HOW TO PLAN A CONFERENCE
Continued from Part One HERE
3. PUBLICIZE AND COMMUNICATE WITH POTENTIAL ATTENDEES
What good is all this planning if no one attends your event? Once the venue is secured, now is the time to start all the specific planning of the schedule as well as to begin to publicize the event. Secure your speakers and presenters, and create your publicity strategy for the coming months. Create an event website with integrated registration & payments, making it easy to find out information about the event, register, and pay for their tickets. You want to offer as many different opportunities for people to hear about your conference as possible, so send out press releases to relevant media outlets or to publications specific to your industry or niche. Seek out websites that might be interested in doing an interview with someone on your team to learn more about the conference. Make sure your speakers have all of the information necessary for them to be able to promote the conference to their audiences as well. Utilize social media, podcasts, blog posts, and email newsletters to get the word out about the event and encourage people to sign up. Set up automatic responses in your email responder so that registrants get immediate confirmation and information when they complete the registration process online.
You will also need to coordinate printing materials at this point, and that includes banners, flyers, schedules, folders, name badges, brochures, or branded gifts that you would like to include for attendees of the conference. Depending on your hotel and restaurant decisions, you may want to offer a way for your guests to inform you of any special dietary restrictions or needs or special accommodations that need to be made for them. You will also need to plan for special transportation (shuttles to and from the airport, etc.) that you may need for attendees or your speakers and presenters.
4. FINALIZE DETAILS WITH THE HOTEL/VENUE
About one month before your event, you will need to work with either your event planner or with your hotel/venue to finalize the details of your event. This means you will need to finalize all of your event needs, menu needs, number of hotel rooms reserved, AV equipment needs, number of meals needed, etc. Now is the time when having an event planner can be especially helpful—as you are continuing to handle your publicity and answer attendee questions, your event planner can work directly with the hotel on your behalf to confirm and coordinate all of the nitty-gritty details that must be discussed. This time-consuming process also requires that you know exactly what to ask the hotel for and that you are prepared for every eventual possibility. Having a certified meeting planner like SweetPea™ assist you at this stage of the game can truly transform the process and reduce stress on your team as they know that the conference needs will be exactly accommodated.
5. GET READY TO ROLL
The last week before a conference is always full and can be a bit stressful. It’s important to double check your needs again and to confirm that everything you need will be completely taken care of. The last thing you want is for your speaker to arrive hoping to give a PowerPoint presentation only to learn that there is no overhead projector in the room that they are speaking in. And you would hate for the five vegetarians on your list to be overlooked and served pork for dinner. These types of things are the minutiea that a meeting planner will review over and over again with your hotel contact person to ensure that every detail is in order. That way you can spend your time compiling your registration packets, getting nametags in the right folders, and making sure that you have your introductions written for each of your speakers. Review your attendee list and highlight those people you want to be sure to connect with during the conference. Review your meeting goals with your team and discuss strategies for achieving those goals during the conference. Review your own presentations if necessary, and continue with your press releases and social media strategy so that you are getting the most publicity possible from this event.
6. JUST DO IT
Now is the time to shine. Thanks to the detailed planning over the past six months to a year, you can walk into your conference this week knowing that it will be a success. You don’t have to worry about any of the details because you are secure in knowing that they are taken care of—and if any challenges do arise, this is another opportunity for your meeting planner to show their stuff. If SweetPea™ is your coordinator, we will have regular access to hotel staff to ensure that everything runs smoothly. We can make certain that your agenda is perfectly executed, as well as coordinate transportation and registration, amongst all other day-of necessities. SweetPea™ can add additional comfort to you and your conference by handling any and all issues that may arise.
7. ENJOY THE RESULTS
Now that your conference is complete, you can look back over the week with gratitude for the many things that were learned, the connections made, the positive publicity your company or organization received, and the incredible feedback gained from your colleagues and attendees. Thumbs up for a job well done!
As you can see from this list, conferences can be difficult to plan. Planning requires a good amount of lead time to get everything organized. It is very important to have experience working with hotels and to have excellent negotiation skills to be able to secure good contracts with hotels and to achieve everything desired within budget. Your team also must show a high attention to detail in order to ensure that nothing is forgotten throughout the process. In the midst of all you have to do to plan a conference, connecting with a meeting planner is an excellent way to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. SweetPea™ Meetings offers strategy, site selection, negotiation and contracting to help you in this process. Site selection and hotel contracting is even free of cost—you don’t pay us for our time. Other services we offer are: agenda planning, transportation logistics, full on-site event staffing and website design.
Having a qualified and experienced meeting planner on your team gives you the support system you need from the get-go to make your conference a success.