Many conferences are organized in the UK and other countries inspired by the wish of the organizers to benefit financially from the event or to assist the success of other events, such as exhibitions held simultaneously.
Associations and professional bodies often organize regular series of training seminars for tier members and others. There are also a number of private companies which organize seminars of this kind for profit.
These objectives vary considerably and there is probably only one common factor, the prime objective of “effective tow way communication”.
A clear understanding of the objectives will be of great value throughout the planning of a conference and will make success more likely. Except where the objectives are obvious, ample time spent discussing them at the outset will be valuable in saving time later.
The chosen objectives are closely related to the desired audience. This may be a small clearly identified group or a wide sector of the public.
Venue and Location:
If the business meeting is not an in-house meeting, like the shareholders Annual General Meeting, and is planned to be held at a hotel or a conference hall, then the venue and the location should be selected carefully. It is obvious that the success of nay meeting will depend on the choice of location and venue. The points that should be considered before finalizing the venue are the dates which are to be fixed and the number of participants who are expected to attend the meetings.
If the dates are fixed, it may be difficult to find the ideal venue unless planning is made well ahead and the necessary accommodation reserved. The estimated number of participants likely to attend is usually the major consideration.
The Suitable Time:
In choosing the date of the event, external influences such as Bank Holidays, religious festivals and school holidays may have an effect on the size of the attendance.
In general, off-peak dates may mean easier travel, lower fares and cheaper hotel accommodation. This is not to suggest that these considerations should be the main factors determining the choice of dates but they are worth bearing in mind if the dates are not pre-determined.
While in general, one tries to avoid clashing with other events, it may be good policy to choose a time to coincide with other complementary functions. Above all, do not clash with conferences of exhibitions that are likely to attract the same audience.
For smaller meetings, a hotel accustomed to hosting conferences is likely to be a good choice. Here there is a very wide choice as most large hotels claim to be equipped for meetings. In some cases this is merely an idle claim, but most hotel chains have now made positive attempts to provide well equipped conference suites.
Publicize the Meeting:
Advance notice of the meeting should be given as early as possible since many people plan their schedules far ahead. Also, if advance notice is given early there is less likelihood of other conflicting meetings being organized during the same period.
If the person likely to be interested in the meting can be defined, the most effective way to reaching this potential audience is by direct mail and through company publications. If however, the field of interest is rather wide, an additional method of publicity is through the trade and technical press. Advertising in such publications is often costly, but it is usually possible to get those journals to publish announcements of the meeting in their editorial columns without charge.
The detail of the program will be dictated by the nature of the meeting, but most of the following considerations will apply in all cases.
1) Since timekeeping at a conference is an essential ingredient of success, plan the program so that it will be possible to keep to time. This means careful planning of each section of the program and if possible incorporating a little extra time which can cover up any unexpected late running. Do not, however, over estimate the likely time of each section of the program, because under running and leaving a hiatus is even worse than over running.
2) If a number of specialized speakers are going to be involved in the program, it is helpful of their wishes regarding timing and position in the program can be ascertained in advance.
3) The chairman (or chairmen) must be briefed fully on every detail of the program and be aware of the time schedule and understand that keeping to time is regarded as important.
4) The supervisor of the conference must be prepared to intervene if necessary to maintain the time schedule.
5) The initial publicity should include as much detail of the program as possible many people will attend a conference regardless of the program, others will be guided in their decision by the content of the program. In many instances it may be necessary to secure approval from management for attendance at a particular event and therefore the more detail and the more impressive the program, the more likely this approval is to be given.
6) Do not follow slavishly the pattern of pervious conferences because there is ample opportunity for originality in planning a program whatever may be the subject. New ideas are likely to appeal to those who attend regularly. Avoid speakers who are over exposed, however good. It is useful to include some well known names, but new under exposed speakers will always be a success if they are good performers.
7) A conference implies a meeting of minds and an opportunity for discussion, but too often a conference proves to be a series of lectures from the rostrum with little or no opportunity for participation from the floor. Discussion periods are vital but should be introduced intelligently. There is opportunity for originality in this field and the type of event will dictate the best arrangement. A good idea is to have some discussion at the end of each session, and to have a much longer discussion period later in the program when participants have had an opportunity of thinking about some of the points raised and perhaps discussion them with others during luncheon or others breaks. If a number of sessions are on the same topic, however, it is useful to have the discussion at the end of the related sessions rather than at the end of each individual session.