How to organize a conference? Step-By-Step Guide
November 15, 2020

Step 1: Decide on a theme

Every great conference needs a theme. What’s the unifying message that your speakers will deliver and what’s the key takeaway for conference attendees? The best themes are catchy, relatable, and trigger an emotional response. You want the conference to inspire and stimulate conversation. Your theme has to enable that.

 Step 2: Assemble your A-team

You’ll need a dedicated team of people to assume responsibility for different aspects of the planning, negotiations, and promotion. Your core team will likely include:

  1. Planning team: Conference venue, accommodation, activities, catering.
  2. Administration team: Budgeting, attendee registration, ticket sales. This team/person will also be the main point of contact for questions related to the conference.
  3. Marketing team: Contacting the media, creating promotional material, managing your website, blog, and social media activities.
  4. Sponsorships team: In charge of securing sponsors, applying for grants, and fundraising. (Only relevant for conferences that rely on external sources of finance. Obviously)
  5. Volunteers: Helping with all on-site activities on the day of the conference: door management, ticket scanning, keeping track of the guest list, manning the wardrobe, guiding people, etc.

Your main job will be to coordinate the team, set priorities, and delegate tasks.

Step 3: Prepare a budget & business plan

Having a budget will also help you set the price for participating in the conference. Here are the most common items you’ll want to budget for:

  • Venue
  • Accommodation
  • Transportation
  • Catering
  • Speaker fees
  • Activities
  • Marketing
  • Team members

Preparing a budget with realistic estimates will also come in handy when searching for venues and negotiating contracts.

Step 4: Find sponsors & grants

If you’re financing the conference on your own and are not looking for external sources of revenue, you can safely skip this step.

If not, you’ll want to go out looking for sponsors or arrange fundraisers. The key thing to keep in mind is that the sponsors and their values should align with the theme of your conference.

 

Step 5: Settle on a date

Now it’s time to decide when your conference will take place. As discussed, that date should be anywhere from six months to a year ahead.

You also need to find out how long the conference will last. Industry consensus suggests that a conference with around 300 participants calls for two full days. Larger, more in-depth conferences may stretch for even longer.

Step 6: Book the venue

In general, venues might fall into three categories:

  1. University campuses: These are best suited for smaller, academic events and are relatively cheap to hire.
  2. Hotels: These typically have dedicated conference facilities and own catering. They’re the best all-in-one choice since they offer both accommodation and conference space. They also tend to be the most expensive option.
  3. Independent venues: This category includes all other types of venues that can host conferences. Many of these specialize in specific types of events.

But the cost of the venue is just one part of the puzzle. Here are a few other factors to consider when looking for the right venue:

  • Size: Booking a too-small venue where everybody has to squeeze into a tiny room is clearly a bad idea. Similarly, securing a giant venue for a relatively modest crowd will not only hurt your wallet but also make the conference feel empty and poorly attended.
  • Location: It’s best to pick a somewhat secluded location so that participants are better able to focus on the conference itself. Even better if the venue has calming, picturesque surroundings to help people relax.
  • Atmosphere: It’s crucial that the vibe of the venue suits your target audience and theme. You don’t want to host a business conference inside a giant gym, for instance.
  • Facilities: Does the venue have the proper layout and the right conference room styles for your needs? Does it have the necessary facilities like e.g. smaller rooms for breakout sessions?
  • Accommodation: Does the venue provide accommodation or are there hotels nearby?
  • Catering: Is catering included or can external catering companies easily get to and work inside the venue? If not, are there suitable restaurants and cafes in the area? (Keep in mind any special dietary requirements: vegan, kosher, nut-free, etc.)
  • Transportation: How easy is it for participants to travel to the venue by public transport? Are there enough parking spots for those who drive?
  • Technical aspects: Does the venue have the right IT, audio, and video equipment? You’ll need projection screens, microphones, plenty of charging spots for participants, and—of course—solid Wi Fi access.

Step 7: Arrange catering & other vendors

Typically, a dedicated conference venue will also provide on-site catering. If that’s not the case, you’ll need to bring in external vendors.

Decide on what type of refreshments you want to offer and how many breaks there’ll be for food. Don’t forget to check how far in advance the caterer needs to know the final headcount, the menu, and any special dietary requirements.

Think about any other external vendors you might need, such as a decorating company or suppliers of special IT equipment.

With all these essential tips of conference planning in Kolkata, Hindusthan Events is one of the finest professional Conference organizers in the city.