In Part 1 of the series, we laid out first steps along the road to a successful conference. Timing is everything; having a vision and setting objectives for your conference are essential. As are defining target groups, and securing a convenient location for potential attendees. These steps are necessary before you start working on the agenda, and are ready to tackle these next ‘stops’ along our roadmap:
6. Speaker Selection
Put yourself in your attendees’ shoes: What do they want to hear, and whom do they want to hear it from? Be sure to make every single contribution count! Do not select speakers solely based on the fact that they held the speaking slot in prior years. Before inviting speakers to return, evaluate past performance’s feedback. If previous guests were not satisfied, look for another speaker. Clearly communicate the content you would like speakers to focus on. Speakers should be briefed on what is truly important to your attendees to assure a successful talk for all involved.
7. Marketing Efforts
Marketing efforts will not only be key for reaching your desired audience, but also for securing the perfect speakers, and for pre-selling tickets. A good starting point is evaluating marketing and communication methods that were implemented successfully at past conferences. Also, look at industry benchmarks: what has worked for others, and what areas can you improve upon? Advertise in industry publications, establish targeted social media campaigns, and tap mailing lists of industry leaders and cooperation partners. Creating a buzz early, and pre-selling tickets is essential when planning a large conference. At the end of the day, many decisions are based on the number of attendees. Schuette adds, “finding ways to always keep the conference on top of people’s minds, even if that means simply showing what percent of the event is currently sold,” to the top approaches for conference marketing efforts.
Learn more about marketing your business at “Getting ‘The Word Out’ … About Your Business Event – How To Market Your Event.”
8. Event Success Measurement Metrics
Especially in financially difficult times, it is essential for corporations to measure event success as part of their marketing activities. Return on Investment (ROI), and Return on Objective (ROO) are among the most commonly and successfully used tools in the events industry. It is the event manager’s role to support executives during the process of defining SMART objectives and metrics, and to implement event measurement programs.
Learn more about the importance of ROI and ROO in our recent post “Measuring Corporate Event Success.”
Involve key stakeholders in the initial budgeting process. Their role is to determine activities and their cost, and to set priorities. Resources allocated to each activity need to be updated regularly throughout the planning process. Often, the use of simple tools for budgeting is most effective: “I use an Excel budget that shows income and expense, and provides as much detail as necessary to support each item. This helps if cuts or re-allocations need to be made along the way,” says Schuette. Using tools familiar to stakeholders speeds up decision-making processes. In addition to providing numbers, include graphics to visualize budgetary decision. Stakeholders will appreciate the additional visual help! An important but tricky part of budgeting is determining the amount that should be set as the conference participant fee. Schuette shares his technique: “Set a fee that will cover your costs and works for the demographic of the majority of your attendees. It is never a one size fits all approach, and past history on fees helps immensely in this process”.
Finding room and board for thousands of attendees, speakers, and event team members can prove to be one of the more challenging parts of organizing a large conference. Be sure to secure room blocks at hotels in the conference location’s vicinity early. Corporate guests often have limits imposed on their travel budget, so be sure to collaborate with multiple hotels in the area, and offer rooms in different price ranges. The more rooms you commit to, the lower the price per night, so consider pros and cons for your guests. Assure that booking procedures for your guests are as easy as possible. Ideally, the hotel will set up a registration Web site for your group, with the discount code integrated automatically. In communications with attendees, it is essential to “promote the benefits of booking in the block, so as to maximize reservations,” says Schuette. For the event manager, he suggests, “to be sure to at minimum have an audit clause in the contracts, so as to get credit for reservations made outside the block”.
Stay tuned! In the next part of this series you will find out how to best communicate with your event staff, and get an answer to the question “How much outreach to possible attendees is too much?” There will be information on efficient tools for coordinating speakers’ contributions, we will discuss A/V requirements for conferences, and close out by giving you some tips on conference security measures.
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This contribution features opinions of Sean R. Schuette, CMP. Sean works for IntrinXec Management, Inc., and has more than 14 years of experience in planning trade shows, conferences and events, some with attendance as high as 15,000 people.