Our Conference Manager, Tony Steedman, has organised hundreds of exhibitions, conferences and events during his 25-year career. To celebrate his quarter of a century in the industry, he’s going to impart some of his industry expertise with five pieces of advice for organisers who are just starting out. (Seasoned professionals may also want to take heed, as there’s always the chance you might pick up a little gem…)
Before you get into the logistics and nitty gritty of any event, make sure you know precisely what your end goal is. What do you want from your event? What does it look like? What do you want your delegates to take away from it? If you run an annual event, use the feedback from year’s delegates and see what they want this time round. Once you have a sound programme planned, don’t be afraid to throw in something a little ‘out of left field’ to your schedule. Sometimes a wild card can really pay off.
Figure out what 10% of your overall budget is and remove it from the number you share with your staff. Work strictly to the 90% and keep your contingency for emergencies, or special extras you can splash out on as the event gets close.
As one of the biggest decisions you’ll make while planning your event, give choosing your venue the attention it deserves. Make sure you consider location, facilities, hidden costs, licencing, transport links, quality of in-house catering… leave no stone unturned when questioning the venue staff and make sure you have a rapport with their team as they will be key to your event’s success. It may sound like an obvious thing to say, but do a site visit! You’d be surprised how many organisers don’t and live to regret it.
If it’s not your area of expertise, setting up social media channels for your event can feel daunting, but it really isn’t rocket science. Create a Facebook page, use your Twitter account or create a new one and start spreading the word about your event through LinkedIn groups. Make sure your hashtag is used in all your marketing and create a plan of action which begins some months before the big day, continues through the ‘live’ event and carries on a few weeks afterwards.
Second to content, this is the main reason your delegates are attending your conference. Thoughtful introductions and cleverly-tailored sessions will enable your guests to make relevant new contacts. They’ll never forget where they met the individual who got them their next big bit of business.
Any constructive criticism or praise you can glean face-to- face from your guests during the event is invaluable. Keep in mind you need to give your delegates space to get what they need out of your event, so don’t push your agenda. Post-conference feedback questionnaires will also help your de-brief – remember to incentivise people to respond and to encourage honesty, make them anonymous.
If you don’t have the time to organise your next event yourself, W12 Conferences runs an Event Management service, headed up by Tony. We can take all of the stress of the logistics for you so you can focus on looking after your delegates. If you’re interested, give the team a call on 020 3313 1606.