Home Business Insights & Advice How to organise a business conference

How to organise a business conference

by John Saunders
10th Sep 20 10:27 am

Business conferences play a vital role for corporate leaders and peers to not only network with each other, but to share great ideas and innovations that will help shape the landscape for that particular industry for years to come. Events such as Oracle OpenWorld, Web Summit, Inc 5000 Summit, and many others play a pivotal role in cultivating powerful partnerships and relationships between organisations. Due to the power that these events have, many are now considering creating their own conference.

However, if you plan on throwing your hat in the ring, just know that it may not be as easy as one might assume. Organising an event may seem pretty straight-forward to you, but anyone who has already had this experience will tell you that it is much more complex than you think. An event can take different forms but above all, it is a simple and effective communication model that serves to inform, motivate and popularise an idea with a target group.

Event planning committee

If you don’t want to wake up a few weeks before your event with lots of little “fires” to solve, then you have to plan it well. Get help from others and form a planning committee, also often called the organising committee, to support you in the various tasks. You want to put together a team of people you can trust and rely upon who also share your vision for the event. As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one”, so you need to make sure you identify the best people and what their roles will be.

Define your events objective

One of the first steps that the planning committee will have to take is to define the objectives and goals pursued by this event. It is necessary to ensure that the objectives set are realistic so that you can confirm that there will be enough resources to achieve them. You will also have to choose a theme that will fascinate and motivate the participation of people in your target group.

Target audience

  • What theme(s) do you want to tackle?
  • What key points do you want your attendees to learn about?
  • What slogan will best represent your event that people will easily recognise?
  • When you are deciding on your theme, it is very important that you focus on who your target audience is and what will pique their interest the most. One of the bests ways to identify your theme is to tally a list of business trends you feel are at the forefront of your particular industry.

Hiring the right speakers

Once you have a clear understanding of your theme and who your audience is, now you can cull a list of keynote speakers and business speakers who you feel will do a great job of supporting your events goals and objectives. This is a very crucial part of the process because the people you put on stage will represent your organisations brand as well as expand upon the core message you want to convey. When you decide to hire a speaker, you need to make sure that not only can they command the stage, but that they also have the gravitas to earn your audiences respect, otherwise they may not pay much attention to them. Also, you may want to consider a motivational speaker if you want to inspire your audience to take some form of action after the event.

Lastly, you will need to decide who from your organisation will be speaking. While it is important to have professional speakers at your event, it is also critical that you have your own internal speakers on the stage as well to ensure that your theme and objective is being carried out. If you do not feel comfortable or confident speaking, then there are many ways in which you can improve your public speaking abilities. It will just require some dedication and practice, but rest assured, it is not as hard as you might think. You can even hire a professional public speaking company to provide you with TED-style coaching. This seems to be a very effective technique for public speaking, assuring that your speech will be flawless and serve its purpose.

Finding the right venue

Where will the event take place? You need to make sure that you reserve the venue well in advance. Identify a venue that will be easy to find. Your space should also be large enough to accommodate everyone, but not too large to be half-filled. Also make sure you have access to the audio and visual equipment you will need (microphones, viewing screen, projectors, etc.)

What kind of graphics or animation will you be using? Identify different options and choose the one that is best suited to reach your target group (open door, information session, training workshop, fair …) All of these decisions need to be made early enough in the process. Once you make these decisions, then it will be easier to reserve your venue, hire your speakers, and begin promoting the event. When selecting your venue, you may also want to consider ways to produce the event in a more sustainable manner and therefore you should check to see what options they may have.

Organising your tasks

A plan of action is important to be able to “put on paper” all the tasks to be accomplished for the realisation of the event as well as when to do it and who will be responsible for it. You can even find the costs related to each task. This action plan will serve as your “road map” throughout the process. “If you want everything to run smoothly, then it is important that you set clear goals and tasks that must be accomplished so that people stay motivated and productive throughout the entire process” suggests Sean Adams of Motivation Ping. “Very often when people take on such large projects, they can get overwhelmed and disorganised which causes a great deal of frustration within the organisation.”

The budget

By establishing your budget, you will be able to figure out which resources are available and which you will need to acquire. The main items in the budget can be …

Expenses

  • Personnel costs – salary,
  • Costs of supplies – telephone, stamps, paper
  • Arrangement of a space (decoration,
  • Equipment – computer and audiovisual equipment, equipment for demonstration
  • Additional insurance costs
  • Advertising and public relations costs (invitation cards, documentation, press kit, animation)

Income (if there is a registration fee)

  • Subsidies
  • Partnerships (both in terms of money and goods or services)

When doing your budget, it can be useful to have a column that shows the amounts you have planned for each item and also another that shows the actual cost. It can help you when planning other events.

Event promotion

Do not forget that your event will be all the more successful the more you succeed in making it known to those with whom you wish to establish contact during this event. In order not to forget any aspect, a communication plan is therefore necessary to help you plan the time and energy for publicity for your event.

Ideally, you should start promoting your event about two to three months before. Do not do it too much too early because the promotional material you have sent may be left on some desk and not too much at the last minute because those likely to participate will have something else to plan.

Your invitations and promotional materials should not be overloaded with information. It should contain key information such as the time, date, location, a brief description of the event and what would encourage people to participate. You must also add the name of a contact person and their phone number for people who want to learn more.

About two weeks before the event, follow up on any invitations that have been sent. This can be done either through media interviews in your community (newspapers, community radio, bulletin board, email list, etc.).

You can also prepare posters to advertise your event. These could be posted on bulletin boards in libraries or community organisations.

The event itself

Assuming that your room is already reserved and that the keynote and guest speakers have confirmed their presence, there are still some last minute checks to do:

  1. Develop a detailed day schedule by estimating the length of each activity to ensure the best participation possible.
  2. Make sure that the audiovisual equipment (microphones, VCR, projector …), a platform or a podium and that all the necessary audiovisual aids are available and functioning properly;
  3. If you have requested catering, confirm with them the date, time and location as well as the number of participants.
  4. Depending on the type of event that will take place, the layout of the room has an important role to play. If the participants are not comfortable either because there are too many of them in a small space or because it is too hot, they will be less attentive, especially for conferences or training workshops. Event check-in software for self-check-in at the entrance will ensure a seamless end-to-end event experience for attendees.
  5. Are you going to be taking pictures? They can be used later by the media or simply as a souvenir.
  6. Remember to collect feedback from participants either through an evaluation questionnaire or through collected comments.
  7. Also do not forget to provide alternatives in case of bad weather for example or if the guest speakers do not show up.
  8. Arrange for installation, re-placement and site clean-up.

Post event

Now that the event has taken place, the work does not end there. You also have to take stock of the event you organised, make it known and prepare for the next one.

Evaluation is a step that is often overlooked for all kinds of reasons: fatigue, difficulty meeting or hindsight. Yet it is an essential step. It is used to check whether the objectives have been achieved and whether the participants have been satisfied. Then share the results with local media and other groups in your community.

Also, don’t forget to send a thank you letter to volunteers, sponsors, speakers and others who helped make the event happen.

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