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14 essential steps to a successful conference (03 Aug 08)

Here’s what a top conference organiser advises – and I know from experience how good his suggestions are

In our organisation we arrange 198 seminars every year –almost four every week - so I am a bit of an expert on that sort of thing.

But I don’t know nearly as much as Howard Evans, one of the UK’s top event organisers. So I asked to him reveal his secrets.

I learned a lot, and since all of us at some point have to organise a conference, training day or an event of some kind, I think you will too.

Here are his fourteen essential steps.

His last, overall comment is quite funny – but very wise, so keep reading!

1. Be clear on why you are holding a conference

The hardest part of organising an event is to get people to attend.

To succeed you really do need to ask yourself why you are doing it and what’s in it for your prospective delegates. Ask yourself these questions:

Once you have answered these questions, you should have the answers to the next problems:

  1. What should the content of the conference be?
  2. Who should attend?
  3. How can you reach people?
  4. What should the style of the venue be?
  5. What should the price be - if you are charging?

2. Give yourself enough time

Imagine your reaction to receiving an invitation just two weeks before an event. This is too late for most diary schedules. Six to eight weeks is a minimum - the ideal is around 9 weeks.

This is near enough for people to feel a sense of urgency so that they book and on the other hand it’s far away enough so that their diaries are free.

3. Timing, location and venue

This is not as easy as it sounds.

Are there certain dates to avoid, such as public or religious holidays and holidays? Are there any competing events on at the same time?

It’s generally thought that the best days are Tuesday to Thursday.

Location is vital, as you need to have good travel connections and parking space.

4. A good team

This is often an overlooked, but crucial element.

Things to look for when you are putting together a conference team are leadership skills, people who are personable, a professional “can-do” attitude, people who are IT literate and most important, calm under pressure with bags of common sense.

5. The right programme and speakers

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