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Conference Planning 101: The Ultimate Guide for Hosting a Successful Event

Planning a conference? Our checklist can help you avoid being overwhelmed.

Planning a conference can seem like a daunting task. With so many moving parts and details to coordinate, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if you’re organizing your first large-scale event. However, with some advanced preparation and planning, you can pull off a seamless and memorable conference that wows your attendees.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through a conference planning checklist to keep your event on track from start to finish.

1. Conduct a Needs Assessment

To allocate resources effectively and efficiently, event planners must identify conference objectives and scope with surgical-like precision. Start by considering the purpose of the conference and then evaluate how to magnify those goals for a larger audience.

Ask yourself key questions, like:

  • What is the primary purpose of this conference? Is it educational, motivational, or focused on networking? 
  • Who is the target audience and what do they hope to gain from attending? What content and topics will best serve the needs of your attendees? 
  • What experience do you want attendees to have during the event? 
  • What metrics will define a successful conference for your organization?

While it requires an initial investment of time, a detailed needs assessment pays dividends throughout the planning process. It ensures you can maximize your resources for the greatest possible impact. With clear objectives and audience insights in hand, you’ll be equipped to develop creative solutions to magnify the purpose of your event. Taking a targeted approach based on identified needs will result in an engaging, meaningful conference experience that achieves results.

2. Secure Your Venue and Set Your Budget

Finding the right venue is a top priority. Research spots with adequate meeting and event space for your projected attendance. Prioritize venues with built-in AV equipment, catering capabilities, and discounts for multi-day rentals. Once you’ve found potential venues, inquire about availability on your desired dates. Be prepared to book quickly, as popular conference spots fill up fast. Try to avoid holidays, popular vacation times, and competing industry events or conferences if possible.

With your venue secured, you can build your budget. Create line items for all anticipated costs:

  • Venue rental fees
  • Catering for meals and breaks
  • A/V equipment and labor
  • Printed programs, signs, badges
  • Transportation and parking
  • Marketing and promotions
  • Tables, linens, chairs, and seating arrangements
  • Entertainment and speakers
  • Staffing and labor fees
  • Incidentals and contingencies

Get quotes for each item. Your venue should be able to help you identify the costs for many of the logistical items. Build in a 10-15% cushion for unforeseen expenses. With an accurate budget accounting for all costs, you can allocate resources wisely.

Loft on Two offers over 7,870 square feet of flexible conference and event space with state-of-the-art technology. Our team handles all the details from start to finish, so you can focus on content and logistics.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline

Backwards planning is key here. Start by determining your conference end time, then work backwards to map out every detail. Build your timeline in 15-minute increments to keep things moving smoothly.

  • Determine the schedule and length of your keynote address and major sessions. Most keynotes are 60-90 minutes. Breakout sessions usually run 30-60 minutes.
  • Block times for registration, check-in, meals, breaks, receptions, and networking events. Allow at least 30-60 minutes for registration and 30 minutes for breakfast/coffee breaks. Meal times can run 60-90 minutes. Receptions often last 1-2 hours.
  • Factor in transition time between sessions and events. Build in 15-30 minute buffers to allow attendees to move between ballrooms, breakouts, and common areas. This also accommodates potential delays and technical issues.
  • Schedule vendor exhibition time if applicable. Vendors will need load-in/load-out time as well as dedicated exhibitor hours when attendees can visit.
  • Build in time for A/V checks before the conference kicks off to troubleshoot any issues. Sound checks for presentations and rehearsal time for speakers is also key.
  • If possible, end each day on a high note with a lively reception, entertainment, or motivational speaker.
  • Depending on the scale of your event, allow for setup time onsite the day before the conference begins and teardown after the event concludes.

Having a minute-by-minute timeline will keep you on track and ahead of the game throughout your conference. Loft on Two has an experienced team ready to work with you to build a seamless, detailed schedule optimized for success.

4. Execute a Flawless Event

You’ve spent months on the logistics, planning every minute detail in advance. Your dedication and preparation have set the stage for an incredible event. Now it’s go time – the moment you’ve been building towards. Give yourself a checklist to tackle the conference without worry:

  • Set up registration and check-in areas
  • Brief your staff and volunteers
  • Give vendors and speakers their final schedule/instructions
  • Kick things off with energy and enthusiasm!
  • Circulate throughout the conference to chat with attendees
  • Handle any issues quickly and efficiently
  • Stick to the schedule to keep things moving smoothly
  • Wrap up on a high note and thank everyone for attending

Take a deep breath and trust in the work you’ve done. With Loft on Two, you’ll have an expert team in place to support you every step of the way. Take time to be fully present, soak in the energy, and enjoy watching your vision come to life.

Let’s get started!

Following this comprehensive conference planning checklist will set you up for success from start to finish. As you begin planning your next conference, partner with a venue that understands and supports the needs of conference organizers.

The team at Loft on Two offers a wealth of experience delivering seamless events tailored to your unique vision. Contact us today to schedule a virtual or in-person tour of our versatile downtown Boston location and variety of beautiful and functional spaces. From state-of-the-art AV to intuitive service and logistical support, we have everything you need to host an incredible conference.

Let’s start planning your next memorable event! Our team is here to help make it a resounding success from your first inquiry through the day-of execution. We can’t wait to bring your conference vision to life.