6 considerations when hosting a conference
Hosting a conference is one of the biggest opportunities to grow your brand, but it’s also a major challenge. You’ll be taking on the immense task of organizing an event that hundreds or even thousands of people can enjoy safely while increasing brand awareness.
It is also a significant investment, especially for a new company with no experience in the area. If you want a conference to go off smoothly, make sure you plan every detail carefully. There are a few elements to keep in mind for the perfectly planned conference.
1. Find the right venue size
How many people are you anticipating at your event? How many vendors and exhibits will be there? You don’t want an overcrowded event or one that’s too spread out, so estimate the attendance of your event before you scout and sign a venue.
The good news is the largest convention centers in the U.S. often offer teams that work with client events, and they should be able to guide you through the planning process. Make sure to look up previous events of a similar size to see how the facility handled them at all points, including ticket collection and admission.
2. Safety and health
Conventions are just getting back on their feet due to the pandemic, and many people are still anxious about large crowded spaces. To ensure a safe experience, offer distancing opportunities and provide sanitizing stations for people to eliminate germs before entering or leaving. Alternatively, if you’re organizing a more spread-out event, consider moving some of it to a location outside. Not only does the virus spread much less effectively in the open air, but fresh air can be a nice change of pace when dealing with a crowded convention.
3. Create a schedule
Organizing a conference or convention has many moving parts, and setting up a schedule early can make it easier to figure out timing. Have a schedule for every part of the process, from recruitment and sales to the post-event wrap-up.
That being said, be flexible. Schedules change, and you should work to ensure no one is feeling too overscheduled. Keep some time distance between events that are likely to attract a similar audience. You don’t want people feeling like they’re forced to make hard choices about what event to sacrifice along the way.
4. Book your speakers/talent
Does your entire conference hinge on that one headline speaker? Well, make sure you’ve nailed down their availability and interest before you put that big deposit down on the venue. If this is impossible due to timing, prepare to compromise and diversify.
There is nothing worse for an event than dead space, so make sure you have enough activities to fill the event, so people aren’t just milling around. To avoid trouble booking talent, check that no similar events are happening around the same time that might take away from your event.
5. Offer digital services
Be it due to pandemic worries, budget, or work conflicts, not everyone interested will be able to attend your conference. Adding some online panels or live streams may help to expand your audience beyond in-person attendees.
Even for those attending, digital services can help the convention run smoothly. Make sure your website is up-to-date and optimized for all platforms. You’ll want to have an online check-in service, if applicable, as well as an online map and schedule. This way, people can plan their schedule and arrive at the convention ready to go.
6. Ask for feedback
If your conference or convention goes well, the odds are it’ll be an annual event. Some massive conventions, like San Diego Comic-Con or D23, are among the biggest events of the year for their industry. That means it’s important to know what went right and what can be improved.
The best way to find out is to have a feedback system. Many conventions send out an online survey to all attendees a short time after the convention—the more detailed, the better. While not everyone will respond, the odds are those that will are the ones most likely to return.
It’s conference time
Once the doors to your conference open, you want all the big questions to be answered. Effective planning is key for a smooth and successful event. So get planning, and open the doors to a big opportunity.