Organising a business conference is by no means a trifling task. A conference is a large-scale event with many moving parts, even if its scope is small – the average headcount for a corporate conference sits at 258, which represents a significant cohort to manage and cater for. If you’re not sure where to start, the following steps will help you make your next conference a success.
Determine the Objective
The first item on your agenda is to settle on the exact purpose of your conference. Your company might be unveiling a new product or business strategy, and a conference might be the best way to communicate this to employees or even the wider industry. There might have been some industry-related news, for which the bringing-together of industry professionals would be a beneficial move. You might simply wish to establish new networks in the face of a change in direction.
Understanding the purpose of your conference enables you to draw up specific, and potentially measurable, objectives – which you can then use to inform your planning strategy. For example, if your objective is to expand contacts for a particular department, your conference would be geared more towards networking than presentation.
Set a Budget
Your next step should be to address your budget for the conference. You may already have a clear idea of the money available for organising the conference, which can streamline the planning process. If not, you will need to draft a rough costing and work back from there. Consider that there are more costs at play than venue hire; you may need to allocate funds for food, drink, hospitality staff, speakers and A/V technicians.
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Choose a Venue
Securing a venue is nothing short of vital, but there is no shortage of venues from which you can choose for your conference. Hotel function rooms are popular for small to medium business conferences, while larger music venues and halls better suit cross-industry conferences and exhibitions. Your budget may preclude you from certain high-value spaces, but as long as you can accommodate your guests well there will be no issues.
Book Your Speakers
You may wish to host a panel, or a keynote speaker as the ‘headline event’ of your conference. Reach out to speakers early for a quote; securing spokespersons early on will give you an advantage with regard to promotion.
Speaking of which, you will need a variety of promotional materials to bolster your conference – including signs for use on the premises throughout the day. You can use roller banners to advertise speaker slots and panel times in the venue, while larger posters can be used to direct attendants in. You should also design flyers and business cards to hand out throughout the event, to ensure that guests are able to contact you.
All that remains is to invite your chosen attendees. As part of your promotional spending, you may want to invest in printed brochures and flyers to post to other businesses; for an internal conference, a well-formatted email would suffice. Either way, it is key that you draft up your attendance list and contact information well in advance of inviting anyone.