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Organising a Large Conference: A Case Study

By: Anthony Stringer BA (hons) - Updated: 14 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Organising A Large Conference: A Case Study

Conference organising is a daunting proposition for any employee and if the event is not arranged efficiently the experience can result in a negative effect on the whole company.

When Mark Dreen was elected to organise a conference for the 300 delegates in his company he was understandably anxious, which also gave him the motivation to plan and organise a memorable conference.

Mark speaks of his assignment "When I was asked to arrange and organise the company conference I was admittedly a little shocked as I hadn’t organised anything quite so large before. But as soon as I had got my head around it I began researching, planning and organising straight away".

Conference Purpose

The first thing Mark had to do was gather exact details of what outcome the conference wanted to achieve. "Once you understand why the conference is being held and what outcome you are looking for from the whole event you can begin planning. Once the conference purpose has been established you can begin planning smaller details around the purpose."

"The purpose of the event is possibly the most important factor to recognize. Are you trying to create new ideas? Will the event include client delegates? Is it a staff discussion conference? Having recognised the purpose all other details of the event will become much easier decisions."

Mark Goes onto explain "To establish the purpose of the conference my colleagues and me held a meeting to discuss our thoughts. Once we had reached the same conclusion, it was time for me to carry out the details."

"My first hurdle was to book a suitable venue for the conference. This made me review our budget, as the figure would determine the whole conference and where it was to be held."

The Budget

The conference budget will determine the whole event and may dictate where delegates stay, what they eat, how they travel etc. Reviewing your conference budget allows you to prioritise your planning. If your delegates include important clients try not to spend a large percentage of the budget on a luxury hotel and book a children’s school hall for the actual conference. This will not impress your delegates as the conference itself is the whole reason they are there and not for a short break away.

Booking a Venue

When it comes to deciding on a venue shop around. Do not just pick the cheapest or the most spectacular. Always have the purpose of the conference in mind along with the number of delegates attending.

One common mistake conference organisers make when choosing the venue is failing to check the venue in person. Organisers often book the venue through looking at pictures on a website or in the advertising document. This is of course very risky as the venue is obviously at it’s best in these images and hide things that are unwanted in a conference venue. For instance, the pictures may have been taken years prior to your event and the venue may have acquired some superfluous building eyesores. The venue may be under construction during your event so make sure you converse with the owner before booking the venue. Ensure you visit the venue before the conference so that you can look around and envision the conference from a first hand perspective.

Mark also suggests putting thought into the timing of your conference "The timing of your conference is also extremely important. You want to check the event does not clash with any annual holidays, sporting events or important dates as you will find the number of delegates diminish very quickly."

‘Put out an email and suggest a few dates and then ask for a response. If you have everyone agreeing on the same date life will be much easier for you in the long run’.

Finally, make sure the conference itself is inspiring, motivating and interesting and finds the purpose the event was created for. Even if the conference is aimed at staff and is compulsory you want them to listen and take something valuable away from the event.

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