How to organise a conference

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Discover our top 10 tips on how to organise a conference, including budgeting, marketing, delegating, catering and ensuring you have the right insurance.

How to organise a conference

Organising a conference can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but also a stressful one. Whether you’re planning a small workshop for 10 people or a large-scale summit with multiple speakers, there is a great deal of planning and preparation required to ensure your conference is a success.

So how do you organise a conference that not only runs like clockwork, but delivers an engaging and memorable experience for everyone involved? In this article, we’ll share some of our top tips for planning and executing the perfect event.

10 Tips for organising a conference

Here are 10 essential tips to keep in mind when organising a conference:

1. Define your conference objectives

First things first, you should have a clear understanding of why you are organising a conference and what you want to achieve with it. What are the core objectives and outcomes that you want to accomplish? Do you have a main message or topic in mind that you want to convey to conference attendees? 

Having a defined purpose will help you structure the rest of your planning, such as who will be your speakers and audience, what the agenda should be and how to promote your conference.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Organising a conference is not a one-person job, especially for larger events. You will need a dedicated team of people who can oversee different aspects of the planning and execution, including marketing, registration, budget, health and safety, catering, venue set up, etc.  

It’s important to have a clear division of tasks and responsibilities among your team members, as well as regular communication and coordination to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal. 

3. Choose the date and location of your conference

One of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is when and where to hold your conference. When choosing dates and locations for your conference, you should consider:

  • The availability of your preferred speakers and venue

  • The holidays and peak periods of travel and accommodation

  • Any potential conflicts with other events or activities that is likely to compromise your audience

  • The accessibility and convenience of transportation options for your attendees, especially if they are travelling from different areas

  • The capacity, accessibility and suitability of the venue for your expected number and type of attendees, as well as the format and agenda of your conference

  • The availability and quality of accommodation options, catering services and other amenities for your attendees

For most conferences, you should ideally start looking for dates and venues at least six months in advance, or even longer if your event is large or complex.

4. Don’t underestimate your budget

Planning a conference can be very expensive, so having a realistic and detailed budget that covers all the expenses and revenues of your event is essential.

Some of the common expenses are likely to be:

  • Venue rental

  • Catering and refreshments

  • Accommodation

  • Marketing and promotion

  • Transportation

  • Speakers’ fees and travel expenses

  • Printing and materials

  • Technology and equipment

  • Insurance costs

  • Contingency fund

Map out your budget as accurately as possible based on your research, quotes, contracts, etc. If possible, speak to other conference organisers who have held similar events to get an estimation of likely overall expenditure. You should also track and update your budget regularly, making adjustments as needed in the event of changes or unforeseen circumstances.

5. Invite your conference speakers

One of the core elements of a conference are the speakers who will share their knowledge, insights, and experiences with your audience. You’ll therefore need to invite speakers who are relevant, credible and align with your conference objectives.

When inviting speakers for your conference, you should consider:

  • Their expertise in their respective field or industry

  • Their availability 

  • Their fees and travel expenses

  • Their speaking style and ability to connect with your audience

It’s essential to maintain regular communication with your speakers before, during and after the conference, providing them with any information or assistance they might require.

6. Plan your agenda

A meticulously planned agenda will help to ensure that your conference runs smoothly, effectively and on time. When planning your conference agenda, factor in the following:

  • The timing and duration of the conference, as well as the individual time slots for different sessions or activities

  • The format and structure, including any keynote speeches, refreshment breaks, panel discussions, networking sessions, etc.

  • The balance and variety of your content, such as the level of difficulty, interactivity, diversity, etc.

If possible, do a practice run through of your agenda before the conference, making any adjustments or improvements as needed.

7. Get people talking about your conference

You can plan the best conference out there, but if your target delegates don’t know about it, you’ll be faced with row upon row of empty seats.  

Getting your conference on sites such as Eventbrite is essential, but other marketing factors to consider are:

  • Your branding and messaging, such as logos, slogans, themes, etc.

  • Which marketing channels and resources to use in order to reach your audience, such as your website, social media platforms, email campaigns, press releases, flyers, posters, etc. 

  • Your marketing strategies and tactics for engaging and converting your audience, e.g., offering early bird discounts, referral incentives, freebies, drink tokens, testimonials, etc.

8.  Sort out catering arrangements

Never underestimate the importance of having adequate food and drink provisions at your conference, especially if it’s an all-day event or longer. More often than not, a conference venue will offer in-house catering. However, if this isn’t possible, you'll need to hire external caterers. 

This is what you’ll need to think about when planning the catering:

  • The dietary requirements and preferences of your attendees, including allergies, intolerances, vegetarianism, veganism, halal, kosher, etc.

  • The quantity and quality of food and beverages that you’re providing, such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, coffee, tea, water, juice, etc.

  • The timing and duration of refreshment breaks and how they fit in with conference activities

  • The budget and cost of catering, allowing yourself plenty of time to compare and negotiate prices of different catering providers

Don’t forget to find out how far in advance the caterer requires final details, such as the number of delegates, the menu choice and any specific dietary needs. 

9. Prepare your conference materials

You’ve got your date, venue, attendee list and catering sorted. But what about the materials you will need on the day, such as programmes, screens, lanyards, signs, microphones, merchandise, etc? 

Make sure that your materials are consistent with your theme and message, and that they are suitable for your purpose and audience. You should also ensure that you have enough materials for your expected number of attendees and programmes have been carefully proof-read prior to being printed.

Your audio and visual equipment should also be tested ahead of the conference (along with the venue WiFi!) and instructions should be provided on how to use the equipment if there are multiple speakers.

10. Organise insurance for your conference

Organising a conference comes with its fair share of risks and responsibilities, so you need to have adequate insurance to protect yourself, your organisation, your speakers, your attendees and your venue from any potential claims or losses that might arise during your event.

Our conference insurance will cover you if you are held liable for injury to a person or damage to venue or property caused by your negligence as the conference organiser. 

For example, if a delegate slips and falls on a wet floor during the conference, or if a speaker’s laptop is damaged by a faulty power socket, public liability insurance can cover the legal costs and compensation that you might have to pay.

Whether it’s a one-off conference or multiple events, you will be covered for:

  • Accidental bodily injury to a person

  • Accidental death of a person

  • Accidental damage to third-party property

  • Accidental loss of third-party property

Ready to organise your conference?

We hope you’ve found our guide on how to organise a conference helpful and informative. While we hope your conference runs without a hitch on the day, it’s always wise to expect the unexpected –and to be prepared for it. 

Contact us today to find out how Events Insurance can help protect you, allowing you to concentrate on what’s really important – organising an engaging and successful conference!

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