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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 July 22, 2019

    10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

    10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

    A cover letter is an introduction to what will be found in the resume. In a cover letter, the applicant is able to use a conversational tone, to explain why the attached resume is worth reviewing, why the applicant is qualified, and to express that it’s the best application the reader will see for the open position.

    Employers do read your cover letter, so consider the cover letter an elevator pitch. The cover letter is the overview of your professional experience. The information in the body presents the key qualifications, the things that matter. The cover letter is the “here is what will be found in my presentation”, which is the resume in this case.

    Something really important to point out- a cover letter should be written from scratch each time. Great cover letters are the ones that express why the applicant is the best for the specific job being applied to. Using a general cover letter will not lead to great results.

    This doesn’t mean that your cover letter should repeat your most valuable qualifications, it just means that you don’t want to recycle a templated, general letter, not specific to the position being applied to.

    Here’re 10 cover letter tips to nail every interview.

    1. Take a few minutes to learn about the company so that you use an appropriate tone

    Like people, every company has its own culture and tone. Doing a bit of research to learn what that is will be extremely beneficial. For instance, a technology start-up has a different culture and tone than a law firm. Using the same tone for both would be a mistake.

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    2. Don’t use generic cover letter terms — be specific to each company and position

    Hiring managers and recruiters can easily identify generic cover letters. They read cover letters and resumes almost every day. Using words and terms like: “your company” instead of naming the actual company, and “your website” instead of “in your about us section on www.abc123.com”, are mistakes. Be as specific as possible, it’s worth the additional few minutes.

    3. Address the reader directly if you can

    It is an outdated practice to use “To Whom it May Concern” if you know the person that will be reviewing your documents. You may wonder how you’ll know this information; this is where attention to detail and/or a bit of research comes into play.

    For example, if you are applying for a job using LinkedIn, many times, the job poster is listed within the job post. This is the person reading your documents when you “apply now”. Addressing that person directly will be much more effective than using a generic term.

    4. Don’t repeat the information found in the resume

    A resume is an action-based document. When presenting information in a resume, the tone isn’t conversational but leading with action instead, for example: “Analyze sales levels and trends, and initiate action as necessary to ensure attainment of sales objectives”.

    In a cover letter, you have the opportunity to deliver your elevator pitch: “I have positively impacted business development and growth initiatives, having combined two regions into one and achieving 17% in compound growth over the following three-year period”.

    Never use your resume qualifications summary as a paragraph in your resume. This would be repeating information. Keep in mind that your cover letter is the introduction to your resume- the elevator pitch- this is your opportunity to show more personality.

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    5. Tell the company what you can do for them

    As mentioned above, this is your chance to explain to the company why you are the best person for the open position. This is where you tell the company what you can do for them: “If hired as the next (job title) with (company name), I will cultivate important partnerships that will enhance operations while boosting revenue.”

    Many times, we want to take the reader through the journey of our life. It is important to remember that the reader needs to know why you are the best person for the job. Lead with that.

    6. Showcase the skills and qualifications specific to the position

    A lot of people are Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades. This can be a great big picture, but not great to showcase in a cover letter or resume.

    Going back to what was mentioned before, cover letters and resumes are scanned through ATS. Being as specific as possible to the position being applied to is important.

    If you are applying for a coding position, it may not be important to mention your job in high school as a dog walker. Sticking to the exact job being applied to is the most effective way to write your cover letter.

    7. Numbers are important — show proof

    It always helps to show proof when stating facts: “I have a reputation for delivering top-level performance and supporting growth so that businesses can thrive; established industry relationships that generated double digit increase in branch revenues”.

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    8. Use testimonials and letters of recommendations

    A cover letter is a great place to add testimonials and information from your letter of recommendations. Mirroring the example above, here is a good way to use that information:

    I have a history of consistently meeting and exceeding metrics: “(Name) rose through the company and became a Subject Matter Expert, steadily providing exceptional quality of work.”- Team Manager.

    9. Find the balance between highlighting your achievements and bragging

    There is fine line between telling someone about your achievements and bragging. My advice is to always use facts first, and support that with an achievement related to the fact, as shown in the examples above.

    You don’t want to have a cover letter with nothing but bullet points of what you have achieved. I can’t stress this enough — cover letters are your elevator pitch, the introduction to your resume.

    10. Check your length — you want to provide no more than an introduction

    The general rule for most positions is one page in length. Positions such as professors and doctors will require more in length (and they actually use CV’s); however, for most positions, one page is sufficient. Remember, the cover letter is an introduction and elevator pitch. Follow the logic below to get you started:

    Start with: “I am ready to deliver impeccable results as (name of company) next (Position Title).

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    What you know and like about the company, what initiatives, missions, goals resonate with you: “I read/listened to an interview that your Chief of Staff did on www.abc123.com. His/her statement regarding important up and coming employee engagement initiatives really resonated with me”.

    Overview of your qualifications and experience: “I have a strong background in developing, monitoring, and controlling annual processes and operational plans related to community relations and social initiatives”.

    Highlight/ Back up your facts with achievements: “I’m a vision-driven leader, with a proven history of innovation and mentorship; I led an initiative that reduced homelessness in four counties and received recognition from the local Homeless Network and the County Commissioner”.

    Close with what will you do for the company: “As your next (job title), I am focused on hitting the ground running as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to the growth of (name of company).

    Bonus Advice

    When applying for a job online or in person, a resume and a cover letter are standard submissions. At least 98% of the time, both your resume and cover letter and scanned via ATS (applicant tracking systems). You can learn more about that process here.

    The information provided in a cover letter should be written and organized to be compatible with these scans, so that it can make to a human; from there, you want to make sure that you capture the recruiter and/or hiring managers attention.

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    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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