BIG Tips for Planning a Successful Conference

conference stage with large rental screenChicago’s frigid winters are an ideal time for business conferences and seminars. With so many perfect conference venues, such as the large McCormick Place or the numerous smaller venues, and a guest list looking for indoor entertainment, the Windy City is the site for a successful business conference.

It can also be the site of a well-attended conference—if the conference planning process is optimized for a positive guest experience. These tips play a key role in accomplishing conference objectives and adding another must-attend corporate event to the Chicago event calendar.

Set a goal.

Every conference should be planned with a specific goal and target audience. The goal dictates many of the event details, including the ideal location. The initial planning session should also include setting an event budget and preliminary brainstorming. Ideas can be documented for later application at the event.

Choose the ideal conference venue.

The right location for a conference checks off all the boxes: convenience, amenities, atmosphere, space, and spaces needed to attain the desired goal. The conference venue should be well-located and convenient to reach for the target audience. To locate a venue that fits conference needs, make a list of amenities needed, such as wi-fi or a catering space.

Generate a solid marketing calendar.

A marketing calendar is essential for successful event promotion and planning. Start marketing to the target audience early; a common practice is to offer discounts for early registration. Set clear deadlines and utilize proven marketing tactics that are geared at the target audience.

Choose speakers that increase registrations.

Search for speakers and entertainers that draw registrations and boost attendance. Consider options with the target audience in mind. Ask, “what topics would they want information on?” “What industry speakers would draw a crowd?” The answer, top speakers, should be confirmed with a legal contract and requested list of needs (i.e. IT needs, specific podiums, etc.)

Make sure everyone can hear featured speakers.

The audio visual needs of a conference are extensive. Ensure all bases are covered with a complete list of AV items (microphones, speaker systems, screens, etc.) If hosting a tradeshow, make the vendor experience positive by providing the name of local event rental companies that can meet their AV and miscellaneous needs (i.e. additional chairs, screens, etc.)

Be selective about stage décor.

Conference décor should set the stage for the desired atmosphere. Design a stage that fits the event atmosphere and program; enhance the main stage area with additional drapes and décor appropriate for the atmosphere. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance with stage décor from event experts that have experience in event planning.

Be strategic about planning the location of all conference activities.

A conference should have an excellent flow that draws attendees to the appropriate areas. Draft a plan that accomplishes this goal and is convenient for guests. For the benefit of trade show vendors, consider ways to drive attendees into the trade show area. This also increases trade show vendor satisfaction and increases trade show numbers year after year (use these tips for planning a successful trade show).

Focus on guest comfort.

To draw a regular attendance, focus on guest comfort at the conference. Choose experienced vendors familiar with the city and event needs to provide equipment that meets attendees’ needs and wants. In addition to meeting room chairs, rent furniture, audiovisual equipment (i.e. screens, microphones), and charging stations that can make a huge impact on attendees’ satisfaction.

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