“Time is money.”

Ben Franklin wasn’t talking about conferences and meetings when he uttered these famous words, but they’re incredibly relevant. Every year in the U.S., around 245 million people participate in more than 2 million meetings, trade shows, conventions, congresses, and incentive events. These events contribute more value to the U.S. economy than almost any other major industry.

The sheer amount of events that takes place annually creates the probability that some will be stimulating and useful, while others will be downright boring. What’s the difference between an energizing conference and one that feels like a waste of time and money?

A program designed to create value for participants.


How to Design a Great Conference

A great conference is informative. It is engaging for leaders and participants alike. The venue is comfortable and appropriate for the goal of the event. Event planners and leaders are engaged, likable, relevant, flexible, and organized.

Whether you are designing a conference or determining whether attendance is worth spending the time and money, a few key questions can help you hit the sweet spot. Since 1992, we’ve been planning, designing, and facilitating conferences. Many things have changed over those 25 years, but a few key things haven’t. Successful programs are achieved through a set of eight core considerations.

  1. Build a Statement of Purpose
    Clarify why you are holding the conference. Clearly outline the issue or problem you want to address. This first step helps develop benchmarks so you can continue to improve.
  2. Define the Desired Outcome
    Know what you want participants to gain from the conference. Consider the three H’s. When the conference is over, what do you want them to have in their hands, in their head (i.e., know something they didn’t know before), and in their heart (i.e., believe something they didn’t believe before)?
  3. Anticipate the Probable Issues
    Consider the participants and identify the issues that likely will have to be addressed to achieve the product and purpose.
  4. List Critical Success Factors
    First, define what has to happen to reach successful outcomes. Then, outline the strategies and program approaches for addressing the critical factors.
  5. Identify Key Topics
    Ascertain what information or topics participants need to embrace (before and during the conference) to achieve intended outcomes. Group the topics in tracks if that’s appropriate, and develop preliminary timings.


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  6. Enlist the Right Facilitators
    Identify session speakers and facilitators who can relay your topics in a way that is credible, engaging, interactive, and motivating.
  7. Build Creative Engagement Opportunities
    Explore creative opportunities for participants to engage the content, such as Q&As, polls, and action plans.
  8. Finalize the Program and Timings
    Engage proven principles for building consensus such as delineation, merging, and lobbying to gain agreement on key outcomes.

These strategies can help you design, develop, and execute meetings and conferences that will be worth your time and money. They’ll also make sure your participants can get the most from these valuable events.


As always, you’re welcome to call on our team of experts with questions or to get personalized guidance. You can also learn more about how to perform successful engagement strategies through our flagship course, The Effective Facilitator.