Your Conference Planning Guide

Conferences are a great way to network, meet new clients, get together with existing suppliers and even find potential new hires. However, attending conferences is expensive, so it’s natural that you will want to make the most out of your conference budget by seeing as many people as possible, and getting some real work done while you are there. This conference planning guide will help you to make sure that your next event goes as smoothly as possible.

Have a plan

It may sound strange to include ‘a plan’ as a part of a pre-conference checklist, but many conference novices do make the mistake of thinking that they can just show up, wander around and chat to whoever is available. While hopping from keynote to round table during the day and then going to whatever parties are planned on the evenings is a lot of fun, it’s not the best way to spend your time. Every conference-goer should experience the informal networking of a conference at least once in their career, but preferably at a local event, or even an ‘unconference’ on their own time. If you’re spending your work budget on flying to another continent for a conference, make sure there’s a strong business case for doing so.

Send the right people

If you’re demoing a product, send someone who worked on the product and who knows it inside out, as well as a PR person who is good at demos. If you’re buying something, send someone with purchasing power and a trusted person from the department that will be working with the items you buy. If you’re hiring, the team lead of the department looking for staff is a good choice. Basically, the people who will benefit the most from the conference should go to it. Don’t use conferences as a reward or a holiday for people who won’t get much out of going.

Book a quiet room

If you want to host a lot of meetings, try to book a meeting room in a quiet location. It is possible to hold meetings at conference tables, but you’ll probably find that it’s too noisy to have a proper discussion, and you may miss some meetings because people can’t find you among all the other attendees.

Consider renting a hotel room near the conference center, and directing people to a meeting room there for your appointments. You should find that most business hotels have a good hotel meeting room booking system that will let you reserve a room in hour-long time chunks, so you only pay for the time you use.

Get the tech in place

Make sure you pack enough plug converters and chargers for the people you are sending. Test your laptops before you go, and if necessary get a SIM card for the country you’re going to, so that you have a local number people can call. In addition, pack some mobile dongles (or have a mobile web plan that supports tethering), just in case the WiFi at the conference doesn’t work.

Kevin Kholi

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