Submitted by: Bruno Torres

Tips for Planning a Work Conference

shutterstock_83500891Planning a work conference can be a daunting prospect. However, if done in an organised manner this large task can be broken down and easily organised and coordinated. Here are our tips when planning a conference:

  • Define the purpose of the conference

Determining the aim of the conference is the first step in planning a successful event. Without knowing what the outcome is, it’s hard to work towards achieving that.

  • Who will be attending?

Who are the intended delegates, how many of them are expected, and do they have any special requirements (for example, travel considerations or accessibility).

  • Create an event timeline

Create a timeline starting with the conference date and then work backwards. This will ensure there is enough time to organise the event, provide sufficient notice to speakers, and arrange invitations for attendees.

If travel needs to be booked, then the earlier this is done the better.

  • Content planning

Determining the content of each stream and the topics for presentations will then determine the agenda for the event, as well as speakers that will be required.

  • Finding a venue

Choosing an appropriate venue will depend on the number of delegates expected, the size of the event, your preferred location (considering travel requirements), and the facilities required (you may need multiple rooms for breakout groups and streams).

  • Organise facilities and equipment

shutterstock_97553222Speaker facilities such as microphones, projectors, and whiteboards need to be considered, as although most venues provide these, you still want to ensure they are agreed upon and tested.

Other facilities such as catering availability and seating are also crucial to a successful conference, so it’s important to ensure these are organised and locked in well before the conference.

  • Accommodation

If the conference is being held at a location that requires attendees to travel from interstate or overseas, it’s vital that accommodation options are sourced and provided. Some things to consider when looking for appropriate accommodation are:

  • Distance from the venue – does it need to be close to the venue and, if not, what are the transport considerations?
  • Type of accommodation – hotels are usually the default, but executive apartments are also a great way to host delegates
  • Room configuration – will delegates be sharing or will each have their own room?
  • Size of the accommodation – will it fit enough of the delegates?
  • Cost – does it fit within the budget (if being provided), or is it acceptable to delegates?
  • Other activities

Will you be hosting any events outside of the conference hours? A recreation day or group dinners are often organised to add a social element to the entire event.

  • A backup plan

shutterstock_66866014Assuming that all will go smoothly is usually a mistake. Ensure that you have watertight contracts in place with the venue, and that key items such as extra projectors are placed on standby in case of any faults. Try to determine the most important facets of the event, and plan for the worst if possible.

  • Budget

All of the above needs to fit within your allocated budget, so careful planning and research will determine whether your ideal conference is even possible. Be flexible when budgeting and sourcing venues.

  • Post conference

After the event, organise a debrief with key stakeholders, discussing feedback from sessions and the conference in general. Determine whether it was a success and what should be considered for the next one.

There will also be plenty of admin to do, such as paying outstanding accounts for the venue and accommodation.

If planned well, a conference can be organised smoothly and efficiently. The key is to start early and follow a process.

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