How to organize a conference (with pictures)

How to organize a conference (with pictures)
How to organize a conference (with pictures)

Conferences are a great opportunity to bring people together to exchange views on topics they share. Often these events take place in universities, economic sectors, marketing groups or religious associations. If you decide to host a conference, you will realize that success depends on producing a long to-do list first. Indeed, it will be necessary to rent a room, draw up the list of participants, obtain the necessary equipment, computers, and also find a restaurant service for refreshments and meals. If you have any doubts, take a break, take a deep breath, and do not question your ability to brilliantly succeed in your project. The key is in an organization where one step matches one goal. In addition, you will need to be constantly aware of the progress made and the work that remains to be done.


Part 1 of 4: start planning

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Step 1. Start early

The start of preparations should take place at least 8 months before, and even sooner if there are many participants, or if the subject of the conference is complex.

Also remember that rooms and meal services must be booked months in advance. On the other hand, many participants will need some time to organize their trip

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Step 2. Create a committee

He will be responsible for making all decisions concerning the conference. Using this formula will give you the flexibility to have multiple opinions and review as much detail as possible before closing a question.

  • You will need a coordinator who will act as the focal point and make all the important decisions. In fact, he will devote almost all of his time to getting the project going well. You can avoid the hassle and use an event planner if your budget is sufficient.
  • If you have organized a similar conference previously, try to have the same coordinator leading the project. If it is not available, make an effort to at least obtain the preparation files before starting your planning.
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Step 3. Write down your goals and agenda

It's about being clear about what you want to accomplish by hosting your conference. This step will make it easier for you to make a decision. Knowing in advance the nature of the message you are trying to get across will help you move forward.

If you've never done this job, it's best to follow a simple, easy-to-implement plan. Normally, the duration of the conference should not exceed one or two days, with 250 to 300 participants at most

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Step 4. Choose the place and date

Even if you are not yet ready to fix these items, you will need to have some idea of ​​the length of the conference.

  • You will likely have date constraints depending on your commitments, but usually a conference is scheduled for a certain time of the year and on certain days of the week. For example in Europe, this kind of event takes place between March and June or September and October. For other periods, public participation may be restricted. In addition, the days include Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday. Be inspired by the standards followed in your industry before choosing your period.
  • The duration depends on the number of participants and the objectives to be achieved. For an audience of 250 to 300 people, plan at least 2 full days.
  • Usually, you will choose to hold the conference in your city. However, you have to take into account the amenities available like an airport, hotels and well-equipped rooms. It is best to opt for an attractive capital or large city that participants would be tempted to visit. A hesitant person might decide to attend a conference taking place in a tourist region.
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Step 5. Give the conference a title

This will make it easier for you to advertise and plan. You will also be able to choose your material and build a presence for the conference on social media.

Choose a title that reflects the objectives and / or audience of the conference. To get an idea, look at titles from similar conferences and take your pick, without sacrificing your originality

Part 2 of 4: Organize the conference

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Step 1. Establish your budget

There is nothing you can do if you do not know the total amount you will have available to organize the conference. In fact, it is enough to distribute this amount between the various items: the rental of a room, the equipment and the remuneration of the speakers. Apply your budget scrupulously, and if you delegate some of your responsibilities, check that your employees are respecting their financial limits.

The budget may be reduced if you hire a sponsor to sponsor the conference. He will offer you the money, but he will also have a say in the content. Typically, it will include interventions or an expert panel, and its name will appear on posters with its own logo. In return, you will have the advantage of receiving money in advance, which will allow you to move forward with your preparations. Sponsors can be local business leaders or philanthropists, depending on the purpose of the conference

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Step 2. Set ticket prices and marketing methods

Participation in some conferences is free. On the other hand, for others, the price is exorbitant. When deciding yours and when tickets go on sale, there are a few factors that you will need to consider.

  • What is the cost of organizing the conference? If this is a small local meeting, the cost will be minimal or even zero. Therefore, it is a good idea to opt for free participation. Another method is not to charge the interveners. The other participants will have to pay a small fee to cover the costs of the organization.
  • Usually, to attend a conference that lasts several days or includes meals, you have to pay a registration fee that varies from a few tens to hundreds of euros, depending on the nature of the conference.
  • Sometimes the price depends on the professional situation of the participants. For example, students or members of the host association pay less than the rest of the public when it comes to an academic conference.
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Step 3. Choose the location

When considering the possible locations, keep in mind the number of participants, amenities, parking areas, proximity to public transport, airports and hotels. Your goal is to find a location that allows participants to access it as easily as possible.

Find out if your city has a convention center or if there is a hotel with meeting rooms. For a small conference, you can organize it in a church or a communal center

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Step 4. Designate a reception team

If you have chosen an establishment that specializes in organizing conferences, all you have to do is hire the staff. He knows his job well and will be able to provide you with the necessary assistance if necessary.

Some establishments have an event organizer who can help you. Even if the service is chargeable, it might be worth taking advantage of it, if only so as not to be continuously on the go for weeks on end

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Step 5. Secure the menu

Remember that participants would hate to go through their days without eating a decent meal, and most of them are unaware of what is available on the premises. You have the choice between the on-site restaurant, if one exists, and an outside caterer who provides breakfast, lunch and snacks.

Keep in mind that some participants may have allergies, restrictions or preferences that may complicate menu choice. An experienced caterer could offer vegetarian menus or gluten-free options, kosher food, nut-free, etc

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Step 6. Insist on making an inspection

When everything is ready, leave nothing to chance, and do a final check before the conference opens.

Go to the conference venue the day before and meet the staff. Check that everything is in place, and possibly fix the last remaining details

Part 3 of 4: fix the content

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Step 1. Set the schedule

You already know the title and purpose of the conference, but you still have to specify how it will unfold. There are many types of conferences, and each line of business deals with the issue in its own way. If you are unsure of how to proceed, follow a classic formula.

  • Start with the main theme or an opening speech. Usually, the task is given to a celebrity in the field, who makes a presentation or gives a speech. So, try to persuade a well-known speaker to take on this role. The inaugural session can take place in the early evening and end with dinner. It can also be programmed at the beginning of the morning of the 1ster day of the conference.
  • The following day or days will be divided into shorter sessions. The content of these sessions is determined by the participants, who make written proposals, but you can also organize workshops, video screenings or other activities. Depending on the number of participants, you have the option of having a single session, i.e. a plenary or several concurrent sessions, led by different groups, from which participants can choose.
  • End the conference on a high note with a closing session to which you invite a captivating speaker or challenge the participants.
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Step 2. Choose the type of your sessions

This type depends on the standards applied in your industry. You have the choice between lectures, workshops, presentations on new practices or work in progress, or a review of the current state of the profession. Sessions can also be interactive, or open to participants who wish to make a presentation.

  • The nature of your sessions will have an impact on how you publicize the conference. So, decide in advance what content you think is best suited to the target audience.
  • The duration of a session can vary from 45 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the subject and the number of speakers.
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Step 3. Consider whether to add more activities

To make your conference a success, it is best to include other important events in the schedule.

  • You can set aside time to deal with business organization or the granting of rewards.
  • It is also possible to plan meals, or ask participants to bring their own, only if participation is free. Indeed, the registration fee should cover at least one meal. You can also schedule a lunch break, and let participants have their meals in nearby restaurants, if the conference is in town.
  • Consider the possibility of providing participants with leisure activities, such as sightseeing, going to the theater, a concert, or seeing a movie. In some areas these related activities are part of a conference, while in others they are seen as out of place.

Part 4 of 4: Advertise

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Step 1. List the participants

There are several types of conferences: academic, religious or professional, each with a specific audience. Before you get started, you will need to take care to choose a promising theme.

If you only target a few people, such as employees or members of your church, publicity for your conference is almost immediate. A simple email or two plus an announcement on the newsletter or at business meetings should be enough to bring the event to the attention of those concerned

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Step 2. Invite leaders from your industry

You will need an experienced speaker to facilitate the opening session and convince the participants.

When you are sure of the participation of reputable people, you can include this information in the conference documentation and publicity materials

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Step 3. Create a website

Nowadays, setting up a digital platform has become necessary to ensure the success of an event. Choose a domain name that contains or reflects the title of the conference. Post important information, and don't forget to include the site address on printed materials and advertising posters.

  • Also indicate the date, time and address of the room where the conference will be held, as well as the names of the main speakers. You can also include information about transportation, accommodation options and the schedule if ready.
  • Subsequently, you can create a link for an online registration.
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Step 4. Start an advertising campaign

Start early enough, even before a year, to give participants time to submit their proposals. However, your approach will depend on the size of the conference and the nature of the audience you are targeting. Determine the points where potential participants collect their information. Here are some possibilities to consider:

  • social media such as the Twitter page and the Facebook page of the organization sponsoring the conference,
  • mailing list managers (Listservs) and email addresses,
  • business blogs, magazines, newsletters and newspapers,
  • posters, brochures or other advertising material sent to affected groups, organizations or businesses.
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Step 5. Launch a call for proposals

In your advertising material, you should include a call for participation in the conference or a call for proposals. These calls are aimed in particular at people or groups wishing to submit documents, create an expert panel or facilitate a workshop.

Depending on your branch of activity, you may impose a certain number of words not to be exceeded. In the academic sphere or for small conferences, the organizers also ask for a summary of a few hundred words. In larger meetings, the entire text of the speech is requested

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Step 6. Begin the registration phase

It is best if participants can register before the conference, even a few months in advance to more easily assess the importance of attendance.

  • Start an online registration through the conference website. If you lack experience, you can use a specialized paid service, such as "registrant" which will receive registrations for you, classify them and send them to you by conventional means.
  • Also provide participants with a telephone number and fax to register, and accept payments by credit card.
  • If you don't want a phone or online registration, develop a form and post it on the conference site as a PDF document. This will allow participants to download, complete, and mail it to you.
  • To encourage early registrations, offer a discount to those who register a month or more before the conference date. The price will be slightly higher for participants who register either a few days before the conference or on the opening day.


  • Ask speakers well in advance if they need any special equipment to make their presentation: a podium, a projection system, a large screen, or computers.
  • When setting the menu, take into account participants who have special dietary needs.
  • When comparing room rents, also ask for the prices of food, water, drinks, etc. Indeed, they can be particularly high.
  • When setting up the room, take into account the purpose of the conference. Generally, you will arrange the seats as in a movie theater or if you need to take notes, you will need to provide seats with a writing tablet.

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