Conferences are a great way for people to connect with each other. They’re also a good place to learn about the latest industry developments.
But they can be a handful to organise and manage.
This article will give you a crash course in conference management. That way, you won’t be caught on the back foot.
We’re going to cover how to…
- Create a theme for your conference
- Focus on your target audience
- Create a timeline
- Set a budget
- Assemble a team
- Recruit the speakers
- Secure sponsors
- Find a venue
- Create networking opportunities
- Hire technical equipment
- Find a caterer
- Organise accommodation
- Create marketing collateral
- Get on social media
- Find the right conference management system
Ready? Set? Let’s go!
1. Why are you organising a conference?
Conferences address a specific topic of interest to the attendees. There has to be a red thread that connects the speakers, sponsors, and attendees.
It could be…
- “The Future of Social Media”
- “How to Grow Your Business in a Bear Market”
- “Political Activism in 2019”.
Pinpoint a theme for the conference to focus your efforts on managing it. Read more about how to decide on a theme.
2. Who is the conference for?
The most important people at your conference are the attendees. Everything you do should be guided by what will make them want to turn up.
Think about the following:
- Which specific topics matter to them?
- Which speakers would they like?
- What venue can they get to?
- What food and drinks would they appreciate?
- Who do they want to network with?
Read more about why your target audience is important.
3. Create a timeline
Decide on a provisional date for your conference. You’ll most likely have to adjust it once you speak to venues and speakers.
But setting a date will help you create a timeline for what needs to happen and when.
Use this sample conference timeline to get inspired.
4. Set a budget
The budget for your conference will determine the scale of the event. Like your timeline, your conference budget will have to be provisional at first.
You can revise it once you speak to sponsors and begin to recruit delegates.
Use this conference budget template to get started.
5. Assemble a team
A lot of work goes into managing a conference, so you’ll need a team behind you.
Some of the people you’ll need are…
- Salespeople to secure sponsors, exhibitors and delegates.
- Marketing people to contact media outlets, manage social media, and email attendees.
- Logistics people to organise the venue, catering, and floor plan.
- Producers to communicate with speakers and create the agenda.
- Technicians to organise sound, lighting, and visuals.
- Administrators to help you with planning, budgeting, and management.
Read more about how to structure the individual sub-teams.
6. Recruit the speakers
Create a speaker wishlist and then draft your value proposition.
Think about these points:
- How will the speakers benefit from lending their credibility to your conference?
- Do they have a book or an innovation to promote?
- Is the target audience of your conference also their target audience?
Finally, the speakers might want some monetary compensation for their time. That’s why it’s a good idea to include speaker fees in your budget.
Read more about keynote speaker fees.
7. Secure sponsors
Sponsors are a great asset to your conference because they will lend you credibility. More importantly, they’ll help you fund the event.
Your sales team should be on the lookout for companies that are interested in selling to the conference attendees. Prepare some sponsorship packages you can sell to them.
Find some inspiration in these conference sponsorship packages.
8. Find a venue
The venue should be attractive, but most of all fit for purpose. When you go venue-hunting, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the location accessible to everyone?
- Is there nearby accommodation and restaurants?
- Will the venue be available for the conference date?
- Can the venue hold the number of people you expect to attend?
- Can you afford the venue hire?
- Does it include any staff, technical equipment, or catering?
Find some inspiration with this full list of UK cities with conference venues.
9. Create networking opportunities
Conferences are a great way for attendees to learn from speakers. But they will also be interested in networking with each other. A noisy conference hall is not always the best place to do that.
You should secure some meeting rooms for one-to-one sessions between conference attendees. Alternatively, you can organise a speed-networking event at the conference.
10. Hire technical equipment
If the venue hire does not include technical equipment, then you need to find a supplier. Make sure you have the following aspects covered:
- Video: projectors and screens for videos and PowerPoint presentations
- Audio: microphones, amplifiers, monitors, and mixers for your speakers
- Lighting: spotlights, mood lighting, and general lighting for filming
- Broadcasting: cameras and WiFi to record, stream, or broadcast your conference
Start by looking at the top 20 AV equipment providers in the UK.
11. Find a caterer
Food and drinks might not be included in the venue hire either, so it’s important to sort out catering. Remember to consider dietary restrictions when you decide on the menu.
Look at these top 8 conference catering companies for some inspiration.
12. Make sure attendees have accommodation
Many conferences span over several days, so you need to ensure that attendees have a place to stay.
Websites like HireSpace will give you a list of conference venues with nearby accommodation.
13. Find a printer to create marketing collateral
Your conference will need some banners, posters, flyers, and other marketing collateral. Most importantly, your attendees need an agenda for the conference.
Look at this Pinterest page to get some ideas for your conference collateral.
14. Get on social media
LinkedIn is your friend when it comes to conferences. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect all the other popular platforms.
Here are some ideas for boosting your conference with social media:
- Set up dedicated conference accounts on all platforms like Facebook
- Create a promotional video on YouTube
- Create hashtags on Instagram and Twitter
- Write blog posts on LinkedIn
- Post images on Pinterest and Instagram
- Live-tweet the conference and tag speakers and sponsors
- Place your social media account names and hashtags all over the venue
Social media is a free promotional tool you can’t live without. But you should also consider paid social media promotions as part of your marketing efforts.
15. Get a conference management system
You need a conference management system because it will help you save time. It is also useful for managing your tickets and registrations.
You should find a system that allows you to…
- Register attendees and sell tickets
- Manage the venue space with real-time data
- Collect attendee data and get insights
- Integrate with social media
- Access everything via a mobile app
- Check in attendees on-site
It also helps if it’s easy to set up and free to use. Have a look at Billetto’s conference management system.
Remember to follow up
You now know the basics of managing a conference. (If you want more, read our article on organising a conference.) With proper planning and management, it’ll be a roaring success. But once it’s all said and done, you should remember to follow up.
Get as much feedback as you can from the speakers, sponsors, your team, and the attendees. It’s invaluable for organising your next conference. Send a thank you email to let them know you appreciate their attendance and support.
Good luck with your conference!