01. Find a co-organizer
Besides, even if perceptions about the theme may have changed by the time you actually run the conference, you will need to be attracting participants some time earlier than this. Are you and the planning team equipped with knowledge regarding national, institutional or local priorities? Do you keep up to date by attending relevant events and following any national debate around the topic?
If not, you should, and you should definitely make sure your team does include individuals who do. Do you know your competition?
Ensure that your event is complimentary rather than in competition. The number of potential delegates is finite, and you will both end up with low participation rates if events are too similar. Your main aim should be to plan the advertising of the agenda for the event so that everyone who turns up for it will get at least some of what they are looking for from it. Are there current hot issues or topical topics which you want to address? Perhaps these have arisen as a result of changes in market forces, developments on the international scene or the creation of a new initiative or product?
What are the pressing interests and concerns of your target group? What is it your people really want to do? Can this be turned into a conference theme? Have there been national developments in the field? Is there an obvious national agenda to be addressed? For example, has new legislation been issued which people will need to find out about and discuss? Are there funding body imperatives?
Have new government initiatives been unveiled? Is it likely to be something peculiar to your own organization? Are there organizational priorities to agree on?http://nutritiony.com/4772-top-phone-track.php
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Is an organization-based perspective required? Do the staff need upskilling in a particular area? Is there a new concept or initiative of relevance to your local group? Are there partnerships that require forging or opportunities to be created to facilitate the sharing of good practice? Have more than one theme for a major event. Often the most valuable products of a conference arise from different constituencies of delegates interacting with each other. If the agenda is too narrow, you may only attract people whose particular interest coincides exactly with this agenda.
Any conference will only attract a proportion of the target audience. For a major conference, it is normal to have parallel sessions, and to arrange these so that parallel strands follow through particular themes through the conference. These strands can be developed from the original advertised themes. When conference publicity identifies a number of intended strands, it is normal for one or two of these to attract the greatest interest and large numbers of contributions, and for what seemed to be equally viable strands to turn out to be non-starters. It is also normal for some better ways of dividing the conference into strands to become apparent when the nature and direction of most of the contributions become clearer, near to the event.
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Intended conference outcomes In education and training, it is normal to describe the curriculum in terms of what is intended to be achieved. One way or another, these boil down to spelling out in advance what people who participate should achieve by the end of the event.
What will get them to sign up for the event in the first place? How will participation in the event match their interests and aspirations? What are their problems? What may they gain at the event to address these problems? What kinds of solutions to these problems may the event help them to identify? For a big event, the intended outcomes could run into pages. Build in to the wording of each of the intended outcomes some feeling of how they will take their existing achievements further or deeper.
Focus instead on what participants will be able to do with their increased understanding, knowledge or appreciation by the end of the event. For example, have one or two intended outcomes linked to each theme. The wording of a theme may only tell intending delegates something about the content of the event; the intended outcomes can add vital detail about what exactly intending delegates may hope to achieve in relation to each theme. This depends mainly on the purpose of your event, as well as the size, duration, history, and other circumstances surrounding your planning and implementation of the event.
We start this section with a table illustrating some of the similarities and differences between a range of different kinds of event. But launch events and dinners with speakers can be freestanding events in their own right too. We complete this section of the book by looking individually at one-day events, half-day events, awards ceremonies and launch events. There are of course similarities and differences between all of these possibilities, and it is often the case that a longer event such as a conference may also include one or more of these.
What sort of event are you planning? The suggestions and discussions in this book extend to several kinds of event, for example international conferences, national and internal conferences, launch and dissemination events, and so on. Different kinds of event serve different purposes. Some things lend themselves to full-scale international conferences; other purposes are best served by shorter, sharper local gatherings.
It is useful to make wise and informed choices regarding the sort of event that will best meet your particular requirements and contexts. The following questions and suggestions may help you to decide which kind of event will be most suitable for your purposes. Table 2.
In this case, you are probably working towards organizing a fully-fledged international residential conference. In this case, you will need to take due account of how recent conferences in the series have developed over the last few years. In such cases it is well worthwhile for you, and other key members of your organizing team, to have attended the last two or three in the series. Do you want to bring together a group of staff from different agencies, organizations and institutions to address particular themes? If so, a national residential conference may be suitable. This is the most usual format of annual conferences organized by professional associations.
For example, does the purpose relate principally to a particular group of staff within a particular region? Purposes could include reaching a set of decisions or action planning to tackle a certain issue. If so, your event is most likely to be a one-day regional conference or training event.
Perhaps a new association, a new funding stream, a new national or local initiative, or a new concept? If so, a national one-day event could be suitable, with most or many people travelling some distance to attend.
7 Essential Conference Planning Tips: Speakers
Again a one-day national or regional event may be the best way to meet your needs. There may well be at least some dissemination funding already built into the project, some of which could go towards the costs of planning and running a conference or event. If so a one-day in-house event may be the most useful format although you may choose not to hold the event on-site.
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Events of this kind could include a conference run for staff of a particular organization usually with external inputs , which aims to agree an organizational perspective on a particular issue, or to enhance staff awareness and abilities in a specific area. How many participants do you anticipate? Be realistic and use as a guide numbers who have attended similar events— although be aware that location, timing, and factors about the timeliness of the topic may all affect expected numbers.
Many of these factors are covered in other parts of this book. Why would you want to choose to have a conference?
When deciding what kind of an event to have, you are likely to want to think through the pros and cons of having a conference, rather than a different kind of event. The following sets of tips are designed to help you make this decision. It can also make concepts and ideas that are reasonably familiar come to life when heard direct from the lips of a recognized authority. Many delegates indicate in their feedback from conferences that the most useful aspect of the event has been talking through ideas with other fellow participants and finding out how they are interpreting ideas and data in contiguous fields.
Although electronic communication is now ubiquitous, there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings, where seemingly tangential and perhaps inconsequential encounters can sometimes suddenly appear relevant and exciting. This may include projects that are nearing their conclusion, or research work that merits wider attention, or well-regarded small-scale work that has not yet impacted highly on the community at large. Publishing ideas in print or electronically establishes and fixes your work in the intellectual domain, but when work is incomplete, discussing it at a conference can be extremely helpful both to the originator and to those who provide commentary.
A conference can provide opportunities for work to be disseminated more quickly than paper publication sometimes allows. Articles in journals are often written months or years before they are in press, so conferences can offer immediate chances for the work to be placed in the public domain. It is often the informal, accidental, casual encounters between colleagues talking in the lunch queue or on the bus en route to the conference social events that can be the most productive for delegates.
A wellrun conference can be a highly enjoyable place to learn, and one in which the boundaries between work and pleasure often break down to beneficial effect. In the case of international conferences particularly, such occasions provide delegates with the opportunity to travel, share their views with people from different cultures and nations, and develop new perspectives on topics of high interest and relevance to them.
This should not be assumed always to be the case, however, since there is a lot of competition for conference income and the only conferences to make a profit are those where budgetary planning is meticulous, where contingencies have been planned for in advance and where realistic assumptions have been made at the outset. There is also an element of luck around choosing the topics, managing to find the best speakers available and hitting the right timing for the subject matter.
One-day events One-day events seem to be becoming ever more popular. This is partly because busy professional people may find it easier to find a single day they can squeeze out of their diaries, when it would not have been possible to be away for even two days. However, the skills you need to organize a successful, well-attended one-day event are no less than for a much bigger event. Many of the tips elsewhere in this book continue to apply, but the following additional guidance may help you on your way to planning a good one-day event.
Organizing a oneday event needs as careful planning as organizing a full conference, so refer to the tips elsewhere about planning, signage, registration, costing and so on. You need to be on top of all the separate steps for successful event organization, even though the event is on a smaller scale than a full conference. While at a one-day event you may not need a fully staffed registration point or reception desk all day, it can be useful to have one non-participating person on hand, to deal with equipment suppliers, breakdowns, messages for delegates, enquiries, checking that refreshments are available where and when they should be, and all the sorts of things that can need sorting out even in a relatively small gathering of people.
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