Planning a Conference: everything you need to know to get started

A Beginners Guide: 6 steps to think about when planning a conference

Ok, so you’ve been told that an overseas conference is on the cards, and you’ve been appointed the task of chief-organizer. As the blood pressure rises, you sit there thinking ‘but how am I going to do this’? Well, we’ve got good news. Our beginners guide to planning a conference covers all the things you need to consider to make sure your team leaves the next conference praising you with a round of applause.

STEP 1: What is the purpose of your conference?

First things first, you need to outline the goals of the conference. Perhaps its to reveal a new product or maybe you need to talk about the year-that-was under one roof. Whatever your story, you need to spend some time outlining your goals. Consider the famous SMART objective when deciding on these (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, timetabled).

two men planning the conference basics

STEP 2: Plan the conference basics

The next step to planning conferences is to sort out basic logistics.  Find out from your boss important information such as:

  1. Dates
  2. Ideal locations
  3. How many people?
  4. What is your theme?

Make sure you get this information as this will form the basis of all other steps.

STEP 3: Plan a conference budget

Before diving head first into the exciting planning, its important to determine how much money you have to play with. Do you have any indication from management on dollar amounts for entertainment, accommodation, flights, on-ground activities and conferences? Also make sure you are aware of any currency changes if you are planning on going overseas (lucky you).

STEP 4: Plan the conference elements

Once you have money to play with and have approval, it’s time to start looking into the following:

  1. Accommodation – room types. Availability. Budget.
  2. Flights – preferred airlines. Connection times. Economy, Business or First?
  3. Transfers – How many people? Where are you heading? Coach, limousine or tuk-tuk?
  4. Conference venue – theming. Branding. Break-away spaces and additionals (food, drinks etc).
  5. Insurance – if you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Your people are your best assets, so make sure they’re protected!
  6. Sometimes its worthwhile consulting an event planning company that can help sort out some of the above, especially if there is a large group of travellers.

Every plan needs a plan B. Spend the time here thinking about contingency plans before laying down any hefty deposits. After all, you can’t control mother nature.

Step 5 – Plan the special value-adds

It’s not enough to only get your people to the destination. Everyone needs to be entertained on the ground. Next you should consider unique experiences or team building activities to blow the minds of your employees (amazing races, water sports or even a camel ride in the Sahara). For some inspiration, our list of unique team building experiences can help you spur some ideas. Last but not least, you should also think about additional items that your people can take away with them like merchandise, souvenirs and special touches to score that round of applause.

With these steps in mind, you are on your way to presenting your management with a plan of attack for your next conference and becoming a corporate events planner pro in no time.

Need some help getting started? For a comprehensive list of tasks, download our event planning template.

Step 6 – Engage the right people

Your company might have an internal events team that can help organise the event itself, but its good to consider outsourcing sections of the trip that are better left to the experts. Our clients sometimes work on the event individually, leaving the travel services to us! We can sort out their flights, accommodation, cultural activities and team building activities to make their next trip truly special.


planning an event budget like a pro over coffee