The idea of planning a conference can be a little daunting. With so much to think about, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Ideally, you should start planning as soon as possible so you have time to prepare every aspect sufficiently. If you keep organised and stay on track, your conference should be a great success and you can add another achievement to the books. At Milton Hill, we have hosted many successful conferences and meetings. With this in mind, we’ve created the ultimate conference planning checklist, which has everything you need to succeed. You don’t necessarily have to follow these steps in order, and ideally the earlier you can get them ticked off the better.
Get the basics sorted first when planning a conference
Start with a conference objective
This is an obvious one, but before you plan anything, you need to understand what your objective is for the conference. Is it to advertise, inform, network? Whatever your reasoning, it will affect your planning so get a clear idea from the get-go. If you are working as part of a team, regular meetings are vital. Even if just via Skype, you need to ensure everyone is on the same page and has the same objectives. A “kick-off” meeting is advised, followed by catch-ups. Have a way for everyone in the team to access all resources, such as Google Sheets, where they can see a live update of changes and decisions. Make sure you have locked-down the theme of the event and that it will be clear to anyone involved.
Set a date for the conference as far in advance as you can. The earlier you can advertise tickets or send invites the better, as it will maximise turnout for you. You want to create hype and excitement for your event so guests rush to buy tickets. Ticket opening and registration times will need to be publicised to make sure that people know about it. If you host a really great conference, it could become an annual event and delegates will schedule their year around it.
Before you book anything, decide on your budget. Use a spreadsheet to record how much you have and any purchases you’ve made towards the conference. This includes catering, venue, advertising and any payment to the speakers. Use a collaborative spreadsheet so team members have a live update on everything that’s happening. This will help to avoid any confusion with planning, although you should have already arranged who’s in charge of what. Ensure you keep a strong focus on communication to the planning and execution of the conference is as smooth as possible. Click here for conferences gift ideas.
Sort those elements that will make your event stand out
Choose a range of relevant speakers who you’d love to have at your event. Discuss with your team anyone who you think would be an asset, and who will draw people to buy tickets. Some larger names may need to be paid, whilst up and coming individuals may be keen for the exposure. Having a mixture of the two is great and will give your delegates a variety. Don’t forget to get details of any software or measures (for example, will the attendees need access to Wi-Fi for a demonstration) that will need putting into place for their talk. Sorting great speakers is one of the most important steps on our conference planning checklist.
A great venue can make or break a conference. It’s a good idea to view it before you make any decisions to ensure your venue has everything you need for a successful conference. Speak to the staff about features such as catering, accommodation and facilities so you know everything will be covered. Having a great team of staff behind you at an event is vital. They will need to be on hand throughout the day and need to have experience in the sort of conference you’re throwing. Shop around for the venue and speak to staff members to get an idea of their experience and how they will handle the conference. This process can take time, so again, it’s vital to start as early as you can. Click here to see what makes a good conference venue. View our Venue Hire Oxford page for more information!
Once the details of your conference are sorted, it’s time to think about the next part of our conference event planning checklist: sponsors and promotions. Get in contact with any potential sponsors and assemble materials about your conference, how it will run and who will participate. Once sent out, follow up with the appropriate person and discuss how they feel about the conference and if there are any conditions of the sponsor. They may ask you to make some changes. If they are serious about sponsorship, arrange a face-to-face meeting to arrange the details.
Promote your event and make sure they will be comfortable
Conference catering and accommodation
Once you’ve organised the main aspects of your conference, as it draws nearer, it’s time to start thinking about the finer details. Some venues will include things like catering and accommodation, whereas some you will need to outsource for. If guests are travelling for the conference, having some form of onsite or offsite accommodation advertised will encourage people to travel. If you want to serve refreshments or even a sit-down meal, plan this ahead of time so you can include the pricing in the ticket. Even if you will rely on delegates to arrange their own food, small things like having water available throughout is an important extra. These tips will help to make your event run smoothly and are a must on our conference planning checklist.
Promote your event to gain attendees and then feedback
Once a conference is over, there’s still plenty to do. Social media is a massive part of advertising for conferences so having someone on the team with inside knowledge of this is perfect. They can work on the advertising prior to the event and the coverage of it afterwards. Encourage delegates to share moments from the day and use a universal hashtag so everything is grouped together. Focus on networking with guests, reflect on your achievements and use what you’ve learnt to plan the next conference. Get feedback from your delegates so you have a better understanding of what you did well and what guests would like to see more of. This is especially important if you’re thinking of making your conference an annual event.
We hope that you have found our conference planning checklist helpful and wish you luck in planning your next event. If you’re looking for the ideal location for your next conference, look no further than Milton Hill House. Located just 13 miles from Oxford and close to the M4 and M40 motorways, our venue is easily accessible for all delegates. We have 20 flexible event spaces which can be tailored to your needs and an experienced team who can ensure your day runs smoothly and efficiently. We can fit up to 170 delegates in our largest space in a theatre style. Enjoy ample on-site parking, delicious catering and luxurious rooms for guests to relax in after the conference.