Our 2020 Guide to hosting a Conference
Organising a conference can be quite a task and it can often leave you feeling stressed. So, in this blog post we wanted to share Ardencote’s 2020 guide on how to successfully plan a conference.
Please note, the steps we provide are not chronological but they will give you a rough idea of what to focus on first.
Step 1: Decide on a Conference Theme or Message
In order for people to know what to expect from the day, your conference will need to voice a unifying message that your speakers can deliver. The purpose of your conference is to inspire and stimulate conversation and it is essential for your theme to enable that.
Some examples for you:
1. A World of Opportunities
2. All Systems Go
3. Be Extraordinary
4. Breaking Barriers
5. Dedicated to Success
Deciding on a theme will not only help you secure participants but it will guide your marketing strategy and branding from your chosen social media hashtags, posters, brochures and any other relevant collateral.
Step 2: Organise your Conference Team
It is not possible to plan a conference by yourself and if you plan to, you must have super powers. In our eyes, you will need a fully dedicated team of people to take responsibility for the different areas of planning and promotion of the conference.
It is likely, you will need a team in:
– Planning: Venue liaison, accommodation, activities and catering
– Administration: budgeting, attendee registration, ticket sales, point of contact
– Marketing: media liaison, promotional material, website management, blog and social media activities
– Sponsorship: event sponsorship, grant applications and fundraising
– Volunteer: door management, ticket scanning, guest lists and guides
Ensure you set regular meetings to clarify exactly what each team member is responsible for and the powers they have available to them, i.e. spending and decision-making. Give them an easy way to contact you for clarification or any other issues that may arrive.
Step 3: Budget and Plan
Depending on whether your conference is funded by sponsors or not, you will need to put together a budget to know where your money is being spent and then earned back in ticket sales.
Examples of what you will need to budget for:
– Speaker fees
– Team members
If you are looking to reduce the cost of your conference, you could consider hosting them on a Monday, Friday or weekend as you will receive lower rates. Keep in mind that this may alter the turnout of your conference as not many people like to travel and/or work on the weekend.
Another tip is to host a ‘light lunch’ rather than a hot buffet. This may also pose as ‘brain food’ which can help keep your delegates attention post lunchtime.
If you are a government body or a charity, you may also be entitled to lower rates – make sure to mention this!
Step 4: Save the Date
When it comes to planning a conference, you should always start 6-12 months ahead of your desired conference date. You will also need to decide on the duration of your conference. Industry evidence shows that if your conference is hosting 300 participants, you will need two days to host it. Larger and more in-depth conferences may go on for even longer.
Our top tips when picking a date:
– Make sure your date does not conflict with any other major conferences or local events
– Avoid summer and Christmas holidays when people tend to go on holiday. The best time is to aim for a date in the middle of March, end of June, early September to late November
– Days closest to the weekend will have cheaper rates than the middle of the week
– Try and pick a date closest to the weekend, so that travelling attendees get the chance to stay behind and sightsee during their time off
Step 5: Secure a Venue
Once you know the date, you can start looking for available venues that match all of your requirements. Hotels are usually the best choice because they will have a dedicated conferences facility and their own on-site catering. A hotel will essentially offer you that ‘all-in-one’ choice with both conference space and accommodation.
When you are doing your research, consider the following:
– Size: You want to make your conference feel full but not too compact where people feel claustrophobic
– Location: Try and pick a secluded location so participants are better able to focus on the conference itself. Even better would be if the venue has a calming and picturesque surrounding that help people relax and switch off during their free time
– Facilities: Does the venue have the perfect layout and meet all of your conference needs? E.g. breakout rooms, restaurants, space for activities?
– Accommodation: Does the venue have the capacity to accommodate your participants?
– Catering: Is catering included in the price? Keep in mind any dietary requirements your participants may have: vegetarian, vegan, kosher, nut free and coeliac etc
– Transportation: How easy is it for participants to travel to the venue? Will you provide transport? Is there enough parking for those who will drive?
– Technical: Does the venue have the right IT, audio and video equipment? You should ask about projector screens, microphones, charging spots and of course, strong WiFi access
Step 6: Confirm your Speakers
Your speakers will the be stars of your conference and you will need a strong line up to attract participants and guarantee everyone a professional and useful experience. Always try and secure someone very well known within your industry as this will boost your credibility. You should also look for leaders that focus on the same themes as your conference. One tip is to create a list of preferred speakers and then make the calls, type the emails and then work your way down the list until you have a booking secured.
Step 7: Promote your Conference
You have secured your venue, speakers, a finalised conference programme and a website or event page for people to access. From now, the focus needs to be on promoting the conference everywhere you can.
High-quality booklet with visible link to the booking site
High-quality brochure and flyers
There are numerous ways to promote your conference:
– Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest)
– Relevant forums
– Company blog and press releases
– Google campaigns
If you do opt for a social media campaign, remember your catchy hashtag you can use whenever you post about the upcoming conference.
You should also ask your speakers to promote the conference to their own audience.
Step 8: Time to Host
The day is finally here! If you have followed the above steps with detail and if you have a team of volunteers in charge, then you do not need to stress.
Our top tips for the big day:
– Personally introduce the conference and the speakers
– Make sure presentations and speeches do not run over
– Participate in networking and facilitating conversations
Step 9: Feedback Collection
After your conference has finished, remember to follow-up with all the people involved: your team, speakers, volunteers, vendors and the attendees. Say thank you out of common courtesy and collect feedback for future conferences.
Questions to ask:
What did they like most about the conference?
How would they rate the different elements?
What would they change or improve?
Conferences at Ardencote
Ardencote is a four-star hotel located in the heart of Warwickshire, just ten minutes from the M40 Junction 15 and just 15 minutes from Warwick Castle. Ardencote proudly accommodates 110 bedrooms, 10 conference and meeting rooms, an 18-course golf course and a five-bubble Destination Spa with over 10 leisure facilities.
We have a range of delegate packages to suit your conference needs, from single days, 24-hour and exclusive hire.
If you are hosting an overnight stay for the conference, you may want to opt in for our private dining experience. We have two award-winning restaurants and seven unique and beautifully appointed function suites that overlook the Warwickshire countryside and grounds, ideal for group lunches or BBQ’s in the summer and an afternoon of team building.
In 2020, we invested in our WiFi, which means you will receive:
– Stronger signal
– Faster speeds
– Better connectivity to multiple devices
– Increased reliability
– Additional network support to assist guests
You may even want to extend your conference trip with one of our Leisure Stays or Destination Spa Breaks.
Click here to gain access to our conference brochure for further information and details on pricing.