The Boss asks you to organise a conference. Your first reaction, «Great! This could be fun». Your second reaction, «Where do I start?».
Organising a conference, large or small, is not a simple a task. It involves layers of decisions – on budget, location, guest speakers, audience, catering, duration, logistics – and a lot of time spent on preparation work before the big event.
To help you along the way, we have created a simple checklist.
På norsk: 8 grep for en vellykket konferanse.
It is always best to start with the basics. Planning the dates, times and event schedule is the foundation for everything else.
If you’re planning a one day conference, allow time for travelling to and from the venue. Try to avoid choosing dates during, or near, school and public holidays.
Choose a venue that has flexible capacity.
If your conference is popular and attracts more people, a venue that can accommodate extra numbers at short notice is the best option.
Choose a venue that is easy to reach by road or public transport, that has ample parking space and is easy to find.
3. Know your audience
Make sure you have a clear idea of what your audience would be interested in hearing. The guest speakers should fit the event and the audience.
The way you light the venue affects your audience too. Do you light just the guest speakers or the whole room? If the audience are expected to take notes, or use laptops, then the room should be well lit. If the audience is just expected to listen, then low level lighting in the room will put the focus on the guest speaker.
And remember. People struggle to concentrate for more than 45 minutes so it can be a good idea to divide each presentation with 10 minute breaks.
4. Guest speakers
In advance of the event, give your guest speaker details such as the size of the audience, how long the presentation should be, the topic to cover, duration and a description of the venue that includes all the technical equipment available.
If you have several guest speakers, give them a list of the different topics each will be presenting. This helps to avoid different speakers covering the same material.
Ask your guest speakers to send you three sentences that can be used to present them to their audience.
Even if your conference is a «free event», people will want to know the benefits of attending. Everyone’s time is precious these days so you need to show them why this is a worthwhile conference to attend.
The invitations and marketing material announcing a great speaker, or a venue in an attractive location, can affect whether people attend or not.
Have you ever met a happy chap with low blood sugar? Yes? Lucky you – but don’t take that chance during your conference.
Your audience, even for a short conference, will need some form of catering.
Plan the catering requirements around your conference schedule. Try to remember that people at conferences like to network and, a refreshment break is a great opportunity for people to talk but it often needs more time than a quick 10 minutes.
7. Can everybody hear me?
When you’re up on stage and something goes wrong, even a minor technical fault can disrupt everyone’s concentration.
Always arrange a technical check before the conference starts so that the guest speaker becomes familiar with the equipment and can be confident they have the technical support they need.
8. Event a success – don’t forget the feedback
Try to get feedback from your audience, either from Q&A sessions or feedback forms, as it can help towards planning more conferences in the future. You will get a better response if you set aside time within the conference or straight after the event to get the feedback.
After the conference, make contact with your guest speakers to thank them for their contribution and share positive feedback with them as well.
And there you have it, 8 top tips for your first conference. And when the conference is over, you can breathe a sigh of relief and give yourself a huge pat on the back.