Benjamin Franklin allegedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Whilst this can apply in any context, it’s absolutely crucial advice in the conference world.
Planning essentially concerns designing a roadmap to complete a task before you begin. It requires a unique ability to see the big picture from start to finish, as well as the minutia, in terms of mapping the activities and tasks that are necessary to achieve a specific goal.
In the context of conference planning, the objective is to make sure the end result looks seamless and effortless to a participant, while behind the scenes, nothing is left to chance!
By the way - that’s not to say there isn’t merit in creating moments of surprise and serendipity at your conference. But guess what, even that needs to be planned to happen. Yes, we need to allocate time to get out of the way of participants and let the magic happen.
Success with planning is dependant on the ability to break projects down into their respective parts. Truth be told, it’s a painful exercise even for the most detail-oriented. Oftentimes there are steps that are hidden or unknown that could result in a very different outcome than intended. So a certain degree of flexibility is required, with plans adapted as new information becomes available.
As we see it, the key milestones for successful conference planning are:
Begin with the end in mind - as in, what does a “successful” event look like, in every sense, from venue, to set up, presenters sessions, numbers, etc.
Work backwards from there in terms of all that will required to achieve that goal
Lock it all down in an easy-to-read-and up-to-date format (a checklist at a minimum) and schedule regular points in the process to check on progress!
The good news is there’s now a proliferation of event tech solutions available to help with your planning needs. However, be wary of them being panacea: they're only as good as the thinking behind them. Simply put, they don’t create the magic. But they can make planning the magic a lot easier.
Which is why we suggest having a professional planner on your conference production team. The right one understands what it takes to create the magic. They’re a rare breed, and anyone with experience is truly an asset!