So you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and plan a business conference. There can be many reasons to run your own conference. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people in your industry, promote your business solutions, connect with customers and potential customers, and network with peers.
But pulling off a successful business conference can be tougher than it looks. At Wilson, we run corporate events and business conferences for global brands, so we know all about what can go right – and wrong. Here are some tips based on nearly two decades of our experience in this space:
- Get business and marketing partners on board early. Reach out to vendors and business partners to test their interest in helping you coordinate your event. Even if they can’t help through sponsorships or donating materials, they may be able to connect you with people who can help. The person leading your event should be well organized, and they should ensure that the event team is up to date on venue, costs, attendance, fees, and all the other related details (there will be a lot!). Also get your in-house or external marketing team involved early to help generate a unifying look and feel for the event. Expect to spend about a year planning for an event that lasts 2-4 days!
- Book those speakers ASAP. Popular speakers may already be booked out for events a year or more in advance. That’s why it’s important to reach out to the people you want to feature at your conference ahead of time… way ahead of time. Even if you haven’t nailed down all the specifics yet, contacting speakers to get a sense of their schedules a year or more out from your proposed date gives you a greater chance of booking just the right people for your conference. Knowing who your speakers are also gives potential attendees a powerful motivator to attend your conference well in advance of finalizing your other programming.
- It’s all about location. Plan your conference carefully based on the number of attendees you expect, as well as ease of travel and number of amenities. While you may find a super affordable venue in the middle of nowhere, if it takes three flight connections to get there and there’s no nearby restaurants, nightlife, or reliable internet, your conference will be sunk before it’s even started.
- Don’t forget networking. While programming content is the primary draw for most attendees, the promise of networking opportunities is also a huge motivator. We all long for the opportunity to connect with someone who can help our career or business. Be sure to schedule in some downtime for attendees to kick back and relax, whether that’s with a welcome reception, cocktail party, or even a trivia night in the hotel bar.
- Bring in the pros. Does all this sound a little overwhelming? It certainly can be. Many agencies, like Wilson, specialize in coordinating big corporate events and business conferences. We all want our first event to go off without a hitch, which is why it’s a good idea to bring in the pros your first time through or when the event simply gets too big for your organization to manage alone.
Bonus tip: Get social! Download our free social media guide on how to leverage social media to drive event attendance and engagement.