If conference management falls under your remit, you will already know what a weight of responsibility it can carry. Whether you’re planning events for employees, clients or partners, there is always a certain level of expectation. Will it be as engaging as a competitor’s event? Will it have more impact than last year’s event? Will staff being talking about it round the coffee machine for months to come? And, most importantly, did you manage to deliver the key messages and results within budget? The planning and preparation for any conference can be a huge undertaking and falls into three main categories: pre-conference planning, management of the conference on the day and post-conference analysis.
Planning for a conference can start anywhere from a few months to a few years in advance, and it’s a crucial part of getting it right. There are such a lot of variables that need to be considered. What are you trying to achieve from the conference? Who should the audience be and what are your key messages? These are just a few things to consider. Trying to cram in too much content can dilute the key messages, while inviting the wrong audience can leave them feeling bored and disengaged. Once you have determined what your content will be, you need to decide how it’s going to be presented. Some elements should be delivered as part of the keynote speeches, and some should be dealt with in breakout sessions.
Once decided, the appropriate speakers can start preparing their content while you start work on the logistics. Where should the event be held? Consider where your delegates will be travelling from and how long it will take them to get there. This will help you set your start time appropriately. What about transport links and parking? How many delegates will you have and how many breakout rooms do you need? If you have run events previously, you may already know a suitable venue, but if you’re looking at new ones, it’s worth narrowing them down to two or three and then making detailed and critical site visits. Things to consider might include whether they provide your AV equipment and how much stage and set design will be required.
With the content and venue decided, you can start to think about the detail of the day. Who will manage each area of the conference, such as registration, ice-breakers, catering, getting delegates to and from sessions and making sure it all runs to time?
Management of the Conference on the Day
It’s generally a good idea to give yourself a floating role on the day and make sure that everyone else is well briefed on the areas they are managing. This will mean you’re on hand to oversee critical parts of the conference and troubleshoot should any problems arise. It may be useful to consider employing a company that provides conference management services to help you.
Analysis is the final key part to measuring the event’s success and ROI. You can gather feedback at various points throughout the day or email delegates after the event to get their views. A debriefing with all the relevant in-house stakeholders after the event is also crucial. What went well? What could have been improved? How will you measure the conference’s success in the months to come?
There is a huge amount of detail to consider and get right if you want to run a successful conference, and the number of man hours required to do so shouldn’t be underestimated. However, watching it all come together on the day is worth the responsibility.