Organising a conference? This checklist can help you
Congress Duo case self-registration
06-03-2024, 12:01
Organising a congress is no easy task. There are so many facets that need your attention. And where and how do you start? This exploratory checklist for organising a congress can get you started. Each point on this list requires your attention and should be turned into a strategic approach. By following this list, your congress will not only be a platform for knowledge sharing, but also a memorable experience that attracts and retains participants.
1. Understand your target audience


  • Analyse the needs and expectations of your target audience. For example, conduct detailed market research, including surveys and focus groups to understand their specific interests and needs. This can help you enormously in creating a content-rich conference and fleshing out your breakout sessions.
  • Also analyse your previous conferences, other conferences within the sector and even conferences within related sectors, to understand which topics resonate most with the target audience.


2. Choose your theme carefully


  • Choose a unique and stimulating theme aligned with current trends and developments within the industry. This should preferably be a theme that you can approach from different perspectives and at different levels. That way, your conference will be thematically coherent and not boring. 
  • You can organise brainstorming sessions with industry leaders in advance to determine a relevant and original theme that fits current challenges and innovations. By capturing snippets from this brainstorming on video or in text, you will have your first conference content, which you can then use in your marketing communications.


3. Select your speakers and presentation formats carefully


  • Do not only invite speakers who have authority and expertise within the field, but also involve unconventional speakers, up-and-coming talent or people with a different background who bring an outside perspective to your conference theme. That way, you offer your audience the most varied experience possible.
  • In addition, ensure a diversity of perspectives and forms of presentation. Avoid the dreaded 'death by powerpoint' at all times and focus on active presentations in which the audience can play an interactive role. To this end, organise unique formats such as 'unconference' sessions, where the participants themselves determine the content.


4. Book your venue and facilities far in advance


  • Choose a location that is both practical and inspiring. For example, see if you can find a location that matches the theme, such as a historic industrial building or, on the contrary, a modern architectural masterpiece. 
  • Provide a venue with good accessibility and sufficient parking. If the latter is difficult, arrange a parking facility further away and offer your guests a shuttle bus to get there.
  • Also consider making your conference hybrid, allowing people to attend some presentations online and remotely.


5. Make technology support your first prio


  • Technology can be a solid foundation of your conference planning and should never become a closing item. Implement advanced event registration and ticketing software, which will give you both organisational and content support when organising your conference. For example, you can use this software to encourage early registration, which in turn will help you get started planning the rooms for your various breakout sessions.
  • Also use technology for interactive sessions and networking opportunities during the conference, or to monitor your participant attendance for, for example, awarding accreditation points.


6. Start marketing and promotion in good time


  • Develop a strong marketing strategy focused on your target audience. Use social media, email marketing and network partners. Bet on partnerships with thought leaders within the industry for authentic promotion. Also ask your speakers to actively promote the conference on their own social media. To this end, provide them with sample posts and royalty-free visual material.
  • Deploy advanced data analytics for targeted marketing campaigns. A digital maketeer within the team is indispensable for this. In addition, engage with a content marketer or copywriter on storytelling content around your congress, to load this theme of your congress and give it urgency. 
  • Continue your marketing even after your conference, for example by showcasing the most talked-about statements, moments or findings on social media. That way, people who were there will see that their attendance was worthwhile, and people who did not attend will see that they really should sign up next year.


7. Build sponsorships and partnerships


  • Build relationships with industry-related organisations and (trade) media that can support your congress in numerous ways.
  • Approach potential sponsors who add value to the congress. Create unique sponsorship packages with them with benefits such as branded workshops or technology demonstrations.
  • Look for synergistic partnerships with companies that can provide technology or services that enhance the conference experience.


8. Make a conclusive logistics planning


  • Make sure all logistics processes are planned in detail. The more detailed the better. Also provide some 'air' in the planning, to accommodate last-minute changes and run-outs.
  • In your planning, also consider things like catering, security and crowd management. Your event registration software can help you with this.
  • Implement a 'green strategy' for sustainability, such as digital printing and recycling programmes.
  • Use advanced crowd management software for smooth flow and security.


9. Think from your participants' point of view


  • Create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all participants. Make sure your programme has enough space for socialising, toilet visits, coffee and movement to other rooms.
  • Offer plenty of opportunities for networking and interaction. Clear badges with name and function can help you do this.
  • Think carefully about inclusivity, such as providing interpreting services or special facilities for the disabled.
  • Develop a 'congress app' that provides all participants with the personal schedule, networking opportunities and local information.


10. Monitor and evaluate


  • Implement a system for monitoring participant behaviour and feedback. This will give you access to advanced analytics for tracking participant engagement across sessions.
  • Evaluate the successes and areas for improvement of the conference and use the insights for future events. For example, use post-event surveys with specific questions aimed at improving future events.


More inspiration?

Want to know more about successfully organising conferences? Then download our paper: Manifesto for successful conference organisation.