How to Plan and Run a Successful Conference

Posted by Jo Kelly

Holding a conference can include a significant investment on your part. Use this outline to make sure you get a satisfying return on that investment and make your conference a huge success.

Event planning

  • Choosing your venue is fundamental to your event’s success. Do your research to be sure your final choice represents your brand and company culture, facilitates the conference theme, and that it is easy to find, park, and arrange accommodation if required.
  • Allocate a budget in advance and stick to it through. Make sure that every cost is listed and that income and outgoings are carefully captured.
  • Be sure to plan every last detail. Create a timeline of deadlines and deliverables and ensure that the team member responsible for each point is aware of their responsibilities. A detailed timeline is a vital reference point at all planning meetings to be sure that everything is coming together for the day.
  • Don’t panic! Stress will not help you and it will certainly not inspire confidence in your customers or clients. Have your plan in place and trust your work. If anything unexpected comes up, deal with it as it happens to prevent any negative impact on the event itself. And if you find you need a moment to think, just take a few minutes quietly, away from the client, then come back composed and ready for action.


Advance registration

  • All pre-event literature should state in simple terms how the conference will benefit those attending. Online communications could feature a short video or infographic to draw attention.
  • Registration should be easy and quick to complete, to facilitate the maximum number of attendees. A simple Q&A structure is best.
  • If there is a cost to register, make sure that pricing is tiered, offering a discount for early registration, with a set deadline. This will encourage people to sign up early.

Registration at the door

  • Onsite registration will be your client’s first impression of the conference, so it should be efficient and professionally managed.
  • To ensure that onsite registration runs smoothly:

– Create a roomy reception area at the registration point

– Ensure you provide adequate staff who are identifiable to help visitors

– Divide attendees into groups, like partner or sponsor, to speed up the process and enable networking

– Put up obvious signs to direct people to the registration point on arrival

Conference schedule

  • Relevant content – your schedule should provide a range of opportunities for visitors, including education, entertainment and a chance to reflect, so attendees are inclined to register for talks and information, and feel that their day was worthwhile
  • Remember your target audience when planning your content, so that it’s relevant and useful. Consider what your attendees want to get out of the day and utilize market research or customer feedback to get it right.
  • Incorporate industry trends through your keynote speakers and presentations.
  • Stay on point. Each element of your event should fall in line with your established key messaging and branding. Plan who your presenters will be and how they will bring the content to life.


  • Social activities around your conference allow attendees to network and gain some down time. This can also be useful for teams split across long distances as a chance to socialize and compare notes.
  • Allow visitors to schedule and host dinners at nearby restaurants on free evenings where they can invite customers or key contacts to develop relationships without the structure of the conference dictating their interaction.
  • It can be effective to book recognizable venues for drinks or dinners (budget allowing, of course) so that attendees have a chance to experience the destination rather than just the conference center and a hotel room.
  • Entertainment and prominent branding is key, especially when it comes to larger events. Make an impact on arrival with an impressive entrance or, if your venue boasts any ‘wow’ features, then maximize them with clever lighting or branding. Laying on interactive entertainment can also add to the atmosphere and get the attendees actively involved.


  • Social media can help to create a real buzz around your event and allows visitors to share their experiences to further promote the activity. Ideal for spreading the word and responding to any feedback in real time.
  • Invite feedback from attendees, perhaps through a survey or focus group, or have a prominent suggestion box at the conference itself. This can provide relevant ideas to enhance or improve any follow up events.
  • Be prepared!  Careful planning will help to ensure that you event goes without a hitch.

For help with conference planning, please contact us

Jo has worked at CR Worldwide as Events Operations Director since 2004. She is responsible for scoping and delivering all types of events, for clients of all sizes, globally. She manages the division’s team who organise and execute award-winning events – ranging from one-off sales floor days, corporate hospitality events and incentive travel trips, to annual conferences and partner summits.