Planning, organizing, and executing a business conference is a big undertaking. You’ll need help, so be sure that you have a dedicated team by your side to help you through the planning stages and into the day or weekend of the event. Depending on the size of the conference, you should start planning anywhere from 6 months to a year ahead of time. Take the following steps to successfully organize a business conference.
Pick A Theme Or Focus
Your industry will determine, in part, what the theme of your business conference is. Is there a major focus or topic you plan to discuss? Aside from just a general business theme, many conferences have a unifying, motivational theme as well.
Figure out what the theme, focus, or mission of your business conference should be. Following these conference tips, you can settle on a fitting name. Once you know your mission, the rest of your planning should be working towards that goal.
Figure Out Your Budget
Before you can start booking venues and vendors, you’ll need to establish a budget. This may be set by your company, or it may be your responsibility to find sponsors to fund the event. Wherever your funding is coming from, figure out a budget. Establishing a budget can also help you figure out how much you should charge for attending the conference.
When creating your conference budget, don’t forget these key costs you’ll need to cover:
- Food and drinks
- Speaker fees
- AV and production
- Employees (unless volunteer-based)
Depending on your event, there may be more costs to consider, but those are the basics you’ll need to worry about. There’s also optional decorations, other activities that may add cost, transportation and accommodations, and more.
Pick A Date And Book Your Venue
If you’ve already started planning, you should have a general idea of when you want your conference to happen. Figure out exact dates and find a venue to host your conference during those dates. If you already have a venue in mind, it may be easier to see when it is available and choose exact dates based on that. On the other hand, if you’re set on a certain date, you’ll have to find a venue that can accommodate those specific dates.
Book early to ensure that you can find a great venue around the time that you were planning on. It’s also vital to get this done early so that you can start booking vendors for the event. Some venues only allow certain corporate caterers or may require in-house vendors only, so don’t book anything big before the venue.
Once your venue is booked, you can begin to book vendors. If the venue has pre-approved vendors, you may have to work off of their list. If not, shop around for the best prices or the best vendors locally. Some may even be willing to donate a certain percentage of their services as sponsors of the event.
Business conference food can get boring and repetitive, so mix it up if you can! Look for caterers with various options, and always consider the potential dietary restrictions of your guests. You’ll also need plenty of coffee to keep attendees alert. Ideally, find a caterer that can also help with the setup and distribution of food over the weekend so that you don’t have to book servers as well.
Other vendors, you may need to include a corporate event production company for audiovisual and other staging needs. If you want to record the event, you may also want to book a photographer or videographer to record speakers.
Line Up Speakers
Speakers are what makes the conference, and they will be the main draw for attendees to come. It’s vital that you find great, engaging speakers that can share useful information for your industry. Often, one big-name speaker is enough to attract guests, with supporting speakers as well.
Create a list of your ideal speakers and work from there. If there is a big name in your field, try to book them! They may be out of your price range, but it’s worth a shot. Otherwise, work through a list of potential speakers to reach out to. If you or someone on your team has a connection that can help to secure a speaker, use it. Look into your networks to see how you can use your connections to find speakers.
When reaching out to the best keynote speakers, be polite and professional. Be sure to discuss your mission, important information like dates and locations, compensation, and more. If they have any specific technology or other accommodations, make sure you figure those details out as early as possible.
Promote Your Event and Register Attendees
Once you have some speakers to draw in guests, begin promoting your event. Depending on the type of conference you’re hosting, you may have a list of potential attendees already. If not, you can invest in an email marketing campaign or paid advertisements to promote the small business conference and attract attendees.
Have a system in place for registering attendees to the conference. There should be a simple form for them to fill out online to streamline the process. You may have to budget for a website or some other software to register your conference’s guests. A ticketing site can also help with easy payments if you don’t already have the software set up on a website.
Execute Your Business Conference
Once the planning is set, create an agenda for attendees and one for those running the conference. Plan every detail of who is in charge of what and when each phase needs to happen. On the day of the conference, ensure that you know when you have access to the venue to begin setting up. Coordinate vendor arrivals and attendee arrivals and stay on top of every element so that the show runs smoothly!