Planning a great conference

Planning a conference can be a stressful process  and the phrase ‘slow and steady wins the race’ springs to mind.  The things to consider are resources, timeframe, venue, and of course the budget.

It’s recommended to start planning your conference way in advance, giving yourself six months prior or possibly twelve months depending on the scale of the conference. It can be a mammoth task. However, never fear here are some top tips to help you plan the perfect conference.

Conference venue:

When selecting the right venue for your conference it’s not just about how much it will cost. There are so many other factors you need to reflect upon.

Firstly, there are three categories that the venues fall into:
1. University Campuses
2. Hotels
3. Independent Venues

When selecting your venue  it is worth looking at the location, for example, Christ College Cambridge offers a wonderful Cambridge venue that is located right in the heart of the city and is perfect if you have any activities planned off-campus.

On the other hand, if you are looking at independent venues or hotels then it’s nice to choose somewhere which is a little secluded so you have the full attention of your delegates. It’s even better if the place is located with wonderful scenery which can help people to relax and unwind.

Next, is accommodation – does the venue have  B&B accommodation? If it does that would help to keep your costs down when considering transportation options.

A further thing to think about is catering  – does the venue have adequate facilities to cater for food preparation or would you need to use an external company? Prepare a list of expectations you want and slowly tick them off when selecting your venue.


Every conference needs a theme. This helps to connect the speaker’s message to your delegates. Use something simple, appealing, and emotive. The theme needs to be relatable; this will help to stimulate conversation. It’s all about having a great marketing strategy in place to help create an exciting buzz.


The budget is an obvious step to consider. Be organised and prepared. Map out a business plan and this will help you along the way. Here are some of the common items to consider

  • Marketing
  • Venue
  • Accommodation
  • Transport
  • Food and beverages
  • Staff
  • Activities.

You may also have sponsors, so consider this in your budget too.


Don’t carry all the weight of the work on your shoulders. Choose your team wisely. As a guide, the size of your conference will determine the size of your team.  If you are struggling for staff look into having students enlist as volunteers. That will help keep your budget down. Remember to look for enthusiastic and organised individuals.

Set a date:

Ok so now you have everything organised it’s time to pick a date for your conference.  As mentioned earlier, it can take six to twelve months to get all your planning in place. With a date set, you now have a few things to think about. The industry consensus suggests a conference with three hundred participants should consist of two full days. With larger numbers,  you may want to deliberate stretching the conference over more days. Here are some things to weigh up when selecting your date.

1. Avoid the summer and winter holidays when people tend to be away on their holidays.
2. Never plan a conference on the weekend. For most delegates a conference is part of their job, therefore, it needs to be scheduled during the working week.
3. Check what events are running at the same time as your conference, you don’t want it to clash with anything that may affect your number of attendees.


Take your time and think wisely when it comes to your speakers. You need to make good choices and approach them early on within your plans. Having a good choice of speakers helps to boost good attendance and gain engagement from your delegates. Things to consider are the cost of the speakers so remember to negotiate a price. It is normally standard to cover the costs of their expenses and accommodation.

It’s no easy task planning and organising a conference, however, these top tips will certainly help you along the way. Remember to give yourself adequate time to get the ball rolling. And as I always say in my blogs remember to have fun…


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