plan conference

Surprise! That’s what you want to offer your guests, surpassing their expectations and delighting them with the unexpected. A surprise is absolutely the last thing you want to encounter on the organizational side of an important event. The special challenge of a conference is that it combines so many different types of events: teaching, cocktail reception, dinner, mixer. You’re going to need to be on your toes to make sure each and every mini-event within the conference is a success. So, here are five missteps you’ll want to avoid when you’re planning your big event.

1. Conflicting Dates

It’s important that you plan ahead when deciding on a date for the conference you’re planning. Check to make sure that your conference doesn’t end up overlapping with other similar professional events or statutory holidays. You don’t want to have planned a fantastic conference, only to have everyone decline their invitations for a similar conference down the street. Do your research well in advance and you’re guaranteed to be in the clear.

2. Wrong Room Size

This can fail in two different directions: too small a room or too big. A too-small room may seem bustling and can generate good energy, but it may also disappoint guests who cannot be admitted because of overcrowding, or who cannot find their way to the bar or buffet. At the same time, a room that is too large allows energy to dissipate as your guests aren’t in close proximity and may hang back and not socialize with strangers, defeating the entire purpose of a party and its networking opportunities.

HotelPlanner has a great, bookmark-worthy space calculator that takes into account many typical conference and party layouts. Very roughly, plan on five to seven square feet per guest at an event where everyone will be standing; more if they’re carrying plates or wearing costumes. For seated events, you’re going to need 10 square feet or more, depending on how your tables are laid out.

3. Boring, Endless Speeches or Presentations

Audition your speakers: watch their YouTube videos or talk to people who’ve booked them before. A resume speaks to experience, not entertainment value, and you need to provide entertainment. If someone in a corporate role needs to make a presentation, make sure they’ve got the resources and training they need to make it as good as it can be. And when you are thanking sponsors, remember to keep it witty and genuine. Even the “must thank” list at the end of a conference can be entertaining and informative if done right.

4. Inconsistent Social Media Branding and Conference Hashtags

Your hashtag is a part of your branding, so decide on one early in the conference planning process and use it consistently. That way attendees will likely be familiar with it by the event date, and will use it themselves. Brand it across all social media channels—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest—and any other event-appropriate platforms. Having a set hashtag for your conference not only makes your marketing plan seem well thought out, but it also allows you to track engagement levels on social media before, during, and after the conference.

5. Unclear Invitations

It’s simple, really: date, time, place, dress code, special notes (croquet? bronc riding?), and whether or not you will be fed and watered upon showing up. Your guests aren’t asking much from you. Why make it difficult by leaving the date or time off the invitation? You may think it’s enough to have the time listed on your conference website, but it needs to be on everything, including the tickets. (We can help with that.)

Follow these tips and you’ll be set for conference success!

Image: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock

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