A Top Line Guide for Event / Conference Management
Our region is known for mega conferences and exhibitions being held across the year, especially in the last quarter of the year. The MICE industry is a significant contributor to the economy of the region.
Planning and organizing a conference or exhibition is a mammoth task, which takes a lot of manpower and manhours. And it can definitely be overwhelming. Therefore, we are creating this checklist which will help you time, delegate and manage all the work efficiently.
We have been in the event management/conference management space for a long time and have seen various challenges coming in different permutations and combinations. Due to multiple elements and multiple teams involved, tracking the progress of planning at every stage is crucial.
The first thing that comes into play while organizing an event or conference is the strategy and developing a theme based on the story you want to tell your audiences. Effective storytelling is an extremely important component that ties all the other elements together – the design, the journey, the speakers, the agenda, the marketing aspects, and more. Simply put, what is the objective of the event and why should your audience attend, and what will be the key takeaways?
As we are in the business of building Human-to-human connections, the stories we devise need to hit the right spot in order to ensure resonance with our audience and build long-term connections.
Organizing an event is an enormous task and definitely not a one-person job. It will require to be broken down into different departments and multiple people to take responsibility for their teams and the work assigned to them. Ideally, it will include the Strategy Team, Creative Team, Events Team, Marketing Team (online & offline), Production and logistics team, and the finance team to ensure the smooth planning and execution of the event. With a project lead at the helm, keeping track of each activity and with the support of a solid team, the task at hand will not be as overwhelming.
An event is a costly affair but also presents an opportunity to create revenue. It is best to work with a hardline but realistic budget, with very little flexibility. Obviously, to create the budget, you will need to cost every aspect of the event, from the venue and catering to parking to build up costs, to speakers to branding and marketing collaterals to advertising and social and digital media outreach to PR activities. And most importantly, the precious man-hours spent by your team and yourself on putting all of this together.
Venue & Date
As a leading full-service agency in the MENA region, we have various mega and small events to our credit. And one of the first things to decide with the client is the venue (depending on the number of targeted attendees) and the date. The date of the events and deciding the venue are directly related to each other, as venues need to be available on the date of choice and if a suitable venue is unavailable on the chosen date, the dates need to be flexible. Also, booking a venue is a massive expense consideration and needs to fit into the allocated budget. And the journey and design of the event also depend on the venue, therefore, it is one of the first aspects that need to be locked down.
You will want your event to have the maximum attendance and exposure in the media, thus, the date of the event needs to be strategically chosen. It shouldn’t clash with other big events and happenings in the city and it should be held in the busiest period of the year. Also, depending on the objective of the event you need to know the duration of the conference. Does the agenda command a two-day or three-day event or can it be spread over a single day? These are important questions that you need to answer before narrowing down on the date and the venue.
Partnerships & Vendors:
Now with the venue and date locked, it is time to lock down partnership and vendor contracts. Catering, build-up, production, logistics and transportation, technical support teams, promoters and ushers, marketing partners, and sponsors, all need to be contracted within the first phase of the event. As you have now started to work backward with a given date and have a robust timeline in place, vendors and contractors can begin their individual work.
Content & Speakers:
The biggest driver of any event will be the content and the speakers. That’s what draws in the large crowds. Not the design or the venue or the food, it is the agenda and the speeches, panel discussions, and workshops. You need to give the audience an incentive to attend, a learning experience, and moreover, a networking opportunity. Thought leaders and influencers should be headlining the conference to make it a success. Big names also contribute to effective Public Relations for the event, building the reputation of the conference, making other speakers want to participate, and attracting serious audiences.
With a speaker management strategy and recommended speaker names in place, you need to start developing the agenda. This is where all the pieces of the puzzle come together. You have your objective, the theme, the story, the journey, and the approach to speakers all mapped out, now it’s time to create topics relevant to the objective keeping in mind the specific speakers. Setting an agenda is a challenging task as it will set the tone for the event. It needs to be industry and speaker relevant but more importantly, it needs to be fresh and bring out a unique point of view. There are many events that happen and invite the same speakers, therefore to stand out, your agenda plays a pivotal role.
Let it be a mixed bag, speeches, moderated sessions, panels, workshops, seminars, informal discussions, focus groups – it is a clean canvas, build it keeping your audience in mind and an engaging and fulfilling experience.
Once you have a set agenda and speakers line up, it is time you start promoting the conference. Let the marketing geniuses take over and do what they do best. Marketing the event, like all other aspects, will depend on the objective of the event. Put together a marketing mix that supports the objectives and uses channels to maximize exposure and reach the target audience on a medium of their choice. There are multiple phases to marketing an event, but all the phases and tools unify the same narrative. One of the main KPIs of marketing an event or conference is driving registrations. For this, you will need to build a microsite or align it with the event website. Driving traffic digitally to a website will allow you to collect data and remarket and retarget to the audience who have interacted with your messaging across any digital platform. For mega-events, outdoor campaigns are used as they make for great mass publicity tools. PR campaigns are rolled out to support the promotion efforts by releasing stories and information revolving around the conference that will create hype and build intrigue within the media and the general public. Also, PR coverage is a great way to garner more sponsorships and attract speakers as the exposure will add to the reputation of the respective parties.
Rehearsals and site management:
Now you are reaching the last phase of the event, everything is happening at double the speed, teams are working in sync and moving as one unit towards the conference day, and the time for the venue setup has come. You already have the 3-D designs made as per the venue and all the production and branding elements in place. Event and production teams will take over the venue and completely change the look and feel of it, creating a journey starting from the registration counter to the different zones to the main stage and finally exiting the event based on the story and theme of the event. The physical journey of a conference needs to flow seamlessly and feel organic to the visitors and encourage them to engage with the content of the event.
Every little detail from the branding to ticketing kiosks to usher and promoter placements to AVL checks needs to take place. At least two dry runs of the conference need to take place before the start day to iron out all the details and avoid any surprises during the event.
Finally, the day of the conference has arrived. You have your time team ready, running the event like a boss. From experience, we can tell you a plan B and team members who can think on their feet are highly valuable at events and conferences as it can be a hugely challenging and overwhelming feat.
It is in your best interest that you create checklists and timesheets for everyone, for alignment and clear communication. Be at your professional best and go in fully prepared for any issue that may arise. Creating a crisis manual always comes in very handy. Assign a team of seasoned representatives from your team to manage any crisis as they have wealth of experience and can manage any situation without getting pressured.
The conference has come to a close, but your job is not over yet. Every visitor, speaker, and guest needs to be sent a thank you note and if required, you can share a survey with them to understand their experience at the event better and improvise for the next time. Creating post-event reports including event management, marketing, and the number of people who attended the event are crucial tools to wrap up an event successfully.
We hope this event guide helps you understand the process better, although we strongly advise partnering with an expert event and marketing agency to build the event.
We are an all-inclusive, event management company focused on creating unique, iconic event experiences. We blend creativity with practical applications to produce impactful events that elevate brands.
Our team of strategists, marketers, event managers, and business developers integrate seamlessly with your business to execute growth plans that generate new leads by building your brand identity in target markets using our experience and expertise.
Event Management, Event Planning, Creative Strategy, Storytelling, PR, Social Media Marketing, Digital Media Marketing, Performance Marketing, Video Production, Media Buying & Planning, Virtual Event Solutions, Hybrid Events, Creative Studio, Production, Speaker Management, Logistics Management
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