Conferences and other corporate events can be stressful and daunting. However, if you approach them in an organized and systematic way, they are—dare we say—a breeze. Remembering these key elements is vital, and to help you with that we have devised a simple checklist for conference organizing. Keep this by your side throughout, checking them off as you go. A simple lapse in memory can be a professional conference organizer’s downfall.
The venue alone will take a big chunk out of your budget. Your checklist will need a whole section allotted to venue hire, and it will need to include the following:
–Cost: Does it fit within my budget? Does the price differ depending on the time of year?
–Is it available on the date of the event?
–Ambience: Does it have the type of backdrop and decor that is fitting for the event?
–Does it have a lecture hall? This is necessary if you plan on hosting a presentation.
–What’s the maximum occupancy? Does it have accessibility accommodations?
–Does it have multiple rooms? You may need separate rooms for hosting different workshops, holding a briefing or accommodating VIP guests.
–Does the venue include chairs, tables and audiovisual equipment, or will I need to acquire these items elsewhere?
–Is there sufficient parking space? Will latecomers need to park across the street and make a long trek on foot?
–Does it have a kitchen and bar?
Your checklist should include a timeline. You should have a time estimate for each activity, including a buffer to anticipate unforeseen problems and delays, such as technical difficulties. In other words, if you think a presentation is going to take 60 minutes, make it 70 on the timeline. Consider the following activities:
–Workshops, trade-show expos
–Guest speaker lecture
–Product launch presentation
Each of these points can be broken down even further and have its own mini checklist. A timetable for a product launch presentation, for example, may look something like this:
–Opening statement: 5 minutes
–Introduce product: 10 minutes
–Share your own experience using the product: 10 minutes
–Slideshow with in-depth product specs and description: 20 minutes
–Q&A: 5 minutes
Will there be a guest speaker? Is this person an authority figure who is well-known and respected in the industry? The presenter can be a professional speaker for hire who is knowledgeable in your niche. It could even be one of your staff members who is confident speaking in front of an auditorium full of people. Once you have a speaker identified, you will need to address the following points on your checklist:
–Will this person need to be remunerated for his time?
–Where is this person traveling from? If coming from out of town, what will be the cost of travel and lodging expenses?
–How knowledgeable is this person in your niche?
–Are there videos of this speaker from past presentations?
–Will the speaker need special equipment, such as a comfort monitor?
Once you step inside the venue, it should be obvious what company is hosting the event. Don’t be modest about making your company name known. The name and logo should appear in various mediums. How will you market your enterprise? Consider these options:
–Traditional banners and posters
–Digital signage displays
–Flyers, brochures and catalogs
–Frequent mentioning from presenters and speakers
–Live social media posting via digital screen
What is your corporate sponsor getting in return for funding your event? It will typically be arranged in advance what the sponsors will receive. This often includes opportunities for exposure. Create a checklist to ensure all the sponsor’s requests are met.
–How will the sponsor’s logo be shown? Will it appear alongside your own in flyers, banners and digital signage?
–Will the logo also appear on promotional gear and other giveaways?
–Will the sponsor be allotted a booth?
–Will the sponsor be hosting its own presentation?
At the very least, your event should serve light refreshments and finger foods. If your budget allows, you may be able to opt for gourmet catering or even a self-serve buffet. You need to be clear, though, on the type of food that will be available. Here is a food checklist:
–Does it accommodate special dietary needs?
–Will alcohol be served?
–Will there be dessert?
–How about appetizers?
–Have to-go boxes on hand so attendees can take leftovers home.
–Does the venue have a kitchen where the food can be kept warm until service?
Safety is paramount; there are also tremendous legal implications if someone was to get hurt. Will your event include the presence of security personnel?
–Is security required?
–Does the venue provide security?
–Will there be security personnel by the main entrance?
–Will there be patrol around the perimeter of the venue?
–Are the hired personnel from a reputable organization with training on how to confront an unruly individual or crowd?
Transportation and Lodging
If your attendees come from farther out, are there nearby hotels? Will there be shuttle buses that can take them back and forth between the lodging and venue? This is especially relevant if the event spans multiple days.
–What hotels are near the venue?
–Can you secure a discount rate for attendees?
–For VIP attendees arriving from the airport, will you provide special accommodations, such as pickup by car or by a senior staff member?
Pre- and Post-Event Follow-Ups
The checklist should extend beyond the actual event. It also needs to take into consideration marketing and lead nurturing in the days before the event to increase ticket sales. The same effort needs to be repeated after the event to encourage consumer loyalty and retention. What are some ways you can engage with your audience outside the event?
–Social media contests with prizes (e.g., free tickets) as giveaways
–Discounts after the event as a thank you gift for attending the conference
–A countdown mini-event to create hype and anticipation for the event
–Surveys to gauge overall satisfaction
Sarah Hill has written extensively about event planning and conference management for Group 7 Events Ltd., a well-known event production agency in the United Kingdom. Sarah has contributed to many reputable meetings and events blogs, including Etouches, Boomset, meetingsnet, Bizzabo and many more. She is travel-crazy, a lover of wine and the queen of baking.