How to Host a Conference

Every industry holds conferences. There are financial investor conferences, alternative health, psychic, baseball card trading, and pet lover conferences. Some cost several hundred dollars to attend, and others are free. But what’s really involved in planning a conference?

Conference events can be beneficial to all parties involved. The hosting company makes money on the presentation fees or admission price. The presenters get to share valuable information to a targeted audience, as well as meet potential customers. The attendees learn about companies/subjects of interest, and gain networking opportunities.

Where and When?
While planning a conference may seem daunting, it just takes careful planning and a project scope (as well as a little investment up front). The first step is selecting a city, venue, and date. One may depend on the other. Many popular cities, like New York, have dozens of facilities suitable for a conference, and can accommodate a range of sizes. But plan ahead: some times of year are very busy, and you want to make sure not to schedule your conference the same weekend as a competitor’s.

Spread the Word
Once you’ve got a venue and date, tell the world! Take advantage of any mailing lists you have. Send direct mail and email blasts announcing the conference and key reasons people should attend/present. Include contact information. Advertise in your industry’s well-known publications as well as newspapers in the city where the conference will be held.

The first conference is the hardest. Potential presenters will want to know your success rate. If you’ve never put on a conference, look to competitors and make an estimate on attendance. Keep the mindset that this is the best conference ever! Your confidence will bring in presenters. Contact clients, well-known leaders in your industry, and ask colleagues if they know companies or individuals who would be interested in presenting their knowledge at your conference.

What to Charge
Set price levels in advance for presenters. You may charge a base price for a speaking slot and booth, and more for extras, like co-branding on promotional material, sponsorship of special events, etc. Most will select the basic (cheapest) level, but others may see value in the other packages, which may offer keynote speaker positions, or advertising included.

Late Registration
The number of attendees registering will get heavier just before the conference. People are procrastinators. An easy solution for registration is to have it available online as a form to fill out. This saves you a headache, and makes a nice database for future direct mailings.

Goody Bags and Signs
Promotional products are a favorite at conferences, not to mention a great way to get your name in the hands of every person there. Pens, notepads, mousepads, and candy are popular. Splurge on a few higher end items as drawing giveaways, or for your presenters.

Likewise, order signage with your company logo so that it is prominent throughout the venue space. You want everyone to remember the name of the company that put on such a wonderful conference! Include signs with schedules, directions, and identification of areas (lunch room, breakout sessions, presentation room). It never hurts to order signs for your presenters as well. There’s nothing worse than having to create one on the computer the day of the conference!

Follow up your initial mailing/emailing with a few more reminders about the conference. Add new information with each one (announce presenter, schedule, etc.).

That Je Ne Sais Quoi
Find special touches to differentiate your conference from others in the industry. Webcasts are popular today, and allow those that could not attend the conference to view it from home. Splurge on d�©cor and catering to make the conference not all about work. Your guests will go home looking forward to the next one!

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