How to organize a conference?

There is a lot more to organizing a conference than you would initially think. This website lists the most important things you need to do in order to organize a hassle-free conference.

Think ahead

A successful conference begins with careful preparation. We advise starting well on time, i.e. multiple months in advance. Meticulously determine the purpose of your congress, your target group and the type of conference you want to organize. Why are you organizing it? Who do you wish to invite? What kind of event are you organizing? The answers to these questions will help you to further plan your conference.

Count your pennies

Conferences can be very costly. That is why it is important always to stick to your budget, from the moment you begin planning. Calculate both fixed and variable costs and compare quotes from different suppliers. And why not look for sponsors? Note that all this takes time, which is why it is important to start planning your budget early on. Bear in mind that even the most carefully thought-out financial plan cannot foresee all possible situations. Set aside 10 to 15% for contingencies to avoid a financial hangover.

When and where?

Set a date for your conference. Make sure it does not coincide with a holiday, a trade fair or other event in Bruges. Evidently, you cannot book a venue that is already taken, which is why you should think this through carefully.

Visit the venue personally to determine whether it meets your requirements.

• Is it suitable for the number of participants?
• Is it accessible by car (parking facilities), by public transport…?
• Can you set up the venue for the seating arrangement that best suits you (auditorium, banquet, cabaret, cocktails, U-shape, etc.)?

Do not forget about the technical equipment. If necessary, provide microphones, speakers, beamers and projection screens. Test your tech beforehand to avoid any unexpected problems.

Catering, the icing on the cake

The catering can make or break your conference. In some cases, the venue provides catering services, in others, you can contract this out to a third party.

In any case, ask yourself the following questions:
• Do you want to have a specific meal served? (e.g. to match your theme).
• How many meals per day does your caterer have to provide and for how many people?
• Are there any specific requirements? (intolerances or allergies and vegetarian, vegan or religious requirements)

Draw up a road map

Test your road map. Is it feasible for every party involved? Make sure everyone receives a copy so that they know what they have to do before, during and after the conference.
Want to know more about how to draw up a road map? You can find more information here.

Marketing: spread the message

Send out your invitations and, at a later stage, contact everyone that has not yet responded. Provide all participants with the conference programme and inform the press. Use social media as much as possible. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are powerful marketing tools.

When the conference is over, send the participants a thank you message and a feedback form. Use this feedback for your next conference.

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