonly referred to as a professional conference organizer (PCO).

A ‘conference’ on the other hand is a specific type of event, formal in nature and usually takes place over several days. A manager role for an event of any type would entail overseeing the overall execution of the event, monitoring the progress of team members with their assigned tasks and resolving any situations or issues on site.
Successful event organizing takes a lot more than having budgets and finances in order; event organizers must possess certain skills to ensure their events run smoothly as planned.

We’ve prepared this top-level guide on how to organise a conference. It’ll walk you through the main steps involved and link you over to valuable tools and articles that will make your job a lot easier. The steps aren’t strictly chronological—you may well start contacting potential speakers before you’ve secured a venue—but they give you a rough idea of what to focus on first.

Step 1: Decide on a theme
Every great conference needs a theme. What’s the unifying message that your speakers will deliver and what’s the key takeaway for conference attendees? The best themes are catchy, relatable, and trigger an emotional response. You want the conference to inspire and stimulate conversation. Your theme has to enable that.

For instance, “Stronger as a team” is probably a better theme than “Achieving improved efficiencies through increased cross-functional collaboration.”

Step 2: Assemble your A-team
You’ll need a dedicated team of people to assume responsibility for different aspects of the planning, negotiations, and promotion. Your core team will likely include:
1. Planning team: Conference venue, accommodation, activities, catering.
2. Administration team: Budgeting, attendee registration, ticket sales. This team/person will also be the main point of contact for questions related to the conference.
3. Marketing team: Contacting the media, creating promotional material, managing your website, blog, and social media activities.
4. Sponsorships team: In charge of securing sponsors, applying for grants, and fundraising. (Only relevant for conferences that rely on external sources of finance. Obviously)
5. Volunteers: Helping with all on-site activities on the day of the conference: door management, ticket scanning, keeping track of the guest list, manning the wardrobe, guiding people, etc.

Your main job will be to coordinate the team, set priorities, and delegate tasks.

Step 3: Prepare a budget & business plan
Whether your conference is funded by sponsors or not, you’ll have to put together a budget. You need to know where your money is being earned and spent.

Having a budget will also help you set the price for participating in the conference. Here are the most common items you’ll want to budget for:

• Venue
• Accommodation
• Transportation
• Catering
• Speaker fees
• Activities
• Marketing
• Team members

Preparing a budget with realistic estimates will also come in handy when searching for venues and negotiating contracts.

Step 4: Find sponsors & grants
If you’re financing the conference on your own and are not looking for external sources of revenue, you can safely skip this step.

Step 5: Settle on a date
Now it’s time to decide when your conference will take place. As discussed, that date should be anywhere from six months to a year ahead.
Here are some great rules of thumb to keep in mind:

1.Pick a date that doesn’t conflict with other major events like festivals. City-wide events make booking flights more expensive and generally hinder transportation to and from the conference. Besides, you don’t want your conference to compete for attention with big events.
2. Avoid summer and winter holiday periods when people tend to go on vacation. It’s best to aim for a date between the middle of March and end of June or from early September to late November.
3. Never plan a conference during the weekend. For most participants, attending a conference is a part of their job, so schedule it during the workweek.
4. Try to aim for the end of the week, so that traveling attendees get the chance to stay behind and sightsee during their time off. The best days for a conference are Thursday and Friday.
Setting a date will give you a fixed point to count back from to better plan your preparations.

Step 6: Book the venue
Once you know the date, you can start looking for available venues that match your requirements.

In general, venues might fall into three categories:
1. University campuses: These are best suited for smaller, academic events and are relatively cheap to hire.
2. Hotels: These typically have dedicated conference facilities and own catering. They’re the best all-in-one choice since they offer both accommodation and conference space. They also tend to be the most expensive option.
3. Independent venues: This category includes all other types of venues that can host conferences. Many of these specialise in specific types of events.

But the cost of the venue is just one part of the puzzle. Here are a few other factors to consider when looking for the right venue:
• Size: Booking a too-small venue where everybody has to squeeze into a tiny room is clearly a bad idea. Similarly, securing a giant venue for a relatively modest crowd will not only hurt your wallet but also make the conference feel empty and poorly attended.
• Location: It’s best to pick a somewhat secluded location so that participants are better able to focus on the conference itself. Even better if the venue has calming, picturesque surroundings to help people relax.
• Atmosphere: It’s crucial that the vibe of the venue suits your target audience and theme. You don’t want to host a business conference inside a giant gym, for instance.
• Facilities: Does the venue have the proper layout and the right conference room styles for your needs? Does it have the necessary facilities like e.g. smaller rooms for breakout sessions?
• Accommodation: Does the venue provide accommodation or are there hotels nearby?
• Catering: Is catering included or can external catering companies easily get to and work inside the venue? If not, are there suitable restaurants and cafes in the area? (Keep in mind any special dietary requirements: vegan, kosher, nut-free, etc.)
• Transportation: How easy is it for participants to travel to the venue by public transport? Are there enough parking spots for those who drive?
• Technical aspects: Does the venue have the right IT, audio, and video equipment? You’ll need projection screens, microphones, plenty of charging spots for participants, and—of course—solid WiFi access.
When negotiating with potential venues, try to arrange for early access to the place so that you can do a “dry run” or a walkthrough with your team prior to the conference. You should be able to ensure that every detail is in place before the big day.

Step 7: Line up your speakers

This may just be the most critical step of all. Your speakers are the stars of your conference. You want a solid lineup in order to attract attendees and guarantee a professional experience.

Here are a few things to address:
• Compensation: Do they require a speaker fee or other forms of compensation to participate?
• Supporting equipment: Does their presentation rely on specific IT equipment or other props?
• Special requirements: Do they have specific dietary preferences? Will they need to have transportation and accommodation arranged for them?
Work through your list as you gradually fill up the allotted time slots with quality speakers.

Step 8: Put together an agenda
Now that the key elements are in place, it’s time to shape them into a detailed agenda. Ideally, you want your agenda to be in place at least four months before the conference starts.

Step 9: Start registering attendees
It’s finally time for what is arguably the most exciting part: Getting people to sign up for your conference!
Your best choice is to make a professional website for the conference. At the very minimum, that should include:
• An appropriate domain (www.abc.com)
• Must-know details about the conference (where, when, who, what, why)
• Browsable conference calendar / programme
• Registration form where people can sign up or buy tickets

You’ll be adding your conference website to all marketing and info material going forward.
Step 10: Promote your conference
You now have your venue, key speakers, a clear conference programme, and a website (or event page) to guide people to. From now on, your main focus is promoting the conference via all available channels.

If you want to make a high-quality booklet with the conference agenda and a visible link to your website or the ticketing site online, you have numerous ways to promote your conference on a relatively small budget:
• Social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – all depending on your audience)
• Relevant forums where potential attendees might hang out (e.g. a community for engineers where you can promote your tech conference)
• Own blogs and press releases
If your promotion relies heavily on social media, consider a catchy hashtag you can use whenever you post about the upcoming conference.

Step 11: Take care of on-site planning
In this step you get down to the nitty-gritty details to address how attendees will physically navigate the venue on the day. Here are just some of the questions you’ll want to answer:
• Will there be a wardrobe?
• Who will man the doors and scan tickets?
• Which locale will be used for the main event?
• What rooms should be reserved for the breakout sessions?
• Where will refreshments be served?
• Will you have an exhibition area where sponsors and vendors can set up a booth?
The best way to go about this is to walk through the day’s agenda and put yourself in your attendees’ shoes. Try to imagine how they will act on the day and what needs they might have.

Step 12: Host the conference

The big day is finally here! Provided that you’ve followed all the above steps and have a team of volunteers in charge of on-the-day activities, there shouldn’t be much for you to worry about.

Here are a few situations that might require your attention:
• Calling up backup speakers in case of any last-minute cancellations
• Personally introducing the conference and the main speakers
• Making sure presentations don’t run past the allotted time
• Participating in networking and facilitating conversations
• Gathering in-person attendee feedback as the conference unfolds
• Communicating with journalists and others reporting on the conference

Step 13: Follow up after the conference
After it’s all over, you still have a bit of work to do.
You should follow up with all the people involved: your team, speakers, volunteers, vendors, and—of course—the attendees. You want to follow up for two main reasons:
1. Say “Thank you”: You should thank everyone for their participation and efforts. Not only is this a common courtesy but you’ll also get to leave a positive impression. There’s a good chance this isn’t your last conference, so you want to nurture any connections you’ve made.
2. Collect feedback: This is the perfect opportunity to hear what people thought of the conference and what could be done better in the future.
Good luck with your conference!

You now have a much better on idea on how to organise a conference and what key steps are involved. It’s time to set the wheels in motion. We know you can do it!

Planning a conference? PINGPONG MOMENTS is an event management platform that lets anyone set up a conference event in a matter of minutes.

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