There is no shame in failing. That’s how we learn. However, it would be better if you did not have to fail in front of your partners and clients. That’s why we put together this little list of tips and tricks that can help you out and make your conference a success. Trust us, we have done this many times.
Anyone can organise a conference. To put together a quality conference that will be discussed for a long time, whose participants will be quoted in the media, and satisfied users will publish results in their companies, is not so easy. Based on ATI’s rich experience as a leading organiser of various business summits and conferences, we can conclude that there are eight rules you have to stick to.
1. Make sure there is demand for your conference
Experts predict that around 6,500 user experience conferences will be held in 2018. Most will be at least really, really good, and some great. But before you decide to organize a conference, first check whether the topic you’re dealing with is really important to a large number of people, enough to include as many companies as possible. Yes, every conference can be interesting, but ask yourself whether there is a real need for organizing a conference that you have imagined?
Test out demand for your event. That's the only way you can be sure that you will succeed
Organizing a conference is not cheap. Start with something that is low risk – such as hosting social media discussions or setting up happy hours – that will help you get the feeling of demand and will give you opportunities to talk about your concept with people you hope will register. The best conferences are focused primarily on creating and cultivating the community, and then throwing events to personally connect them.
2. Choose the type of event you want to do
There are five types of events. The type you create will play a big role in determining the program, selecting the venue, and setting ticket prices. In order, these are:
- Tribal Events in the Community: These are things like the IA Summit and UXPAs. Their primary purpose is to bring together people who share a common relationship through the work they do. The program is usually related to exchange of experiences and techniques.
- Networking: This is what the VC community uses to bring people together in the same room. The program comes second to social activities where people interact with each other. Long pauses and accompanying events are more important than a lot of informational sessions.
- Fairs: These are pop-up centers for sales and trade. Trade is much more important than the lectures. Examples are Macworld and CES.
- Educational Events: Participants come to learn new techniques and skills. The emphasis is exclusively on speakers and topics. Social networking elements are secondary, but still present.
- Academic Events: These are conferences aimed at obtaining publishing credibility. Examples are CHI, UIST and SIGGRAPH. Submissions are reviewed and published in a volume that will help authors get the credibility they need to complete their diplomas.
Each of these types requires a different form of format and structure. Hybrids do not work because each type competes against each other.
3. Check every detail
Believe us, if you do not check every detail and potential scenario that can play out, the participants will do it for you. And that will not be good business. Check everything – tags, badges, schedules, posters, in-house projections.
The level of your success will be evident during the conference. If the participants are talking about how your event is well organized, you’ll certainly work with them again. Try to look at things from the perspective of your participants, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, hosts, media, and the public.
4. Only work with experts
In the beginning, you will surely need help, or you will outsource various associates. Our best advice is to choose only top experts because you do not know what to expect from people you have not worked with. However, experts bring with them some credibility. For the first or second event you are organizing, outsource as much as you can to a third party. You will have enough work to deal with anyways
5. Hire enough people
Make sure the whole conference does not fall on to few shoulders. Structure leadership in groups where 1-2 people assume responsibility and let them be responsible for their teams. Do not underestimate how much time you will lose on details and work you might have overlooked. If your budget does not allow for a lot of employees, try to find as many volunteers as possible.
Mind your mood. You are a leader to your employees. Be good to them and they will follow you anywhere
6. Be a model to others
You probably already know that the rule is that employees mostly imitate the tone and way of talking to their bosses. Some even do it and unconsciously believe that it will be easier to fit into the company code. The same things happens when you organize a conference. It is important that your behavior, even in a crisis, does not give the impression that you have nothing under control or that you are losing your temper.
7. Mind the costs
No matter how much you do not like it, a large number of people will book a place at a conference and never actually attend or they will cancel at the last minute. This is especially problematic for limited capacity conferences because you could easily lose money on them.
On the other hand, mind the cost of your conference. You cannot give away entrance for free. People expect to pay for value. If you choose a price that is too low, you will drive away a lot of your audience. And, of course, you have to keep in mind a price that will allow you to at least break even.
Break Even = Fixed Costs ÷ (Price – Variable Costs)
This is the most important formula for launching a conference. The first thing every event organizer should do is to study fixed and variable costs. When you determine variable and fixed costs, plug in the price until you see positive number on the left. Play with prices and costs until you can guarantee success.
8. Sell, but do not sell out
Let your sponsors have a space to show their products and services, but do not let them take over the event. No one loves sponsored speeches or workshops where they get PR talks instead of good lectures. This is unfair to congressional participants. Instead, sponsors could be allowed to take over the space between the speeches, interacting with the conference participants and leaving a good impression.