8 Tips on How to Plan a Successful Conference

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If you’re planning a conference these 8 essential tips will make it a huge success

Planning a successful conference is a detailed and sometimes difficult procedure. Whether your conference is large or small, having a plan and following a checklist is paramount. Unfortunately, executing a conference isn’t something that can be done last minute; It often takes months of detailed planning.

To help you stay on top of your to-do list, we’ve compiled some of our best conference planning tips, as used by our Account Management team when planning conferences for our corporate clients all across the UK.

1. Determine the why

Before you begin, think about and discuss with your team why you want to organise a conference. Whether it’s to boost morale, roll out a change in the company or learn something new, you must always keep the ‘why’ in mind.

There’s a lot of competition for conferences, so make sure you’re not putting a conference on for the sake of it. Focusing on the ‘why’ ensures you’re producing a meaningful and important event for your audience.

It is imperative that prior to your event, you determine your key deliverables and reinforcing your conference message in the weeks, months and even years to come. This way, your conference can provide a message that keeps on giving.

A large conference and event space with theatre style seating full of people and facing a stage and big screen on the back wall

2. Plan, plan, plan

Creating a to-do list or checklist can become dangerous territory when planning an event as big as a conference. Getting all your initial tasks out on paper can be a constructive first step to make sure you’re not missing anything. If paper is too rigid a method for you, why not try an online to-do list management tool, such as Asana or Wunderlist?

These online tools allow you to make dynamic to-do lists that are reactive to external factors which may affect your actions. These tools also allow you to share tasks, tag other uses on your team and write comments on each action.

Once you’ve created this mammoth to-do list, you can create groups of similar actions or organise them by priority or deadline (otherwise known as umbrella tasks). Categorising tasks into umbrellas like catering and attendee participation can make the process of planning a conference much more manageable and ensure nothing gets missed.  

Planning a successful conference is demanding and there’s plenty of things to think about so an initial brain dump onto a list can help make the process a lot clearer in your mind. It’s important to remember, details matter.

If you miss out on something it’s likely your attendees will too. If attendees are talking about how well-produced your event was it certainly bodes well for your any future conferences.

3. Develop a marketing strategy

What’s the next step when planning a conference? Develop a watertight marketing strategy. The success of every conference ultimately depends on how many people attend which is directly impacted by your marketing strategy. There are a wide variety of marketing channels to consider when planning a successful conference.

Always think about your target audience and keep referring back to the reason why you put the conference on, this way you can easily determine the right mix of communication channels. Some industry examples that may be useful include: blogs, social media, email or website promotions.

Like almost every aspect of planning a successful conference, a marketing strategy depends largely on the budget available. But, planning your conference with plenty of time will ensure you have enough capacity to promote it widely and reach the number of registrations you need to achieve. Always remember, marketing is necessary before, during and after the event.  

A persons arms working on an apple mac with paper next to them a mug on the table

4. Set a budget

Budgeting might be boring, but setting and sticking to a budget can make your life a lot easier by giving you a guideline. Make a budget spreadsheet listing the major cost items on your wish list including conference venue hire, staff, AV equipment, catering any printed materials or other fun extras.

Create a list of everything you need and an estimate of how much it will all cost, then when you begin your search for your venue you can ensure you’re searching for a Space that will be able to accommodate all of your specific requirements within budget.

Budget management tools are great for breaking down budgets and setting it out clearly, so you can watch every penny tools like YNAB and Quicken are great, but never underestimate the old faithful spreadsheet. Spreadsheets don’t come with any bells and whistles but it definitely gets the job done.

5. Set an agenda

You must think about the overall structure of the event including breaks, activities and the level of interactivity required from the audience. The agenda will become the guiding star, not just for your Guests but also the venue and your suppliers, helping everybody to coordinate their efforts in line with your goals.

If you always have this in mind, your conference will have a strong thread running throughout. Attendees tend to assume there will be variation throughout the day, so setting an agenda which gives the attendees the opportunity to listen and learn, but also actively contribute, will go a long way.

6. Consider a Speaker

In line with setting an agenda, the importance of getting a good variety of speakers, motivational speakers or panellists is paramount in planning a successful conference. A great keynote speaker can make or break a conference, finding the right one who will attract and inspire your attendees is vital.

Big names always attract more attendees and well-known speakers will obviously help with your marketing strategy, but make sure their message is in line with yours. There’s nothing worse than having a speaker who’s a little off the mark.

Ultimately, you want your crowd to feel empowered, informed and inspired. An engaging keynote speaker can set the tone for the whole conference.

A large conference-style amphitheatre with rows of tiered seats facing the stage

7. Set a location

Location is one of the most important aspects of planning a successful conference. Popular conference venues can be booked up months in advance. After you’ve done all the basics behind planning a conference, deciding on a venue is the next big thing you need to decide on.

You want to make sure the atmosphere is perfect to inspire large crowds, and we’ve uncovered some of the best London conference venues that will create great backdrops for your next event. But, why not challenge the norm with your event and choose an unusual conference venue in London? An unusual conference venue is exciting and different from all the venues your attendees are no doubt used too.

From a repurposed Space, underused Spaces and downright different Spaces, London has it all. A vast industrial warehouse is perfect if you want a large blank canvas Space you can truly make your own. Or why not go for a venue steeped in musical history which will really inspire your Guests?

The type of venue you decide on will set the tone for the evening and will determine your Guests’ first impression of the conference. So, whether you want something formal and corporate or light-hearted and quirky, picking a conference that aligns with your goals and plan is paramount.

A grand Georgian conference building, with high ceilings and grand pillars.
8. Evaluate the conference

This post-conference step can sometimes be overlooked. Did you reach your objectives? Did your attendees gain something from the conference? You need to ensure you evaluate the conference and get feedback from attendees as well as go through a self-evaluative process.

This can be in the form of a short questionnaire on your what your attendees gained from the conference. Conference planning a great way to build your company profile and visibility and these top tips will help you in planning a successful conference.

As previously mentioned, planning a conference is a very detailed procedure, but hopefully, these handy tips will give you a boost. If you need a little help finding that perfect conference venue, our dedicated Account Management service allows you to take advantage of the best venue sources London has to offer.

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