Toolkits: Conferences and Events

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Lynn Beauregard - Conferences and Events

Planning a conference involves a dizzying assortment of details and requires a vast amount of organization and planning processes. One slight slip or faux pas can literally make or break an event. This toolkit takes the planner step by step from scheduling and forecasting right through to execution and implementation and every element in between to ensure that all bases are covered and well executed. This toolkit also thoroughly outlines the steps along the continuum an event plan and provides useful techniques and tips to avoid the usual pitfalls, in order to pull off a truly winning event.

What will this tool cover exactly? There are some obvious elements to an event whether it is a multi-day conference, a golf tournament, a gala affair or other, which will be covered thoroughly. The toolkit will also provide useful templates to help plan any event in a comprehensive approach with meticulous attention to every detail.

Why do I need this Toolkit?

Whether you are a seasoned event professional, just learning the ropes, or anywhere in between, the Event Planning Toolkit is a priceless guide and bible which is designed to help you structure your event management processes to be more reliably effective, detailed and innovative year over year.

Even for the more experienced association event planners, doing the same events year after year can often lead to diminished innovation and imagination, or a more mechanical approach to planning the repetitive myriad of details and logistics. Creativity and innovation can develop a slow leak and your participants will start to experience program fatigue and can diminish their appetite to return.

What will I get out of this toolkit?

What makes an event competitive and attractive is the promise that each one is created with a unique set of tangible benefits that your members and participants have not yet experienced. This tool will not only help you track your key details in a more comprehensive and more organized way, but it will also challenge you to think of new ideas and help you become more innovative in your approach to event planning across the board.

For those just starting out or moving toward managing a larger event/conference for the first time, the planning process can appear to be overwhelming. Determining where to start and how to organize your steps in a logical and efficient manner may not seem obvious and some key details may fall through the cracks at crucial junctions, paving the way for some serious breakdowns, oversights or mistakes which may not be easy to fix down the road without affecting the quality of your planning and your program.

This toolkit is essential for those who are not as seasoned or experience as its guidelines, tools and templates will not only save you time to create new processes, but it will help you organize your project management and ensure that no key step is overlooked.

DESCRIPTION OF TOOLKIT CONTENT

Introduction

If you can walk away from an extremely successful event, one that has hit every single sweet spot and delivered on every promise and nailed every outcome, your strongest emotion as you wrap things up and start the process again should be fear...fear that such a success can't be replicated, much less exceeded; fear that the expectation from your volunteers/board of directors/attendees is that this is the new standard and nothing slightly below that level will be acceptable; fear that you won't have the resources or imagination to build a new level of excellence above this one.

01

Site and Venue Selection

Planning your event's location and venue is an extremely tactical decision. The success of your event will depend on the quality of the meeting space you pick, the staff that manages the venue, the food and the technical support and facilities available to you. This chapter will cover:

  1. Determining the key criteria for your event's location and articulating the priorities of your site requirements
    1. Putting together a comprehensive RFP (request for proposal) for your venue selection process
      1. What other considerations should you be thinking about outside of the main event facilities such as:
        local tours
        social activities
        spousal programs
        transportation
        travel and accommodations
        onsite support facilities
      2. Key considerations in reviewing hotel contracts.
        Negotiating key elements for your events with venue and hotel operators
        Reading between the lines and understanding each clause: Cancelations; Attrition; Guarantees;
        Other key areas to consider and discuss before you finalize a contract
02

Critical Path Planning

Whether working on your own, with staff and/or with a volunteer event committee, the spectrum of planning a conference will involve a large number of details. A system for keeping track and establishing key timelines right from the beginning is what can make or break your events. Small things can slip through the cracks along the way and may cause serious issues in the seamlessness and success of your conference or event planning processes.

  1. Mapping out your event production pillars and categories of activity
    Defining pre, during and post event activities
    Defining sub-categories of activities in each pillar and overall goals
    Identifying key deliverables and determining timelines and deadlines for each deliverable
    Creating a timeline/deadlines for key deliverables
  2. Aligning resources
    Determining your staff/volunteer needs
    Determining your IT support needs
    Determining roles and responsibilities
    Aligning your resources to your goals and deliverables in each pillar
  3. Tools for tracking and staying on top of your critical path activities
03

Budget and Financial Management

One of the top goals that any association hopes to accomplish with events and conferences, along with member benefits such as education, networking and enhanced visibility, is to create a sustainable revenue stream for the association. Many associations rely on their annual events to bring in a significant portion of their operating revenue. Planning events which will result a healthy profit margin for your organization is therefore a key component of ensuring your event’s success as well as your overall financial health. A sound budgeting approach will help you achieve this goal.

This chapter will look at tools to:

  1. Create a comprehensive budget
  2. Create templates and tools to track costs and revenues
  3. Key considerations in establishing event fees and revenue targets
  4. What can you learn from your past history - tracking tools for forecasting
  5. How to keep costs down
    Tips and tricks for negotiating with outside suppliers and for saving on overall costs
04

Program Development

Are you a subject matter expert in your association’s field? Many association event planners do not necessarily have the experience and exposure of having worked in the industry that their association represents. This can certainly create issues around content if you own or share the ownership of the program development piece. Whether or not you are well versed in your members’ issues and interests, this chapter will provide invaluable insights on how to plug in and develop focused sessions based on key current issues, timely events and educational content.

This chapter will teach you how you can:

  1. Ensure that your program is hard hitting and in line with topics that your audience is concerned with or needs more education on.
  2. Learn research key techniques to put your finger on the pulse of what your members want and will be looking for in your program
  3. Explore the best tools to find speakers and uncover new ‘fresh’ subject matter experts and practitioners
05

Registration Management

The question of technology, if not already addressed, is a very important one to address very early on in the planning process. If you are fortunate enough to have in place an intuitive and functional system, capable of handling online registrations and payments and to manage from the simplest to the more complex programs, I still recommend reading this chapter, for key insights on how to improve your registration processes and to ‘check boxes’ in case you need to seek adjustments or improvements.

This chapter will look at:

  1. What technology is currently available and what is 'best in class' as far as what you might need
  2. First, a checklist – what are some of the key requirements and functionality you need?
  3. What registration information do you require to ensure your event’s success
  4. Does your system have the comprehensiveness you need?
  5. Reports, queries and tracking – how to make use of registration details to improve your event
06

Marketing and Communications

It goes without saying…without a strong marketing and communications plan for your event, your registration levels and your event’s visibility will suffer. This chapter will help you:

  1. develop a comprehensive marketing plan for your event
  2. design the right communication and messages to ensure you are successful
  3. create a timeline and place holders for key messages to go out to your audience
  4. leverage social media to get the word out
  5. explore new sources to increase the visibility of your event
07

Sponsorship Development, Sales and Management

Sponsorship of an event achieves two important goals for most associations: first, it allows the organization to introduce another source of revenue for their event, which can help the organization achieve a better bottom line and it also helps to keep your registration costs down or at a level that your members can afford.

Sponsorship sales is not necessarily an easy process, and most association event planners do not have a background in sales, yet the specific skill set associated with brining in sponsorship is one of business development.

This chapter will not only provide great tips for setting up your sponsorship program, but will also provide key insight into how to maximize the potential sponsorship revenue for your event. It will cover:

  1. Creating your target list
    Who are your sponsors and exhibitors and do you know the potential and size of the markets/industries you are targeting for your event
  2. Understanding your sponsors’ needs
  3. Creating a hard-hitting sponsorship package
    What are you and should you be selling?
    What value are you offering?
    How to price your sponsorships
  4. How to sell your conference/event to potential or even returning sponsors?
  5. Managing sponsors/exhibitors from the time they sign to post-conference to ensure they will want to come back year after year
08

Materials Sourcing and Supplier Management

Most events will require some 'swag' as well as outside providers (other than the hotel/venue) to supply additional materials, onsite support and conference related products and services. This chapter will discuss:

  1. What products and services will you need for your conference?
  2. What other contractors should you be looking at partnering with?
  3. When is it appropriate to send out an RFP for additional services (ie. Audio visual suppliers, printers, Swag suppliers, etc)
  4. How to keep costs down and still make an impact on your audience
09

Onsite Planning, Venue Liaison and On-Site Management

You are onsite and managing your conference... what could possibly go wrong after months (or years) of planning? Quite a few things...

First off, hindsight is 20/20 and your onsite management process will start quite early on in the planning for your event. This chapter will review tools and tips to make certain that when you do arrive at your event and as far as they can be within your control, each element has been planned meticulously such as:

  1. Going back to your critical path
  2. Creating your onsite materials
  3. Dealing with printers, couriers and other service providers to ensure all will be done on time
  4. Setting up your event information resources and checklist
  5. Working with your hotel/venue provider to ensure all T's are crossed and I's are dotted
    Food & beverage guarantees
    Conference space and set up
    Accommodations and rooming lists and pickup
    Audio-visual requirements
    Timelines and event run through
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