Business conferences can add a lot of value. Then again, they can also fall flat. It all depends on how you approach them.
If you think that just throwing together a bunch of colleagues and experts in a room is going to work, then think again. Running a successful business conference requires more effort and planning than you might think.
In this post, we run through some of the essential questions you’ll need to ask before you invest any of your time or money in such a project. Read on to learn more.
What Is Your Budget?
Like every other business activity, conferences must offer positive ROI. If there is no return on investment, they’re not worth it.
Think carefully about how much the event is going to cost first. Usually, this is the easiest to calculate. You work out the cost of people’s time, venue hire, food, drinks, transport, lighting, marketing and any other expenses.
Then you calculate the benefit. This can be a little trickier. One approach is to use other firm’s models to figure out the likely impact on sales or productivity. You can then track this in your own accounts, seeing whether the conference offers any measurable improvements in company metrics.
Who Is On Your Wishlist?
The next step is to narrow down your wishlist. For instance, you might want to hire dozens of speakers, but you might not have time to fit them all into your itinerary.
Just choose three or four and then concentrate on them. Continually revise your wishlist so that you can remain on budget. Often cheaper speakers still offer plenty of value.
Where Will You Host The Event?
Choosing the venue for your business conference is where the rubber really meets the road. Once you commit, it can be hard to back out.
Naturally, you’ll need a venue that offers all the amenities and facilities that you require. It’ll also have to be big enough to accommodate your audience and guests.
Before agreeing to any hire, speak to the venue in advance about how much space they offer and whether they can accommodate your plans. Managers should be able to tell you immediately if they have the facilities that you need.
How Will You Train People?
Business conferences sometimes focus on new product launches but, mostly, they’re about training people. As an organizer, you need to think about how you’re going to do this.
One option is iPad rental. The idea here is to hand out tablet computers to everyone in attendance so that they can follow along, use apps, and make notes. The other option is to provide everyone with booklets. However, printing and stationery costs can be high, not to mention the effects of all that waste on the environment.
You also want to think about the format your teaching takes. Will you host multiple small meetings and rotate people? Or will you have a lecture format, where speakers deliver their messages from the front?
What Is Your Agenda?
To figure out your actual agenda, you’ll need to do some brainstorming sessions with your team. Sit down with key people and go through, point by point, what you hope the conference will achieve.
Once you have a mission for the event, everything else should naturally fall into place. If you don’t have a mission, you’ll veer off target and won’t be able to offer as much value to your guests.
How Will You Market Your Conference?
To be successful, you’ll need to market your conference, explaining who it benefits and why. If it is a conference for your sales force, explain how it is going to help them generate higher commissions for themselves. If it is for new employees, market to them about why it is critical for their onboarding.
For public-facing conferences, you’ll need to market them slightly differently by going through reputable public channels. Social media, events booking websites and PPC are all possible options. If you have an email list, you can also use that.
How Will You Measure The Success Of The Conference?
Before the conference begins, you’ll need to thrash out how you’ll measure its success. The simplest way to do this is to design a questionnaire that you hand out to attendees as they leave. Yes, the survey should ask them about their experience. But more importantly, it should try to figure out what they’ve learned. You might also want to find out whether they liked the food or found the seating comfortable so, if there are any problems, you can change them for next time.
What Dates Are Available?
If your company is approaching a product or service launch deadline, booking a conference for the week before or after probably isn’t a good idea. A better option is to hold conferences during the low season, when demands on your team’s time isn’t as strong. Conferences can actually be a great opportunity for them to upskill and recharge their batteries.
Pick dates that minimize disruption for your business. Avoid major holidays or weekends. Contact venues early. In some cases, you may need to book a year in advance or more.
Which Vendors Will You Use?
For most conferences, you’ll need vendors supporting you. They take care of all sorts of aspects of the meeting, from the catering to the lighting.
Ideally, you’ll want to work in partnership with vendors you’ve had success with before. You may also want to hire an events manager (if you don’t already have one), to oversee the operation and ensure that it is a success. Many times, specialist managers know which vendors to choose because they have links to the industry.
What Is Your Elevator Pitch?
Most conferences involve selling something, even if they focus solely on employees, so consider your elevator pitch in advance. You want something that is really going to grab your audience’s attention and get them pumped about what you have to offer. Describe what they will learn and how it will impact their lives.