Checklist for Planning a Conference

Organising a conference or large event can be an extremely daunting task, particularly if you have little experience of event planning or perhaps hadn’t put yourself forward for the job. If you’re unsure where to start, here’s some top tips for organising a successful conference or event from Imperial Venues.

Create To-Do Lists

Whether you use an Excel spreadsheet or resort to good old-fashioned pen and paper, make a list of everything you’ll need to organise, from finding the venue down to the name cards for the table.

Prioritise the list based on deadlines and how long it’ll take to complete. Tasks such as booking a venue, confirming speakers and marketing will usually be some of the first to prioritise, with finer details such as choosing catering menus and organising hand-outs completed nearer to the event date.

Choose the Right Venue

The venue you choose could make or break your event, but don’t be phased by the sheer variety and number of locations out there. Think about the budget, the capacity, transport links other key requirements like catering provision to create your shortlist.

There are plenty of conference venues in London and other major cities. As part of your checklist, factor in some site visits. Take some time to draw up a shortlist and then visit them each in turn, preferably with a colleague you can trust to give a second opinion

Don’t forget to check out accommodation in the area if you think delegates will need to stay overnight.

Get to Know Your Venue

Once you’ve chosen the venue, make sure you get to know it inside out. Never underestimate the importance of finding a rapport with the people who operate the venue, because you’ll be working with them for a number of weeks, probably months!

Most venues have their own list of trusted suppliers of food, drink, decoration and entertainment. Taking advantage of their expertise can take some of the stress out of organising your event, so show them your checklist for planning a conference and see how many things they can tick off themselves.

Promotion and Marketing

Don’t be tempted to leave marketing and promotion until the last minute and enlist some help from your marketing team if you can.

Make a direct approach to key speakers and delegates to secure their attendance, send out invitations to high profile groups you want on board, and consider advertising in trade publications or launching an email campaign to generate interest. If you’ve successfully secured a high-profile speaker, make sure you shout about it in your marketing materials. Big names are a big draw, so put their name in lights.

Food and Drink

Whilst you won’t need to confirm final numbers until nearer the date, make sure you’ve selected your catering requirements well in advance.

The majority of venues will be able to provide you with a sample menu and will work with you to lay on food and drink which fits within your budget. While it may be tempting to cut corners on the catering, for some attendees it will be the chance to network over food and drink, so don’t underestimate its importance.

Plan the finer details

From a slick registration desk to handouts and AV-equipment, plan what support you’ll need on the day to make the conference run as smoothly as possible. It’s a good idea to note everything down and assign members of the team to oversee different areas on the day.

Collect Feedback

Once the event is over, don’t think your work is done! Rather than rest on your laurels, be proactive in seeking feedback about how you did. Get in touch with delegates, speakers and the people who attended and ask them how they found the event. Make sure you take on board what is said and put it to good use when planning the next event.

The easier it is for your delegates to provide feedback, the better. Consider using an online feedback form or an app for accuracy and efficiency. You may wish to consider providing incentives in the form of a prize draw, discounted entry to the next conference, or another genuinely valuable offer. Not only will this encourage people to spend time providing feedback but it offers further opportunities for engagement and post-event follow-up.

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