How to Prepare for a Conference: Best Practices
Conferences provide excellent opportunities for businesses to build and deepen business relationships, gain thorough insights into the latest industry trends, and build brand credibility. About 95% of marketers revealed that in-person events like conferences can help businesses achieve their goals. Hence, businesses should invest in conferences for better growth opportunities and revenue generation.
However, planning and hosting a conference involves a lot of work. From selecting the best venue to choosing the right speaker, from opting for the right technical tools to delivering a good attendee experience; there are several challenges that companies face while organizing a conference.
All these potential hurdles can be averted if the conference is strategically planned. In this article, we will learn how businesses can prepare themselves for a conference and ensure it turns out to be a huge success.
6 Steps to Get Yourself Ready for the Conference
Step #1. Invest Time in Planning
Hosting a conference requires thorough planning. Ideally, you should start the conference preparation at least six to eight months in advance. Several aspects contribute to successful planning. Let us quickly have a look at them.
Form a Conference Organizing Team
You need a dedicated team to take up various responsibilities of hosting a conference, such as planning, budgeting, marketing, and more. These teams will carry out the tasks assigned to them and streamline the entire conference planning process. Here are a few roles you should include in the conference organizing team.
- Planning committee - This team will be responsible for major aspects of the conference, such as booking the venue, finalizing the caterers, taking care of the guest accommodations, and more.
- Administrative team - This team will be responsible for carrying out the admin duties, such as managing attendee registrations, selling the tickets, sending out conference invites, and more. The admin team will also be in charge of answering queries related to the conference.
- Finance team - This team will be responsible for managing the budget and expenses of the conference.
- Marketing team - As the name suggests, this team will be responsible for marketing and promotions of the conference. Their primary duties will include website management, social media marketing, PR, and many other advertising activities.
- Volunteers - The volunteers will help the team with managing on-site activities. This includes scanning the attendee tickets, leading attendees to their seating area, keeping a track of the attendance, and more.
Once you have your A-team ready, it's time to define your conference goals.
Define Your Goals
Every conference planning begins with setting goals. These goals help in aligning your focus and taking the necessary steps to make the conference a huge success.
So, how do you identify and set the conference event goals? Ask yourself these questions.
- Why am I organizing this conference?
- Why would the attendees participate in this conference?
- What am I going to offer to these attendees? How will they be benefitted?
- How will my company benefit from this conference?
The answers to these questions will give you a fair idea about your goals and help you set priorities accordingly.
Be Mindful of the Budget
The budget plays a crucial role in conference planning. Ensuring that the expenses of the conference adhere to the assigned budget is essential. Sit together with the finance team to prepare a budget with realistic estimates. Include the following in the budget planning sheet.
- Venue costs
- Accommodation costs
- Transportation charges
- Speaker fees
- Catering charges
- Marketing expenses
- Funds for on-site activities
- Team salaries
- Equipment rental charges
- Software costs
Having a budget helps you keep a tab on the financials. It ensures you do not make any unnecessary expenditures. The budget also contributes significantly to setting the price for conference tickets, thereby helping the finance team stay focused on the revenue the conference would generate.
Choose a Convenient Date and Book a Venue
The next step would be to shortlist a date and venue for the said conference. Here are a few things to remember when choosing a date for the conference.
- Decide if you wish to conduct the conference in a single day or over two or more days.
- Choose a date that does not coincide with public holidays or festivities. This will ensure participation in large numbers.
- Avoid settling on a date that falls on long weekends and the holiday season as people tend to go on vacation during such periods.
- Ensure that you have ample time to promote and market the conference and sell the event tickets.
Next, it is time to book the venue that matches your requirements in terms of budget, location, seating capacity, power backup, ease of access, accommodation facilities, catering, and technical support. Ask for early access to the venue so that you can give a walkthrough to your team and prepare them for the big day.
Get the Tech and Equipment Ready
Depending on the conference venue and audience, you will need to book various technical equipment and subscribe to various software for the event. Connect with the venue authorities to confirm if they have the right infrastructure to accommodate the equipment.
Here is a short checklist of the essential equipment you will need to run a conference smoothly.
- Screen displays
- Audio system - speakers and microphones
- Powerful wi-fi
- Whiteboard with pens
- Comfortable seating
Do not forget to test all the equipment before the conference to ensure you do not run into any technical issues. Always have backups for various cables and cords with you. Keep a technical support team available at the venue at all times.
Step #2 - Finalize the Speakers
Choosing the speakers is one of the most critical steps when preparing for a conference. Around 89% of event organizers revealed that finding the right speakers is one of the biggest challenges they face when planning a conference.
As the speakers are the main attraction of the conferences, you must reach out to the thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, and others and request them to be a part of the conference. Here is a quick five-step guide to help you find the best keynote speakers for your conference.
- Connect with them over an email or a phone call and share the details of the conference.
- Focus on how the speakers would benefit from your conference.
- Allow them some time to think about the opportunity and do not hesitate to follow up.
- If the speakers confirm their participation, you can discuss other details, such as presentation requirements, technical requirements, travel and accommodation arrangements, and more.
- If the speakers turn down the opportunity, take it positively. There could be various reasons why the speakers may reject your offer. You can thank them for their time and move on to the next speaker on the list.
Step #3 - Draft a Conference Agenda
Now that you have planned the entire conference event, including the speakers, it is time to put it together in a detailed conference agenda. A conference agenda presents the list of activities that will be taken up during the event. This agenda includes the list of keynote speakers, the speaker presentations, workshops, interactive sessions, and the timetable as to when these events will take place.
The agenda informs the attendees what to expect from the conference. Check out the image below of a conference schedule shared by Harvard College Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR).
This conference was organized for students and young professionals to discuss the political, economic, and social issues prevailing in the Asia-Pacific region. The image below gives a detailed timeline of the events happening during this four-day conference.
Step #4 - Begin the Registrations
The next step is to get people to register for your conference. Keep the registration process as short and simple as possible.
Check out these conference registration tactics you can leverage to streamline the event registration process.
- Create a website or a landing page containing all the required information about the conference, such as location, date, time, speakers’ details, and more.
- Include the conference agenda to brief the people about the upcoming events.
- Highlight how people can benefit from the conference via articles, testimonials, and other forms of content.
- Create a registration form or page to allow people to register for the conference. Use a third-party event registration system to help people sign up for the event without any hassles.
- Set up a chatbot to answer the queries people may have about the conference. Leverage a no-code chatbot builder to design a conversational chatbot and deliver a good experience to the people.
- Send event invites to the registered people along with their tickets via event ticketing software. This tool has a built-in email system that keeps you away from the hassles of issuing tickets, processing payments, and other tasks.
Step #5 - Promote the Conference
Once the conference registration website is ready, you should focus on starting the promotions immediately. Leverage both online and offline mediums to advertise your conference.
Let us understand various ways in which you can promote your conference to attract the desired target audience.
- Promote your conference on various social media networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and more to spread the news. Optimize the social media captions with the right hashtags and location tags so that the conference details are discovered by a larger group of potential attendees.
- Create an email marketing campaign to share updates about the conference with the registered attendees interested. You can also connect with the leads and other business connections via email and request them to be a part of the conference.
With the help of the right email marketing tool, you can segment the audience into various categories and send personalized messages to them.
- Leverage your company blog to share the news about the conference on a timely basis. Include relevant CTAs at the end of other blog posts.
- Opt for paid advertising campaigns on search engines and social media networks if you have the required budget for the same.
- Leverage word-of-mouth marketing and spread the news about the conference among your connections. Be a part of community forums, attend various networking events, and more as word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful advertising strategies.
- Create banners, posters, flyers, and brochures about the conference and share them with your local connections.
- Get in touch with local publications, such as print media, radio, and television to cover the news about the conference.
Step #6 - Focus on attendee experience
Lastly, the experience you deliver to the attendees plays a major role in determining the success of the conference. If attendees have a great time at your conference, they would feel more connected to your organization and recommend it to their connections.
Similarly, the attendees who had negative experiences might leave a dissatisfied review. Hence, you must focus on creating a frictionless onsite experience for the attendees.
Let us have a look at a few tips to improve the attendee experience.
- Focus on sharing great content with the attendees.
- Share the conference information like location, agenda, speaker details, and more with the attendees in advance. If there are any changes to the schedule, communicate the changes whenever possible.
- Have a registration counter set up at the location to allow on-spot conference registrations. Focus on creating a seamless offline registration process.
- Offer a seamless conference check-in process and ensure the attendees receive their badges on time.
- Instruct the volunteers and other staff members to make attendees feel welcomed and comfortable at the conference.
- Create a navigation map stating the directions to the presentation room, meeting area, refreshments area, dining area, and more that attendees can refer to while moving around the conference premises.
- Keep the feedback collection forms or survey forms ready to capture the attendees' experiences at the conference. You can analyze that feedback and incorporate their suggestions for future conferences.
Conference planning is not an overwhelming activity. If you follow the proper steps by conducting relevant research, you will host an outstanding conference successfully. We hope this article has helped you understand how to prepare for a conference.
Remember conferences are one of the best ways to grow your business. Take advantage of conferences to build strong relationships with industry experts, existing clients, and new prospects.