Organising the Annual Conference – A Short Guide

So, you’ve been tasked with organising the annual conference.  If you are not a professional conference planner the task may seem daunting.  You may be asking yourself ‘where do I start?’  First things first; create a plan of action.  Then you can prioritise your tasks and make notes as you go.  You will need to do your homework, and organising a conference includes a lot of leg work.  But the rewards will be huge.  Here, we have compiled some helpful information to help you create your Annual Conference Plan of Action.

Pick a Date!

It might be that your predecessor booked the annual conference for the same week each year, in which case your job is easy!  However, if there is no precedent then you will have to consider many options:-

  • Don’t pick a week or month when then are going to be other conferences within your industry/sector
  • Avoid holiday seasons and school holiday times to ensure you maximise attendance
  • Is it during a period when your attendees may be busy (i.e. retailers are busy in the run-up to Christmas whilst those in the financial sectors may be busy before and after the end of the tax year!)?
  • Are there times throughout the year when the cost of a venue is cheaper, because demand is not as high?

Choosing the Venue

The place to start is with the event venue, everything else will lead on from there.  You need to take into consideration where your venue will be, cost, dates, capacity and whether it will provide some of the elements you may need like food and drink, audio visual solutions etc.  For some tips on how to choose the right venue, you can read one of our blog posts for a helpful guide – http://talking-slides.com/choosing-the-right-conference-venue/

Picking the Right AV Company

Hopefully, your chosen venue will provide some basic AV equipment as part of your package.  They may also have an in-house team.  However, you will also probably need to look at an external AV company to compare prices and ensure that you are getting a good deal, and also you may need some extra equipment or staff.  To find out what to consider when choosing an AV company you can read one of our handy blog posts – http://talking-slides.com/choosing-an-av-company-for-your-conference/

Speaker Line-Up?

So, who will entice the masses and impart wisdom to your attendees?  Choosing the right speakers is vital in ensuring that you attract attendees to your event.  Speakers will also make or break your conference.  Choose the wrong people to talk at your annual conference and you could end up with low attendance figures or unimpressed attendees who won’t bother coming next year.  They need to be experts in their field, interesting, affordable and able to commit to the dates you have in mind for your event.  Either do your research and choose those that are well-known and liked on the conference circuit within your sector, or seek the assistance of a speaker bureau or agency.  Opting for a speaker bureau or agency can cost you more when booking a guest speaker, however it could save you time.  If you choose to find people yourself be prepared to spend hours trawling the internet searching for the right people, asking for recommendations, liaising with potential speakers, haggling costs and also sorting the logistics.  It is worth weighing up both options, and of course it also depends upon how much time you have to plan!

Food and Drink Solutions

How and what will you feed your attendees?  This is another area that will take time to research and consider.  You will need to ask yourself a few questions before you even begin researching your F&B provider;

  • Does the venue have an in-house team who can provide options?
  • What time of day will refreshments need to be provided?  This will determine whether or not you have a ‘meal’ or lighter options available.
  • What are the numbers that need to be catered for?

Things that will affect your choice of caterer will include budget, dietary requirements and time of year (if your event is in the busy wedding period or near Christmas, then expect many caterers to be busy!).  You could consider ‘mobile’ or ‘street food’ options to bring down cost and to add a ‘quirky’ element to your event.  Mobile food vendors have become increasingly popular in recent years and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and themes.  If your budget is very limited then attendees would be able to pay for food and drink themselves from mobile vendors.

Getting Technical with Event Tech!

You have got your venue, your speakers and your audio visual solutions in place.  You are really getting there!  Now it’s time to consider what event technology could enhance and improve the attendee and event sponsor experience.  From conference recording and event apps, to electronic badges and live streaming – there is a whole world of event technology out there aimed at making your job easier, creating sponsorship opportunities, tailoring the attendee experience and measuring ROI.  You just need to decide what it will add to your event, how it will make your conference stand out and whether you can afford it or afford to be without it?  You can read our short guide to event technology that may improve your annual conference right here – http://talking-slides.com/5-simple-technology-solutions-to-improve-your-conference/

Promoting Your Event

You have put in hours of work and it is nearly there.  You have got your venue, your speakers, event technology and all your event solutions and suppliers sorted!  But what about maximising attendance and attracting delegates.  This is when social media really becomes your friend (if it wasn’t already!!).  You need to make sure that you are promoting the event beforehand and creating plenty of interest and hype!  If this is an area you are unsure about and you need some quick tips on how to best utilise social media to publicise your event then read our handy blog post – http://talking-slides.com/creating-a-social-media-strategy-for-your-conference-or-event-a-simple-guide/

Anything Else

To conclude our quick guide to organising the annual conference, you may also want to include in your plan of action;

Goodluck!