Planning a Conference

In a previous article we discussed the top tips for planning a meeting or conference. In this article we revisit some ideas and best conference planning practices.

Planning a conference is always a complicated process as there are so many things to consider. Having a plan in place (with backups to take care of as many eventualities as possible) will keep you one step ahead of any issues and help you run a successful event. It's vital to plan well in advance.

Set Conference Goals

It's important to know what you want to achieve from your conference. Consider a checklist to help you to work out your objectives and refer to it continually throughout the planning process. Think about how you are going to achieve and measure your objectives.

Select Your Day(s)

One of the first steps in the process is to identify possible days/dates; however there is a lot of conflicting information about what days are best when planning a conference.

Some people say Mondays make good days to start a conference (as people can travel over the weekend and start fresh); others say, Tuesday through Thursday are the best days for conference hosting as it leaves people time to plan and travel. Some say Fridays are not good because people are gearing up for the weekend, distracted, or tired from the week. Our advice? When it comes to days/dates, it's more important to consider how long your conference will run overall, who your audience is and how far delegates will be travelling i.e. will they be attending from all over the world, within the UK or locally?

Set a Timeline

Create a timeline and work backwards from your proposed event date so you can build in all the necessary lead times for each of the activities you require.

Scheduling your Conference

Develop an event outline schedule (and add more detail as your event evolves). Make sure you know what is going on and when it's scheduled to take place.

Consider what an early start may mean for your attendees while balancing what starting later will do to the number of presentations you can reasonably schedule and your "end time" e.g. it may be best to start a Monday conference mid-day so people can travel in on Monday morning.

Plan a Budget

With your goals and scheduling in place, planning a budget before deciding on a venue can help you stay realistic in terms of costs. Consider your revenue sources including ticket prices, sponsorship contributions, exhibitor contributions and food and drink prices (if you're planning on charging).

Try to think of creative ways to keep costs down, such as the types of food that will be available, having drink tickets rather than an open bar (offer drink tickets with the invitation) or "all inclusive food and drink packages". Send invitations by email rather than by "snail mail". Although paper invitations are more traditional, email is more cost effective and adds an eco-friendly plus point to your event.

Choosing a Venue

Venues come in all shapes and sizes and different price ranges. Compare rates and what services are included. This is where the details really matter. Take some time to go through everything you will need.

Remember things like internet access, sound systems, tables and chairs, coffee, and snacks. Hotels normally charge by the number of rooms you use and meals you serve. Estimate attendance numbers carefully. Ask how many free rooms (if any) will the hotel include for conference speakers?

What are the food costs? The fewer choices you offer attendees for meals, the more money you can save but make sure to include a variety of food types to suit your attendees requirements (for example, a vegetarian dish, gluten free etc.). There are surprising number of diets so make sure you can accommodate the majority if not all of your attendee's preferences.

What technology services will the facility provide? You may have to hire someone to troubleshoot any technical glitches (or is technical support included)?

A Personal Service

If you're looking for a personal service and want to get the best deal possible when selecting your conference location, use Booking Partners as your conference booking agent. We can provide you with a complete conference solution from finding the right venue, to negotiating the best price, to making sure you have all the services and facilities you require. We can also check the conference venue contract and arrange accommodation for your speakers and delegates.

Contact us on +44 (0)330 022 8643 or via e-mail at

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