Any meeting can benefit from having a plan for what needs to be discussed. For larger business conferences, however, a solid conference agenda is an absolute necessity.
In this article, we’ll cover…
- What a typical conference agenda looks like
- Tips for creating an agenda for a conference
- Conference agenda templates and other tools
What is the typical structure of a conference agenda?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to structuring a conference agenda. However, you will spot similarities in most programmes you come across.
Here is what many conference agendas look like for a typical day:
- 08:00–09:00: Registration opens
- 09:00–10:00: Keynote speaker 1
- 10:00–11:00: Refreshment break
- 11:00–12:00: Breakout session 1
- 12:00–13:00: Lunch break
- 14:00–15:00: Keynote speaker 2
- 15:00–16:00: Breakout session 2
- 16:00–17:00: Breakout session 3
- 17:00–18:00: Networking session
- 18:00–20:00: Free time
- 20:00–00:00: Party
Tips for putting together a conference agenda
Creating a conference agenda is not always a straightforward task. There are expectations to meet, speakers to recruit, and venue accessibility to consider.
1. Decide on a conference theme
The first step to creating an interesting conference agenda is to settleon an overarching theme for the event. Is there a specific topic that is hot in your industry right now?
Tip: Get inspiration in our guide on how to pick the right theme for your event.
2. Conduct pre-event surveys
Your agenda should provide attendees with something of value, so you need to find out what they’re interested in learning. Do that by sending out a pre-event survey to ask them.
Here are some questions you can ask your attendees prior to the event:
- What do you hope to learn from the conference?
- Which speakers would you like to hear?
- What type of session (breakout, networking, etc.) is a priority for you?
You will set yourself up for a successful conference by gauging and meeting the expectations of your attendees in this way.
Tip: You can use our guide on event survey tools to help you gather the required insights.
3. Recruit speakers
Once you have an overall theme and know which speakers your attendees would like to hear, you can begin shortlisting and reaching out to relevant thought leaders.
Upbeat keynote speakers will ensure that the attendees are excited for the day ahead. A diverse range of panellists for the breakout sessions will cover all aspects of a given topic.
In-demand speakers can be difficult to get on board, so it’s important to craft a compelling narrative that will pique their interest in your conference.
Finally, it’s also a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time ahead of the conference to recruit the speakers. The best ones tend to have very busy schedules.
Tip: Websites like Speakers Corner have a database of popular keynote speakers.
4. Create interactive sessions
Your attendees will expect talks from knowledgeable speakers they can learn from. But they’ll also want to participate in interactive sessions throughout the conference.
Here are some of the different sessions you can include on the agenda:
Interactive conference sessions will make your attendees feel like active participants in the event rather than passive spectators. Make sure they’re part of the story.
5. Organise sessions by tracks
Big conferences can often have hundreds of different sessions that the attendees can partake in. Options are always great to have, but it can be difficult to organise it all.
A conference track has a series of relevant sessions attached to it under a sub-theme. Organising the sessions with tracks will make it easier for attendees to navigate the agenda.
If we imagine that you’re organising a marketing conference, Track A could look like this:
- 1st session: “How to master Facebook ads”
- 2nd session: “Influencer marketing 101”
- 3rd session: “The importance of LinkedIn in 2019”
Meanwhile, Track B could look like this:
- 1st session: “How to grow your mailing list”
- 2nd session: “The latest developments in SEO”
- 3rd session: “Tools to increase website conversions”
Attendees can still choose to jump from one track to another. But aggregating similar topics under one umbrella track makes for a more coherent conference agenda.
Tip: Read more about how to create great breakout sessions that add value to the agenda.
6. Communicate the agenda to conference talent
It’s essential that you keep everyone involved in the loop when it comes to the agenda. Speakers and panellists will want to know about changes and deadlines.
Here’s what you should do to make sure everyone knows what to expect:
- Discuss commitments and compensation
- Communicate deadlines and deliverables
- Ask for all presentation materials ahead of time
- Confirm any special technical requirements
- Organise bio and headshot submissions
- Review and confirm presentation outlines
7. Include the agenda in your event app
Paper agendas are so yesteryear. Chances are that you already have an event app in mind for your next conference. Make sure the agenda is included for your attendees’ convenience.
Business people will have other things going on in their professional lives during the conference. So make sure that the agenda can also be synced to their personal calendar apps.
An in-app conference agenda is also a good opportunity to gather useful feedback. Enable likes, comments, and reviews for each track or session so you know what works and what doesn’t.
Tip: Check out these top event apps that you can use for your conference.
Conference agenda tools and templates you can use
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to writing up your conference agenda. There are plenty of great templates available for free online.
Here are some conference agenda templates that you can use as a starting point:
There is also a selection of apps dedicated to building conference agendas:
Ready to schedule it in?
You now have all the tools you need to put together a solid conference agenda. With that in hand, your event should run as smoothly as possible.
Found a conference agenda that you thought was particularly good? Drop us a link in the comments section below. Sharing is caring!