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The business conference. A reliable source for networking and professional development — and often the most talked-about event of the year. If you are tasked to plan your next company conference, don’t take it lightly. Conferences require a unique skill set to be successful.

As with any event, the most important first step is to decide on a goal. Confirm why your organization is hosting the conference. Is it just what your organization does every year? Is there a change in the organization? Next, analyze what will make your conference a success. What are your attendance goals? What types of speakers do you want? What do you hope people will gain by attending?

DeAnna Rogers, the Director of Events for Digital Marketers, describes why goals are so important, “We set the goal for each event, from registration goals to sponsorship goals, and put it on a board. When you have it in writing, you have to own it.”[1]

Once your goals are laid out, and your team is ready to own it, create a wish list and a budget. A wish list includes the necessary items that you believe will help you achieve your goal for the conference. Your budget puts in perspective what you can afford to accomplish your goals. By combining your wish list with your budget, you can more realistically outline the speakers, events, and venue that will best support your desired conference.

 

How to Use a Professional Facilitator

The process of selecting speakers and conference activities is where things can get tricky. A professional facilitator can come in at the beginning of the planning process and help you select the best speakers and activities for your conference. With their knowledge of event facilitation and past successes, you can feel confident that your conference will meet your organization’s goals and be the hot topic of conversation throughout your industry.

A professional facilitator understands the seven key components of a successful conference[2]:

  1. Avoid self-promotion: This rule needs to be established prior to creating a speaker agreement for your next conference. Unless the discussion is along the lines of a book discussion with an author, all self-promotion can deflect from the main message and goal.
  2. Keep content fresh: With today’s technology, any repeated session might already be known to your current audience. Professional facilitators know the best topics to present and can help you avoid this dilemma.
  3. Insist on dynamic presentations: Flying by the seat of your pants or ancient PowerPoint presentations no longer hold the audience’s attention. Professional facilitators know what to look for in speaker presentations and can moderate panels or other activities to ensure audience engagement.
  4. Scheduling is key: Certain topics are better at certain times of the day. Scheduling a conference is a dynamic skill that requires the training that a professional facilitator can provide to ensure success.
  5. Plan for your crowd: A presentation hall with only a couple of seats filled can have the same negative effect as a small room with standing room only. Plan ahead for the right accommodations.

 

Other Details to Remember

Even with a strategic itinerary, budget, and goals in mind, a conference still requires many more components to run smoothly and achieve success. One of the most important and easy to overlook planning components is selecting a date. You have to consider what additional events or commitments your attendees might have during that time. Your selected dates can greatly affect your venue, speakers, attendees, and even sponsors.

After the date is selected and the itinerary is mapped out, turn your attention to event promotion to ensure a strong attendance. Consider how you will let desired attendees or sponsors know about the event. What levels of involvement will be available to attendees and sponsors?

Gathering information from your organization might be a good way to start the planning. You can tap into successful promotions from past conferences, as well as your organization’s contact databases. The key is to communicate early and often. Reiterate the goals you laid out at the beginning of this process. Your conference goals should align with the reason attendees would want to attend. Finally, consider how to make the experience simpler for attendees or sponsors by providing pricing and accommodation benefits as well as activities that incorporate benefits from the local community.

If the conference planning process still seems overwhelming, we can help you from day one with our network of professional facilitators. Please contact us, chat us, or call us at 1-877-212-2361.

 

[1] Interview With a Pro: How to Run a Successful Conference Without Getting Stressed Out, Business.com, 2017
[2] 6 Tips for Planning a Successful Conference, AdWeek, 2012