How to open your conference

Posted by Jo Kelly

A conference should start strong – get the attention of your attendees, provide a means to set the tone, and build momentum and enthusiasm for the remainder of the event.

Doing all this can be no easy feat. To help, we explain what to keep in mind when planning to open your conference.

What sort of conference are you having?

Choosing how to open a conference often means deciding on an opening keynote speaker or a core topic area to highlight.

This often depends on the sort of conference you’re holding:


A conference focussed on a specific business issue, with delegates from a range of businesses, is good to open with networking opportunities and a keynote speech from a leader in the industry.

This speech helps to outline the tone of the conference, and can introduce several key discussion points for the event. Depending on the purpose of the conference, this could be a breakdown of annual sales figures or an explanation of business values. The speech should also be engaging and informative, aiming to prompt questions that can be answered either by the speaker or during other talks taking place at the event.

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A management conference is often solely focussed on the activities of one business and attended by the managers of its branches, offices or key teams.

These sorts of events are often opened by a general address to the managers. It can outline the successes of the past year, future goals, or the direction the business is going.

This sort of presentation is designed to inform staff and help to engage them with a wider view of the business. Additional presentations can then introduce and outline new incentives, promotions, or products, of which managers can inform their specific staff.


A sales conference is often an event where industry professionals are invited in order to be shown key new products, such as from a company or a range of businesses across a sector.

The keynote at this sort of event often introduces a major new product, so it should be designed to build hype around this. Introducing the product and some of its features, before smaller talks or events take place, can allow delegates to ask questions about it.

This can also give them some hands-on time with the product to try it out for themselves.

See our conference tips

You could also use this sort of conference to introduce an incentive, based around the sale of the product. This could highlight the rules and the rewards for success, such as a trip or major prize.

Whatever sort of conference you’re running, it should open in a way that sets the scene for the rest of the event. The conference itself can be an ideal way to share information and help promote new ideas and ways of working. Ensuring you get all your delegates on board and enthusiastic about the event can help to make it even more effective.

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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.