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10 Simple Steps to Plan a Successful Conference

10 Simple Steps to Plan a Successful Conference

    My husband is planning a conference right now, and at the same time, I am starting to organize a one-day event. Both of us feel pretty daunted, so I thought it might be helpful to us – and to others – to streamline the process into ten simple steps.

    1. Determine the “Why”

     Sit down with your partners (if you have them) and talk through the end goal of the conference. Is it to generate revenue? Secure new clients? Get publicity? Keep this goal in mind as you proceed through the rest of the list.

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    2. Create your wish list

    In an ideal world, what would your conference look like? Jot down details such as location, speakers, number and quality of participants, food, and fun activities.

    3. Draft a budget

    How will you pay for your event? Investigate any resources you can use for free (such as donated space) and what you can charge participants to cover costs and still make a profit (if that is a goal). Make a budget spreadsheet listing the major cost items of your wish list – location rental, staff, speakers, meals, signage, audio/visual equipment, printed materials, giveaways, and fun extras. Don’t forget to include costs for marketing the event, such as a website, and build in a 10 to 15 percent cushion in case expenses run over.

    4. Choose practically

     Cost will obviously be a factor in choosing where to hold your event and what services to provide, but so will attendance. You want to select a location that is either in the same city as many participants, or close to it.

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    Your ideal speaker may be Donald Trump, but realistically you probably need to go with a less-pricey option. A resort is certainly appealing, but does it have enough meeting and personal rooms, and will participants enjoy the locale enough to pay a premium?

    Consider polling participants from past events like yours to understand what’s most important when attending such a conference and make selections based on this feedback.

    5. Work with vendors

    Begin working with the service providers of the items in your budget spreadsheet as early as possible.  Understand what will be provided in each case, and review contracts and cancellation policies carefully (for instance, you need to know if the hotel will provide A/V equipment and support in its meeting rooms, or if you need to bring that in yourself). If you are in need of a specific vendor, I recommend checking with the Convention and Visitors Bureau in your destination city.

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    6. Find speakers

    Reach out to your network to identify the speaker(s) who will best help you achieve the conference’s objectives and are within your budget (do not ask or expect professional speakers to appear for free). Review demo videos and talk with people who have heard this speaker before. When communicating with a speaker, provide her with ample details so she can customize her remarks to your audience, and make sure you are on top of her travel arrangements and other needs.

    7. Set the agenda

    Draft a detailed timeline for your conference that starts early (8AM is reasonable) and ends early (4PM).  Schedule a mix of formal speakers, small group workshops, and free networking time. Plan to feed your participants every few hours, either with a full meal or a break snack. After the day’s agenda is complete, consider hosting a dinner at a nearby restaurant or local entertainment such as a tour.

    8. Market your event

    Create a logo and color scheme for your event, and display it on an event website with online registration. Rally your troops to spread the word through e-mail and guest posts in online media targeted to your audience. If appropriate, make use of local event listing websites. Consider offering discounts to organizations that send more than one participant.

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    9. Plan for a stress-free “Day Of”

     Communicate actively with your participants and vendors in advance so they know where to be and what to expect. Get their contact information and make sure they have yours. Tour the facility before your conference begins to make sure your staff is in place and everything is in working order.  As things wind down and invoices come in, review them line-by-line so that you can resolve disputes on the spot.

    10. Evaluate your event

     Now that you are ready to go into the event-planning business full time, let’s see what you can learn for next time. Have your participants fill out a paper or electronic evaluation form and look for common pieces of feedback.

    (Photo credit: at seminar via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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