Ultimate Conference Planning Checklist

The Ultimate Concise Conference Planning Checklist | HTR

Putting together a conference requires a mix of practical skills, marketing savvy, and delegation. As the coordinator, you must assign and track the detail work of subordinates while keeping your eye on the big picture.

If you're tackling your first conference, you might struggle with organizing all of the necessary work. Keep reading for a concise, easy-to-implement conference planning checklist. 

Establish a Vision

Before you tackle anything else, you must establish a vision for the conference. It's the only way your conference will stand out. 

Let's say you work for a tech company. You're up against dozens of tech industry conventions and trade shows.

You need a clear compelling focus for the convention. Look for one that hones in on a pressing need or concern in your field.

Big Picture Planning

At this stage, you must decide how big of a conference you want in terms of attendance. That largely defines the budget you need ahead of time.

Lock down an event date or dates and a venue. Develop a list of potential speakers. You'll need a master schedule that you can adjust as you finalize speakers and presentations.

Solicit estimates on essential services, such as catering, marketing and audio rentals. Use those estimates, along with any fees and travel costs for speakers, to finalize a budget.

This is also the right time to look for event sponsorship. Sponsors can help defray costs, provide equipment, and expand marketing reach.

Finalize Logistics

Around two or three months out from the event, you should finalize the event logistics. That means you should confirm room availability with hotels. Lock in any live entertainment.

It's also the time to confirm rentals on any equipment you need. For example, say you plan on using video walls. Call the rental service and make sure they assigned that equipment for your event for the right dates.

Publicity/Marketing

Your budget, conference topic, and event size will also determine how aggressively you market the conference. A small conference on an extremely niche topic will get a relatively small marketing push to a small audience. A large conference focused on an industry-wide issue will get a larger push.

At a minimum, you should establish a page on your website devoted to the event. You should also set up a registration/payment portal for the event on your website.

Other options you can consider include:

  • social media pages
  • video marketing
  • ads in industry publications
  • email marketing

Always focus your efforts on the channels that will reach your target audience most directly. 

Follow-Up

The 1-3 weeks leading up to the event will consist almost entirely of following up. You'll reconfirm speakers, on-site services, and entertainment.

You should also send out email reminders about completing registrations and booking rooms. Also, make sure you send out a finalized copy of the schedule.

Parting Thoughts on Conference Planning Checklist

If you're taking on your first conference, a conference planning checklist can help keep you sane.

Organization and delegation are the keys to successful conference planning. You must organize tasks into critical and non-critical categories. Delegate non-critical decisions and follow up. Handle critical decisions yourself.

This approach gives you a fighting chance at success.

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