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A Beginner's Guide to Organizing Your First Conference

Planning a conference for the first time can be daunting. With ample preparation and clear steps, you can ensure a successful event from start to finish. Follow this beginner’s guide to organizing your first conference.

Prepare Thoroughly

  • Start planning 6-12 months out and build a planning committee to delegate tasks.

  • Set conference goals, target audience, dates, location, and budget upfront.

  • Research venues suited for your group size, amenities, rates, and availability.

  • Send save-the-date announcements once you select a date and location.

Consider Key Elements

When organizing your inaugural conference, factor in:

  • Content - Secure knowledgeable speakers and variety in session formats.

  • Logistics - Manage registration, signage, food/beverage, A/V, Wi-Fi, parking and more.

  • Engagement - Incorporate networking, activities, entertainment, and ways to participate.

  • Promotion - Market through email, social media, industry publications, websites, and word-of-mouth.

Ensure Success

Taking these steps will facilitate a smooth-running conference:

  • Have contingency plans - e.g. speaker cancellations, A/V failures, inclement weather.

  • Overcommunicate with attendees so they know what to expect.

  • Train staff and volunteers in their roles.

  • Check in with speakers ahead of time and brief them on logistics.

  • Print programs, signage, badges, and collateral to guide attendees.

Plan from Start to Finish

Follow this timeline for first-time conference planning:

  • 6-12 months out - Secure venue, set budget and date

  • 5 months out - Open registration, promote event

  • 1-2 months out - Finalize logistics, speakers, agenda

  • 2 weeks out - Manage attendees, send final details

  • Event time - Manage staff, handle issues, oversee set up/tear down

  • Post event - Thank attendees, get feedback, recap budget

Being ultra prepared, organized and thoughtful when planning will ensure your first conference runs smoothly and successfully.


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