Regardless of why you are planning a conference, you want it to attract the right guests and make a memorable impression. However, it can be easy to miss your mark if you don’t take the time to plan.
Even the most experienced event planner can face challenges from finding the best conference centre to booking keynote speakers. With so many moving parts, having a plan in place helps you meet your goals, stay on budget and see everything fall into place. Here’s how to plan an unforgettable conference.
Use Goals to Create Value
Whether your conference is a paid event or free for a corporate audience, bringing value to that audience is the best way to ensure success. Using your goals as a compass, you can ensure you create meaningful experiences your audience will appreciate. Many conferences get caught up in fluff and miss the important topics and content that will engage and inform their audience. Ask yourself some questions to help develop relevant content:
- Do I have one audience or several sub-groups I need to appeal to?
- What are the basic expectations for the event?
- How can I create next-level experiences building off those basic expectations?
- What information will resonate the most with the audience?
- What topics are of the most urgency and interest to the audience?
These questions will help lead you in the right direction. However, to reach your audience, you can consider sending out a survey to find out how they perceive true value.
Create a Checklist
Project management 101 calls for a schedule and checklist to keep things running smoothly. A checklist of tasks helps you outline your plan and assign dates to create a schedule. This keeps you on track and ensures nothing is missed. It also helps you look for opportunities to delegate jobs, so the planning doesn’t become overwhelming. Your checklist and schedule should include:
Ideal dates must be chosen to help you find a venue. If you have flexibility in timing, consider putting out feelers to your ideal conference centre Vaughan offers and use availability to help choose your conference date.
If your conference is by invite only, ensure you have time to send out invites and lay out the schedule and events, so people understand what the conference is all about.
If this is an event where you will sell tickets, allow enough time to market the event. Layout a schedule for each marketing channel and continue to build momentum as the event comes closer. A good example is to announce new keynote speakers, exciting entertainment, or major sponsorships as they are confirmed.
Consider the conference, what environment will suit the events, location, timing and of course, capacity.
Menu and refreshments
Is this to be a catered event? Is there a designated meal plan? Do you need several meals or just one major dinner? Is there to be cocktails and entertainment? Finding a conference centre Vaughan offers that can manage catering is the easiest way to take care of menus and refreshments.
Booths or seating
Is this event to consist of a single room with tables, chairs, and a stage, or do you plan to have booths and then a separate area for dining? If a seating set up is required, do you need a seating plan? If booths, how many participants are expected, and how will the booths be laid out?
Theme and decorations
How will the venue be set up? Is this conference strictly business or do you have a theme requiring decorations?
Are you planning to have entertainment, such as a live band, DJ, or magician or is there no need for entertainment?
Will sponsors be participating in helping support costs, providing keynote speakers, giveaways etc.?
Equipment and technology
What audiovisual equipment is required for speeches, presentations, booths, entertainment etc.
Do you need to hire keynote speakers or will speakers be from your corporation or sponsors?
Will all attendees participate in the same events or can they pick and choose amongst the speakers, entertainment and booths? Scheduled speakers must be announced via a program so guests don’t miss out on the events they wish to attend.
Gifts or prizes
Do you want to hand out free giveaways? Have some draws for prizes? Who will provide the prizes and gifts?
Theme and Design
Having a theme for your conference can help create a more engaging atmosphere. Finding a creative idea that ties in with your goals and suits your audience’s interests can be challenging but often pays off as it can inspire the entire event.
If you aren’t going with a theme, you should at least look at creating some form of design to help set the mood. Is it something more sophisticated with fresh-cut floral arrangements, candles on tables and elegant trees with lights or more modern with interesting techie light displays and digital images on screens? Adding design elements to the conference centre helps make the event seem more polished and creates an ambience to draw people in.
Create a Cohesive Schedule of Events
Try to make the day more interesting by creating different areas so people can move around and enjoy a variety of engaging activities. Keynote speakers, booths, seminars, interactive displays and a place to relax for a drink or cup of coffee helps bring the essentials to attendees in a more inviting and diverse way.
This avoids boredom by allowing people to experience new things. Don’t forget breaks if you are running tedious seminars so people can step out of the room, check emails, socialize and network.
Add Unexpected Elements
The element of surprise always creates unforgettable moments. Look for something unexpected that will add some excitement, fun or interest to the conference. Maybe it’s having an escape room with a relevant theme, unexpected entertainment that interacts with guests, augmented reality apps or social media walls, an element of VR… The point is to have something to inspire people in more engaging ways.
Take a Creative Approach to Menus
Don’t feel tied down to the usual five-course meal. Create different food stations for people to enjoy or break the day down so people have a variety of meals every few hours. Consider appropriate additions such as a cocktail lounge to wind down the conference or a fun coffee shop atmosphere people can visit on their breaks.
Have some indulgent offerings like a truffle bar to indulge guests or something more fun like a pizza or sandwich bar. Offer a food tasting hour, with interesting canapes, sushi, international flavours etc. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the menus you can create.