Conference Planning – Are You Ready to Roll?
Planners will cringe at the sight of this logistical nightmare. However the corporate and event planning industry is growing worldwide, and for PR practitioners it is almost impossible to steer clear. The job scope includes solidifying realistic objectives and budgets; choosing a venue; reviewing contracts; pleasing sponsors and participants; lodging; transportation; telecommunications; logistics and audio-visual requirements; hard and soft copy resources; and even food and beverage preferences… you get the gist. Everything seems to fall into the hands of the organisers to execute with expectations from all parties set unwaveringly at perfection.
Is there any way to pull through with all parties happy, and without pulling all your hair off its roots?
With attention to detail, patience, a smile and more than a couple of deep breaths, it can actually be a delight to put together. This past week, our team had the joy of hosting another international conference in collaboration with a longstanding client Aqua Culture Asia Pacific. Reflecting on this particular project and others, we’d like to share some pivotal pointers for your next successful conference planning:
Plan more-than-enough setup time
In planning events, there is always a race against time. With company or industry-wide conferences, there is no leeway for subpar performance. Professionalism is what they are paying for. Have an estimate of how much time you need to get everything and everyone in place. On top of that, add at least another 15-30 minutes so that you do not have a room full of workers frantically running around when the first delegate arrives. At this particular conference, we made sure we had everything set up and ready before 7.15 am when registration started at 7.30 am.
Also, always have a packing list, and keep it close to you!
Confirm and reconfirm your vendors
Average vendors serve multiple clients across different industries and purposes at any one time. It is inevitable that they have a lot to remember. Always get both written and verbal confirmation 48 hours before setup time. Email confirmations are still important as they help explicitly spell out your expectations, and also serve as evidence of your exchange.
Pre-empt and have contingency plans
What happens in case of unfavourable weather?
What happens if there is a competing event at your venue?
What happens if there is a closure of venue?
What happens if you have to cancel your event?
These are not easy to plan for, but if left to the day of the event itself, it will be a disaster! Pre-empt as many adverse situations and plot out contingency plans at least two weeks in advance to allow for good measure. Then, even if you have to cancel the event, you will have a system of information dissemination to all of your guests.
Schedule a walkthrough with your clients and team
In the course of planning, emails, orders and spreadsheets would definitely have been exchanged in communication of details between all parties. Organisers should not make the mistake of thinking that it is sufficient to rely on documents to paint a picture of how the event will run. Walk through the program and your vision with your clients and staff onsite whenever you can. Play out each moment and its details as though it were happening right in front of you. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
As the director, you undoubtedly know the details best and will be the one running the show. Always make sure you have a checklist ready, outlining responsibilities with clear expectations for each member of the team. With that being said, have faith in your team and don’t be afraid to delegate. Avoid the trap of running the show alone and micro-managing, no matter how small the event may be. Things are bound to happen and they work best when you have a team you trust battling alongside. Also, don’t be afraid to spend a couple of hundred more to hire additional hands. Labour shortage can actually cause bigger issues than going over budget.
Remember, your client’s success is your success. So get yourself as engaged and invested in your client’s project as you possibly can. This way, you understand where they are coming from and where they need to go in terms of achieving their conference objectives. Your job is to get them there – as smoothly as possible.
Posted by Yiwen Ng, PR Executive, Corporate Media