So why don’t you put a conference together yourself? It may sound daunting, but you can do it!
Here are some tips to help get you started, and who knows—this may become an annual event!
Choose Your Objective
Before anything else, think about what you want to gain from this conference (and what others would want to gain—why will they come?). You should decide on a main objective and then branch off from there.
Decide on a Place and Time
Where do you want to hold your conference? Somewhere centrally located or a fun, exciting location? Do you want free time to explore where you are, or just conduct business? Think about price as well when deciding—do more people need affordable accommodations, or can it be a luxury event? Once you’ve decided on the place, choose a month according to the weather—you may not want a scorching summer event or a freezing one, either.
Remember, this can be a great vacation/getaway as well as a conference. Make sure you reserve a hotel and enough rooms, as well as the areas where the conference will be held.
Plan a Budget
If these are mostly new business owners attending, you may need a more affordable event, but your attendees are well-established clientele, you may be able to put on a more extravagant affair. Think about accommodations, food, guest/keynote speakers, and materials. Leave a little extra room in your budget; you may end up with some surprise expenses.
Get the word out to who you’d like to come. You can send mailers, put it on your website, and include it a newsletter. Make sure you set up information where people can find answers to any questions—maybe a separate web page or something on your own site.
Plan an Agenda
Make sure you organize this to your guests’ needs. Allow time to get from place to place and a little downtime, but make it worthwhile. Address what they want, including workshops, panel talks, an interesting keynote speaker, and other productive activities.
Secure Guest and Keynote Speakers
Contact any guest speakers and secure their attendance; make sure they are relevant. Think about payment and make sure to confirm with them as the event gets closer.
Make Sure Your Guests are Comfortable
Make things easy for your guests with clear information and easy transportation. You may want to provide a gift or goodie bag in their rooms if budget allows. Provide food (meals and snacks) and perhaps a cocktail hour for mingling. Allow for easy registration when they check in, and have someone available to answer questions. Greeting the guests and having the agenda/directions posted in the venue is helpful.
Let Number of Attendees Dictate Some Aspects
If you have a large conference, you may need to think differently than if you have small numbers. You can divide up your large numbers to help keep everyone engaged. With small numbers, you can make it a bit more personal and intimate.
Thank Your Guests (and Everyone Else) and Get Feedback
When it’s all over, be sure to thank everyone. Let them know you appreciated their attendance and help. Get feedback so you’ll know how successful it was and if there will be a next time. If there is, you’ll know what to change and what to keep the same.
If this is something you want to do—go for it! It may take some work, but a conference can provide innumerable, very valuable opportunities.
Heather Legg is a writer who blogs about small businesses, living an optimistic life, and great hotels to visit, such as the Lotus Honolulu.