Did you know that live events still trump video conferences? It’s true! With live events and real-life conferences, you get more engagement, more press coverage, and even more sales. So while it’s tempting to shy away from organizing a conference, you might regret it later when you don’t get the results you were looking for.
Let’s not pretend that it’s easy to organize a whole tech conference. You’ll be juggling so many balls that it will all blend into one. You have to net presenters and panels well ahead of time and book an appropriate venue. You have to think about all sorts of things, from the guest list to the name badges. You need the food vendors and freebies in the bag. And then there are the last minute cancellations and pricing mishaps. Pulling of a conference is no mean feat. But all of this thought and effort is exactly why, if done properly, an event like this can be such a roaring success.
So if you’re tempted to just do a webinar instead, think about all the benefits of a live conference – and then read on to find out how to make organizing a conference much more simple.
First things first
So you’ve had the idea that you want to host a tech conference. Before you do anything, you need to get firm on why you’re doing it and who it’s for. People will sign up and attend if they know what your angle is and how they can benefit. So think about what problems you’re trying to solve, what your unique area of expertise is, or what your brand is already known for. Write a mission statement and tag line for the event to make it clear who you are and what you’re all about. If you’re stuck, look around at other successful conferences in your niche and see where you could fill a gap.
Your budget needs to detail every possible thing that you might have to pay for with your event. That includes the venue, merchandise staff, photographers, videographers, marketers.
Bear in mind that many speakers, especially high profile ones, will charge a fee. Every conference is different, so you’ll be best placed to make your own budget. You can use a handy budget template to stay on track.
Developing partnerships and sponsorships can help to reduce costs. Use your existing network or make important connections ahead of time to help make this happen. Your brand’s reputation will play a big part in securing deals. You’ll need to think about what packages you can realistically offer to a sponsor in return for their financial support.
Choosing a venue
The venue is probably the thing you’re thinking about the most. Without a strong venue, the whole conference could crumble. Obviously, you’ll be constrained by your budget, but there are still important things to consider. Think about the size of the venue. You need it to accommodate the correct number of people, but you don’t want to pay for more space than you need and you don’t want a venue that will be impossible to fill. Choose a venue that reflects your brand and the audience you’re aiming to attract. You’ll also need to think about how accessible the location is.
Impressive speakers are going to be a major draw for attendees. If you can secure industry experts or relevant people with something unique, interesting and valuable to say, then you’re already on to a winner. Hopefully, you’ll already have relationships with some of the people you’ll be reaching out to. If not, be sure to let them know exactly what the conference will entail, what you’re looking for from them, and what they can expect from you. Make them know why you’re reaching out them in particular, and let them know what value you think they can bring. Again, bear in mind that many speakers will charge a fee. If they’re speaking for free, they might be hoping to promote their own recent work while they’re there, so think about how you can best facilitate this.
Getting the word out and selling tickets
Marketing is vital. Without strong marketing and PR efforts, your conference won’t get the attendees or the buzz that it needs to become a success. Use your own platform to promote the event as much as possible. Social media is vitally important, both in the run-up to the conference and on the day to maximize the impact of your event. Don’t shy away from paid advertising on social platforms either, to help you reach a larger audience.
Remember email marketing too. Make the most of pre-existing email lists and newsletters. You’ll want to make sure your branding for the event is cohesive and attractive, with great visuals. Your partners might be able to help with spreading the word, too. From a PR perspective, of course, you’ll want to send out press releases. You might also want to think about offering free passes for the press or having partnership deals with media outlets. The more ways you can get the word out, the better value your conference will be.
Once people are excited and ready to sign up, you’ll want to sell them tickets. How you set the ticket price will depend on a range of factors. You’ll need to make sure that the ticket prices, along with any sponsorship deals, can cover your outputs. You don’t want to be out of pocket. But you’ll also need to consider who your target audience and price accordingly. Then look into ways to make selling tickets easy and secure.
Staffing on the day
It’s not just presenters that you need to think about. You’ll also need hosts, stewards, security, first-aiders. There’s a lot of background staffing that goes into a successful conference. Some of these jobs, for example stewarding, might be ideal for volunteers. Volunteers could be students or interns looking to gain experience in the tech or events industry, or just people who want to attend your conference but can’t afford the ticket. You will also need audio-visual technicians to keep the presentations and recordings running smoothly, although this might be done in-house by the venue, so it’s worth checking.
Whether it’s a one-day local event or a week-long festival, if you can pull off a successful tech conference you’ll be so glad you put the effort in. Look around to see how others are doing it, and then make it your own. Most of all, enjoy!