Checklist for planning a conference
- 4th Jan 2024
- Conferences, Events
Organising a conference or large event can be an extremely daunting task, particularly if you have little experience of event planning or perhaps hadn’t put yourself forward for the job. If you’re unsure where to start, here’s some top tips for organising a successful conference or event from Celesta Venues.
Start with a project plan
Whether you use an online software, Excel or good old-fashioned pen and paper, make a list of everything you’ll need to organise, from finding the venue down to the name cards for the table.
Prioritise the list based on deadlines and how long it’ll take to complete. Tasks such as booking a venue, confirming speakers and marketing will usually be some of the first priorities, with finer details such as choosing catering menus and organising hand-outs completed nearer to the event date.
Choose the right event space
The venue you choose could make or break your event, but don’t be phased by the sheer variety and number of locations out there. Think about the budget, the capacity, transport links other key requirements like catering provision to create your shortlist.
There are plenty of conference venues in London and other major cities. As part of your checklist, factor in some site visits. Take some time to draw up a shortlist and then visit them each in turn, preferably with a colleague you can trust to give a second opinion.
Don’t forget to check out accommodation in the area if you think delegates will need to stay overnight.
Get to know your venue and suppliers
Once you’ve chosen the venue, make sure you get to know it inside out. Never underestimate the importance of building a rapport with the people who operate the venue, because you’ll be working with them for a number of weeks, probably months!
Most venues have their own list of trusted suppliers of food, drink, decoration and entertainment. Taking advantage of their expertise can take some of the stress out of organising your event, so show them your checklist for planning a conference and see how many things they can tick off themselves.
Promotion and marketing
Don’t be tempted to leave marketing and promotion until the last minute and enlist some help from your marketing team if you can.
Make a direct approach to key speakers and delegates to secure their attendance, send out invitations to high profile groups you want on board, and consider advertising in trade publications or launching an email or social media campaign to generate interest. If you’ve successfully secured a high-profile speaker, make sure you shout about it in your marketing materials. Big names are a big draw, so put their name in lights.
Food and Drink
Whilst you won’t need to confirm final numbers until nearer the date, make sure you’ve selected your catering requirements well in advance.
The majority of venues will be able to provide you with a sample menu and will work with you to lay on food and drink which fits within your budget. While it may be tempting to cut corners on the catering, for some attendees it will be the chance to network over food and drink, so don’t underestimate its importance.
Plan the finer details
From a slick registration desk to handouts and AV-equipment, plan what support you’ll need on the day to make the conference run as smoothly as possible. It’s a good idea to note everything down and assign members of the team to oversee different areas on the day.
Now the event is over, you can breath a big sigh of relief and find out how you did. Get in touch with delegates, speakers and the people who attended and ask them how they found the event. Don’t underestimate the valuable insights you can gather which will help you plan an even better event next time!