Business conferences can be tricky beasts to plan. Unless you’re an event organising pro, the litany of boxes that need to be ticked, such as creating a compelling agenda, booking the venue, organising enough food and drink, making sure there’s adequate parking, installing the necessary tech and plenty more besides, can be somewhat overwhelming.
So what can you do to make sure your next business conference goes according to plan? We’ve compiled these top conference planning tips to help…
1. Create a wish list and cost it
Whatever the intended purpose of the conference, whether it’s to motivate the sales force, launch a product or bring geographically dispersed teams together, you need to think about what you’d like to achieve and how you’ll get there. That includes:
- Where the best location for the venue will be
- How long the conference will last
- Whether you want to engage external speakers
- If you need breakout rooms to host sessions on multiple topics
- What printed or web-based material you’ll need
- Whether additional tech and audio systems are required
- The type of food and drink you’ll provide
Professional event planning guides will help to ensure you’ve covered all bases. After you’ve created your conference wish list, then it’s time to cost it. If it doesn’t fit your budget, you’ll have to look at how you can achieve everything you want for less. For example, while an external speaker might be a nice-to-have, is it really essential to get your message across? Similarly, while you might like to make a statement with a high-class venue in a central location, could you find the same facilities elsewhere?
2. Plan the agenda
Once you have the bare bones of your conference in place, you can then start thinking about creating the agenda. Building the conference agenda is a huge undertaking in itself. Think about how you’ll create real value and actionable takeaways for your attendees.
Experiential learning is an excellent way to deliver content in a more engaging way. Giving attendees the chance to get out of their seats and learn by doing can boost information retention and create bonds between them. Even introducing an element of interactivity by providing simple audience response systems can greatly improve the delivery of the content and move you away from the dreaded ‘death by PowerPoint’ scenario.
When the agenda has been created, you should make it available on social media. That will give attendees the chance to prepare and think about what they hope to achieve.
3. Think like an attendee
The next step is to consider the on-site details. That includes everything from the layout of the rooms and the distribution of food and drinks to the timing of the sessions and how attendees will navigate between them.
At this stage, it’s important to think like an attendee. Walk through the itinerary as your guests would. Have you given them enough time to travel between rooms and have a bathroom break without having to rush? Are there water machines en route? At what point will they able to stop for a hot drink? Picturing how attendees will think and act throughout the day will help you get it right.
4. Look for outside inspiration
Although you might be perfectly capable of planning a conference on your own, it always pays to cast your eyes outside your sphere for inspiration. Social media is a simple resource to tap into along with relevant blogs on the latest trends. You might find that there are ideas you hadn’t thought of that you can implement yourself, or there are vendors and partners you can work with to take your conference to the next level.
5. Put a post-conference strategy in place
Instead of breathing a sigh of relief that it’s all over, successful businesses do everything they can to continue building the momentum. The clearer your goals before the event, the easier it is to plan for the future.
Ask attendees questions like:
- What did you learn?
- What did you find beneficial?
- What challenges were not addressed?
- What would you have improved?
This can help you improve future conferences and identify other areas where training and development opportunities can be implemented now.
Follow these planning tips and we hope your next business conference will be engaging, beneficial and much more than just a relaxing day away from the office!
Irma is a keen writer and writes for a variety of topics with her main interests in business, technology and HR. Working with a variety of clients over the years, Irma has a wide range of first hand experience within businesses and technology.