Conference Planning Tips

by Amy Nutt

When you are in charge of a conference, you have an enormous amount of responsibility. It is important that your conference not only is a success from a business standpoint, but also that your participants enjoy themselves and feel that it was worth their time. Here are ten tips which will help ensure a successful conference.

1. Plan early. You should set a date and place for large conferences a year in advance. Reserve blocks of hotel rooms for those traveling from out of town. Give participants plenty of time to make travel plans. The earlier you start planning, the easier things will be for both you and those attending the conference.

2. Offer incentives to those who sign up early. Discount the registration fee or offer a gift of some sort. This will give you a better idea of how many participants you can expect.

3. Set a theme for the conference. Start promoting your theme from the beginning. Include it on the registration forms. Mention it in the confirmation letters. This helps build a sense of excitement and will help set the tone for the entire event.

4. Plan a variety of events. People learn in different ways. Participants will get more out of the conference if they can tailor the experience to their own needs. Plan lecture sessions, as well as group activities and panel discussions. Set up workshops and social events. Be sure to allow time to visit the vendors and time to relax.

5. Encourage participation by handing out schedules early. A few weeks before the conference, mail out activity schedules to the participants. This will give them time to decide what activities they would like to take part in. You should also include some supplemental material which will allow them to come to the conference feeling prepared.

6. Ensure that all of your technical equipment is ready to go. You will want to do an audio and visual run through the night before the conference. Make sure that all of the microphones, computers and other devices are functioning. Have backup systems available. There should be technical support people on site to repair any problems.

7. Help your participants network. Provide them with a contact list of conference participants. Schedule networking sessions.

8. Always start and end the conference on a high note. Your first session is important. It should get the crowd motivated for what is to come. This is the time for you to be creative. The final session is also important. Participants should leave with a feeling that their time was well spent.

9. After the conference, follow up with the participants. Send out thank you letters. Encourage the participants to sign up for future conferences. Ask for feedback as to how you can improve for next time.

10. Always have a backup plan. Prepare for the worst. Know what to do in case of inclement weather, problems at your venue site, or illness. Having a backup plan in place is essential to a successful conference.

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