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Planning checklist

NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau offers a free venue finding and online accommodation booking service to conference organisers, as well as professional advice and guidance.

Before you embark on your conference planning, contact our team to find out how we can save you time and effort and help ensure your event is a success. Call +44 (0)191 440 5759 or email caroline.reed@ngi.org.uk

Organising a conference involves a huge amount time and effort. This check list sets out some of the key elements of the planning process and will help get you started. Please also refer to our planning timetable.


Background research:

  • Has this conference taken place in the past? If yes, research its history and check delegate feedback. Attend as a delegate and take notes!
  • How many delegates attended? How many accompanying guests?
  • How many booked accommodation?
  • Were the social events included in the registration fees?
  • Structure of registration fees – e.g. early bird, reduced fees for students / newly qualifieds / developing country delegates etc?
  • Amount of sponsorship raised?
  • How many exhibitors attended?

Dates:

  • Select a time which will maximise delegate attendance
  • Avoid public holidays and major events (e.g. the Great North Run)
  • Note university vacations and school holidays
  • Flexibility may reduce costs - select off-peak periods if possible
  • Allow additional lead time to secure venues during peak conference season (April - June and September - November)

A 'green' event:

Venue:

  • Conduct site visits to potential venues - compare as many as you can
  • Ensure the venue meets your space requirements - e.g. capacities of rooms for plenary sessions, workshops / breakouts, poster displays, exhibition space, refreshment and lunch breaks, board meetings, Internet café / access, special facilities (e.g. wheelchair access), conference dinner etc
  • Consider realistic minimum and maximum delegate numbers
  • Check booking terms and conditions - deposits payable and any minimum guarantees
  • Are all your requirements available in-house – audio visual, stage set, technician, dance floor, catering, any other special equipment or furniture?
  • Wet weather contingency?
  • Good accessibility to public transport? Parking available nearby?

Delegate accommodation:

  • Select accommodation easily accessible to the conference venue and to suit your delegate budgets
  • Booking accommodation at the conference venue may strengthen your bargaining power with that venue
  • University halls of residence offer a cheaper option - available mid-June to mid-September
  • Take advantage of our online accommodation booking service to easily manage your delegates bookings

Finances:

  • Ensure your budget is realistic and as detailed as possible
  • Prepare notes to support all budget items and changes
  • Where possible obtain written quotes from all suppliers
  • Divide expenditure into fixed and variable ("per person") costs
  • Calculate attendances required to break even and set registration fees acceptable to your target audience
  • Review budget on a regular basis
  • Download our sample conference budget for further guidance (simply right click and 'save target as')

Sponsorship:

  • Estimate extent of sponsorship required to meet your budget and set minimum target figure
  • Compile list of potential sponsors, in order of priority
  • Make early contact with potential sponsors to give them time to budget for participation in your conference
  • Prepare sponsor benefits packages
  • If offering exhibition space as a benefit, how many exhibitors can you accommodate?
  • See sponsorship guidelines and packages for further guidance

Appointment of organising / host committees:

  • Define roles, responsibilities and entitlements of committee members
  • Large committees can create problems - keep to a manageable size

Speaker management:

  • Speakers are crucial to your programme and must be well briefed and kept informed
  • Prepare ‘guidelines for speakers’ to ensure they have full details for participation, including: deadlines for receipt of biography, synopsis / abstract, paper, poster, and audio visual requirements; registration and accommodation booking instructions, including confirmation of any expenses payable; duration of presentation on the day, system for taking questions etc; need for copyright assignment?
  • Provide speaker lounge or ‘prep room’ at the conference

Management and administration:

  • Consider who will manage the event for you - there are many factors involved?
  • Enlist volunteers to help on the day
  • Do you need to employ the services of a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO)?
  • See Tendering for a PCO for more detail

Marketing:

  • Identify your target audience and prepare, and review, your marketing plan accordingly
  • Make an early start - promote the conference date and theme as soon as these are confirmed
  • Use different approaches to promote your event and maintain awareness - email and enewsletters, social media, hard copy flyer and programme, website, intranet, advertisements in relevant publications and websites, press releases
  • Press coverage is free - make the best of it!
  • Social media should play an important role before, during and after your event. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube (and / or other social media) to engage with your delegates. Create a hashtag for your event, to make it easy to follow chatter around the event and to allow delegates to engage with eachother.

Evaluation:

  • Request feedback from your delegates at the end of your event
  • Hold an organising committee ‘wash up’ meeting
  • Ensure final statistics report is prepared - e.g. number of attendances, fees paid, number of speakers / posters / exhibitors, profit / loss
  • Lessons learned for next time

To participate in the Conference Ambassador Programme, or to find out more, even if you don’t have a specific event in mind, please contact Caroline Reed, Conference Development Manager, T: +44 (0)191 440 5759, E: caroline.reed@ngi.org.uk.

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