Tips for a Successful Conference
Consider Purpose, Relevance, and Need
Are you creating an event from scratch? If so, do yourself a favor and conduct some due diligence before venturing out. Just because your idea for a conference seems brilliant, doesn’t mean people will be comping at the bit to participate. Is there a fundamental need for your conference and subject matter training? Find out if there are already similar conferences in existence. What would make your conference unique? Many organizations create outside task forces to vet the potential of a conference prior to launching. Doing so creates a sense of community early on which can benefit the buy-in of others later.
Leverage Speakers and Sponsors
Speakers and sponsors all have networks that you can leverage to increase your event’s success. Ask your speakers to share the news of their participation in your event over their social networks. Many Speakers’ Agreements outline these types of expectations. And, when sponsors commit, thank them via social media outlets and tag them so that your message carries into their networks. Be prepared to customize communications templates and graphics for speaker/sponsor use. Also, aligning upfront with key underwriters and other stakeholders is a great way to ensure your event’s financial success.
Carefully Craft a Schedule
Take time to outline your conference schedule carefully. Can you group sessions into related tracks? Do topics fall into a natural sequence? Do you have enough time between sessions for speaker and attendee transitions? If your conference is affiliated with a tradeshow, be sure to allow sufficient time for attendees to visit exhibitors. In addition, make sure you build in ample time for breaks and networking. Although we assume attendees are only there for our brilliant educational programs, let’s not lose site of the fact that many are there to make connections.
Don’t Skimp on Tech-Support
Even if you have an I.T. professional on staff, spring for the additional tech support the venue offers. No one knows the audio/visual equipment and capabilities onsite better than the folks that use it and troubleshoot it each and every day. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring in your own technical staff. It means that you should supplement your staff with theirs. Your staff should understand and communicate your technical needs while their staff executes. The collaborative relationship will result in a seamless audio/visual experience for event planners, speakers and attendees.
Monitor Your Budget Every Day
Conferences are expensive and spending can get unwieldy if you don’t keep track of your budget regularly. Keep your eye on the prize at all times. If your event is intended to make money, pay close attention to sponsorship and attendee revenue and make adjustments along the way as needed. In addition, your Food and Beverage guarantee should be updated at the last possible moment to clearly reflect the final guest count. Refer to our catering contract for deadlines.
Conduct Evaluations and Implement Change
The biggest disservice you can do to your conference is not to take evaluations seriously. You took the time to collect feedback from attendees, speakers and sponsors, right? Well do something with it. Of course you should celebrate the positives, but don’t forget to discuss the negatives with your team. Address complaints and make plans to implement changes to future events if warranted. Your conference will grow and blossom if you take constructive criticism seriously. People are the lifeblood of a successful conference. Make sure that they feel like they are benefiting from your success.