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4 Tips for Planning a Successful Conference or Convention

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 11:05am | by jennaleesmith1

The convention: it’s a staple of the professional world. You’ve probably been to a few yourself and now, it’s your turn to help plan one. Whether you’ve joined the board of an existing convention or you’re starting up a new convention from scratch, one thing is for sure: you want the convention to go perfectly.

There are a lot of things that go into planning a successful convention from making sure the swag is great to throwing a fantastic closing party and all of the nuts and bolts in between. Before you start to drown in the details, here are the four things that you need to ensure are in place to make sure that your convention will go well.

1. Location Location Location

There is more to planning a convention than simply booking all of the ballrooms in the closest hotel and hoping for the best. The type of location you need is going to depend upon the body and makeup of the convention itself. You’ll need a space that will accommodate all of the attendees and the different types of planning you hope to have. You’ll want a space that is easy to get to and that there are enough hotels nearby to accommodate all of the out-of-towners. It’s also important that your location is close to lots of food choices and other basic amenities.

2. Great Panels and Great Guests 

The programming at your convention is hugely important—it is, after all, the whole reason you’re putting the convention together in the first place, right? You want to make sure not only that your panels are informative and entertaining but that they serve the needs of your attendees. The best way to do this is to split up your panel scheduling into two parts: the topics you want to make sure get covered and the topics your attendees want to talk about. This is why a lot of conventions now have an “open submission” process for panel suggestions. Let people suggest panels and topics and then let convention attendees vote on those submissions. Give panel space to the 10 (the actual number will depend on the length, space and attendance of your convention) that get the most votes.

3. Great Entertainment—concerts, dinners, etc.

Conventions aren’t just about learning. They are just as much about connecting with fellow professionals (or fans) and having a good time. Plan for some evening entertainment at which your attendees can “let their hair down” and have some fun. Plan on having at least one concert and one dinner (if your convention is short, you can combine these into a single evening).

4. Internet Access Isn’t Optional Anymore

If your convention is happening at a venue that is famous for throttling cellular signals, offer free Wi-Fi to your attendees. Yes, this will be expensive but your attendees will appreciate being able to stay connected while they go to panels and walk your showroom floor. You want people to be tweeting and Facebooking from the event, right? How can they do that if they can’t access the Internet from wherever they are? Nobody is going to go all the way outside and down the street just to post “great panel!” on Facebook.

To that end, make sure that you offer a convention app for your attendees. Convention apps have come a long way in the last few years. They started out as simply an easy way to access the schedule of a convention. Now they offer attendees the ability to set up their own personalized schedules and reminders for events they definitely want to see, extra information, social interaction with other attendees, the ability to give feedback to the convention itself in real time, etc.

Finally remember, though the devil really is in the details , once you have the big things in place, the little things often take care of themselves.

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