In the past conferences were relatively simple events to plan, but that's no longer the case in 2020. Today's conference landscape is much more crowded and competitive than it was in the past.
People are using conferences to drive business development and build their brand. If you want your conference to stand out, you need to know how to plan a conference the right way.
We're going to teach you everything you need to know to plan a great conference. If you're ready to plan a conference the right way, make sure you read this guide on the most important parts of conference planning.
It'll take a lot of solid planning and strategy to get any new conference off the ground. If you want to set your conference up for success, you'll need to focus on creating a comprehensive strategy to build your conference around.
Luckily, you don't need to be an expert in strategy to create something cohesive for your event. When you're planning your conference strategy, make sure you keep these things in mind.
Think About Your Main Purpose
There are plenty of good reasons to plan a conference. If you want to plan a successful one, you'll need to keep the main purpose of your conference top of mind when you're planning everything.
Did you want to create a conference to build your brand and establish a presence in your city? Are you interested in bringing together likeminded professionals for networking opportunities?
Did you plan this conference to fill the void a once-popular event is leaving in its absence? Is this conference a new way to handle business development for your company and generate leads?
Your answer may be one thing, or it could be many things. Regardless of what you decide your main goal is, be sure you make sure you're planning everything around your main purpose.
Determine Your Theme
It's important to keep in mind that your main purpose and conference theme aren't the same thing. Your main purpose is the ultimate outcome you want from the event, and the theme pertains to the kind of content you want to showcase.
A good theme can be enough to get potential attendees interested in your conference. It's important to figure out the theme of your conference because it'll inform the conference brand, the speakers you book, and the people you invite.
Think about what the big unanswered questions are in your industry. What do people talk about at work and when you're among professional colleagues? Do you notice any trends whenever you talk?
Scope Out the Competition
Once you determine the main theme purpose of your conference, it's time to start learning about what other people in your space are doing.
See what other conferences fit the niche you're trying to fill. Pay close attention to the way they market the conference, who attends it, and who they get to speak and present during it.
Also, be sure to pay attention to certain logistical matters. See if they usually plan their conference to be around a certain time of year, or if they always use the same venue.
Learning about the competition can give you a good idea of what people are already doing in your space. It can also ensure that you don't end up making a mistake when you plan.
If you have a brand-new conference, you can't expect to compete with a long-standing heavy hitter. Planning your conference around the same time as a competitor could spell disaster for yours.
Consider the Attendee Experience
When you keep the attendee experience top of mind when you're thinking about your conference strategy you'll be sure to create a memorable event.
Think about what you can do to ensure that people get the most out of your conference. If you're not sure what people want, all you have to do is ask them!
Send out a simple email survey to past event attendees to see what they liked the most about the event and what could use some improvement. Ask them what they think about your proposed theme and what they'd want to see at the conference.
From there, you can glean some valuable insight into what you need to do to make your conference a success.
Think About KPIs
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are important for any conference you plan, but they're especially important for people that are planning a new conference.
Take some time to think about what planning a successful conference means to you. Remember, selling tickets can be nice, but it isn't necessarily a measure for true success.
This is where remembering your main purpose can come in handy. Think about success in the scope of what your conference's main purpose is and you can find KPIs that can help you measure success.
If you're having trouble thinking about meaningful KPIs, consider using these as a starting point:
Attendee engagement and satisfaction
Number of sales leads
Engagement from target accounts
When you take time to consider the KPIs that mean the most to you, you'll easily be able to determine how successful your event was. You can also use these KPIs to help you determine goals for your next event.
Now that you've spent some time thinking about event strategy and how you'll measure success, it's time to focus on some of the more granular details of conference planning.
Logistics will play an important role in the planning stages. When you start to get into the logistics side of planning make sure you keep these things in mind.
Set Your Budget
Your budget is going to inform a lot of the decisions you make in the planning process. This is why it's important to set your budget as early as you can.
It's important to keep in mind that the best budgets aren't rigid, they should be designed to grow and shrink whenever needed.
When you're going through the planning process you may find that something important to you may cost more money than you had hoped. It's also possible that something may be less expensive than you thought.
When you're planning your budget, take some time to think about the elements of the event that are the most important to you. Some people may find that the food and venue matter the most to them, others would focus on the speakers they find.
It's important to think about this ahead of time in case you need to make any last-minute changes to your budget. You'll be able to easily determine what you're willing to take money away from, and what you don't want to change.
Come Up With Backup Locations And Times
You may think that you have the perfect event location in mind, but it's always good to have a few back-up locations in mind.
The perfect venue you wanted to use may not be big enough to accommodate the crowd you're expecting. It may be too far away from local highways and hotels. It could even be booked the day you want to hold your conference.
It's also important to have a few different days in mind for your conference. Be sure to look carefully at the calendar before you settle on a date. You don't want to plan your conference around a religious holiday or too close to a competing event.
Create Your Timeline
Timing is everything when you plan a conference. This is why it's important to sit down early on in the planning process to create a timeline to estimate when everything needs to be done.
Write down everything that needs to be done in order to plan a successful conference. Put everything down from big events like deposit due dates to small things like hiring extra maintenance help for the day of.
When you have a good idea of everything that needs to get done, it becomes a lot easier to time things. You'll want to know ahead of time if you have two big deposits due at around the same time, or if you're coming close a deadline.
Once you have your timeline sorted out, set reminders for yourself and your team. Don't just do reminders there day of, give people a heads up a few days before major things are supposed to happen to make sure you're prepared.
Get Extra Help Early
You know that you can't plan a conference on your own, but you may not anticipate the amount of help you'll need.
Don't' wait until the last minute to start bringing in people for extra help. Think about everything that needs to be done to plan a successful conference and start bringing in extra help as soon as possible.
One of the main differences between planning an event now and planning an event in the past is the technology we have access to technolgy like personalized AR/VR experiences and facial recognition have revolutionized the conference experience for attendees. Now it is time to utilize technology into the event planning space.
Technology has made event planning far simpler and has made it even easier to measure success. When you're deep in event planning, make sure you focus on these aspects of tech.
Find A Simple Collaboration Tool
When you work with a lot of different professionals when you plan a conference. Marketers, account managers, financial advisors, PR representatives, and other people will all need to work together to share information.
Don't think that starting an email chain and sharing a few calendar invites will be enough to stay on top of things. If you want to work well together, you'll need to find a tool that can bring people together.
Finding a tool that can help you share information and collaborate in one space can make things much easier.
There are plenty of tools to choose from. Try to find a tool that people on your team already have experience with or something that's simple to learn.
Time is of the essence when you're planning a conference. When you're planning your marketing strategy, try to automate as much of the work as possible to make things easier.
The right automation tool can generate localized website templates and URLs you can use to promote the conference in different regions. It can also help schedule social media posts, handle e-mail marketing, and make writing and sending content much easier.
When you automate certain tasks you free up members of your team to focus on more important and tactical work. It'll also make management and planning much less stressful and more efficient.
Get an All-In-One Registration Tool
You won't just need a tool to collaborate with your team, you'll also need a reliable tool to help manage the event itself.
Look for a tool that can help you manage attendee registration and communication. Having these tasks spread out among different tools can make it more difficult to collaborate and could result in some disjointed communication efforts.
When you're looking for tools, make sure you find one that makes ticket management simple. You won't want to struggle to find a way to issue a refund, buy tickets for groups, and gives you different tiers of tickets (VIP, student, etc).
Plan A Conference the Right Way
It doesn't matter if you've planned dozens of conferences or are trying to plan your first one. When you plan a conference, you need a lot of help and input from other people to plan a truly successful event.
We have a lot of helpful content on our website that's written by experts in all things around event planning. Be sure to browse our blog for more helpful tips.
Since we've spent some time laying out how to plan a great conference, let's spend some time on making sure you meet the goals you laid out.
Staying on track when you're planning a conference can be tough. Read our post on how to meet deadlines so you can make sure that you're hitting all of your milestones on time.