There’s a skill in planning successful conferences. Last week, I sat down with two experienced event planners – Kate Whitehair and Tamsin Stanley at Zing – to brainstorm some helpful tips and considerations at each stage of the event planning process. (This is the first of four posts. Click here to see all.)
Stage One: Pre-Planning
1. Articulate clearly the purpose or objective of the event. Think about what you want the event to accomplish. Consider how the event might support or bring to life the organisation’s vision, mission or values into the event. Also, does this event fit into other initiatives, or is parallel or complementary? If so, how should they be linked together?
2. Make the overall take-home message ‘do-able’ and aspirational. What do you want the individual participant to remember, to consider in terms of their involvement and ‘fit’ within the organisation, and most of all, to do exactly?
3. Consider an appropriate time to hold the event. Link the date of the event with the objective. Have a reasonable amount of time between the event and when a business outcome can be delivered. Participants needs to have time and resources to be productive and successful.
4. Make sure you have enough time to produce a worthy event. Yes, you need adequate planning time (usually 3-6 months). At the same time, plan enough time after the event to allow attendees to effectively produce the desired outcomes asked of them.
5. Get the right internal team together from the start. Start with all relevant people, then organise them into their type of input or decision level. For example, ‘Grade A’ people help make key decisions; e.g., the president for vision and direction, human resources for training and performance. ‘Grade B’ people might be involved only for specific decisions; e.g., Security for decisions about location, or IT for technology issues. Grade C are people who are good to keep in the loop; e.g., global or regional teams, other departments or units.
6. Budget appropriately. The ideal way to budget: get estimated quotes and build a budget, not set an amount and work from there. But, if you do the latter, get professional, neutral and free advice on the best way to spend a budget. Then, be a good person and reward those consultants who give you the best free advice.
7. Think outside this event. Internally: What events happened previously? Past successes or disasters? Past creative themes? Any business events which might influence messages, such as a recent merger or simmering public issue? Externally: Snoop around to see what the competition is doing. Not always possible, but you do not want to be surprised on the eve of your event when a bit of surfing would have unearthed some clues.
Any other planning tips? What else may have you organising in the Planning Stage? Please add your comments below.