How to plan an effective international conference

Posted by Jo Kelly

Holding an international conference that brings together delegates from around the world can have an enormous benefit in business – especially if your company operates on a global landscape. But there’s a lot to think about to make sure these overseas events are fully effective.

This blog explains what should you think about when planning an effective international conference.

Research and initial planning

This is crucial for any conference, but when you’re holding one overseas you should make more time for research and initial planning, as there’s a lot more to think about. For instance, you’ll need to get all equipment, resources and speakers, not to mention delegates of different nationalities, to and from your chosen venue. It can also be difficult to get access to things at the last minute, like equipment, in a country you don’t know, if you miss something off your event checklist.

Ideally, it’s wise to give yourself at least a year so you can properly plan, source and prepare everything to ensure your conference runs smoothly.

The more planning you do, the more effective your conference should be, and the more prepared you’ll be to deal with the unexpected.

Take a look at our conference ideas

Venue and destination

Your choice of venue is crucial for an international conference. It’s important to make things easy for delegates by picking somewhere that is easily accessible, especially for those travelling from different countries. You should choose a destination with good transport links, like a well-connected city, so attendees can get to from the venue without difficulty. You should also consider a venue in a country which provides similar travelling time for all your delegates.

As well as choosing a space that can accommodate the number of delegates you expect to attend, it’s wise to make sure your venue has good conferencing facilities. For instance, a venue with good audio and visual equipment to save on costs arranging to have it shipped to the venue. You should also think about choosing a venue in a destination that might appeal more to people, like an attractive and popular capital city. Doing this might encourage delegates to stay for the duration of your conference if it runs for a couple of days. Also, if you host an offsite appreciation event this will give you more choices. You can learn more about event venues in our blog, Choosing a venue for your conference.

Accommodation and travel

Providing accommodation is another key part of planning an international conference, as people will be travelling from afar and will need somewhere to stay. It’s wise to make sure there are a selection of affordable hotels close to your conference venue. Some venues will have accommodation built on their site. Nearby hotels might also offer deals for group bookings, or provide a discount for all those attending events at the venue, so it’s wise to do your research.

Making sure delegates can travel to and from your conference with ease is also important. Consider doing your research to find the best routes for attendees to travel by air and rail. Airlines often offer deals for group bookings, so it’s worth contacting them. It’s also a good idea to arrange for a representative to greet groups of delegates when they arrive at the main airport. This can help make them feel welcome, while enhancing your conference experience. Hotels are also likely to have good relationships with reliable taxi firms, so you should be able to provide delegates with the best way for them to get directly to and from the conference venue.

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Agenda and translation

In your conference agenda, it’s wise to include keynote speeches, discussions and seminars which focus on relevant key topics that have global appeal. When considering speakers, it can be more beneficial to choose people who are well known in their industry or highly regarded around the world. A great appeal of international conferences is also the opportunity to network with people from different countries. So you should aim to strike a good balance between your event programme and providing ample time for networking. You could also arrange mini networking events before and after the conference, such as a breakfast meetup or evening drinks in a nearby hotel bar.

Providing sufficient translation services is also important when planning an international conference. It helps ensure delegates from different nationalities can understand your conference goals, participate in discussions and enjoy the event experience, all without confusion. This could include providing translators during Q&A sessions, ensuring presentations and videos have subtitles, and making sure conference brochures and maps are available in multiple languages. It’s also a good idea to have multilingual staff present at the event to handle delegates’ general enquires.

Technology can also play a big part in helping with communication and engaging attendees at an international conference. This includes using it to inform delegates and provide opportunities for interaction, such as with apps and social media. It can also make your content more inspiring and entertaining by using, for instance, projection mapping and virtual reality. You can learn more about its benefits in our blog, How technology can transform your partner summit.

Culture and entertainment  

An international conference can provide a great opportunity for attendees to experience the food, music and culture of the country where it’s taking place, so you should make the most of it. You could theme your event around your chosen destination and offer the chance to sample local cuisine at a lunchtime buffet or meal. You could also arrange a tour of the town or city where the venue is based, so delegates have the chance to see and visit some famous landmarks and attractions.

When considering entertainment for an overseas conference, it’s wise to get a good balance between things that have a global appeal, with events that give a nice nod to local culture. It’s best to avoid entertainment that might lose impact due to cultural differences and language barriers, like a comedian – what might be funny in one country might go over the heads of the people from another. Instead, you could include a pop band, who’s music is known around the world, a local talented magician or impressive acrobatic act. Closing your conference with entertainment like this can help make sure you end it on a high and add even more value to your event experience.

Helping you plan effective international conferences

International conferences require a great deal of work – thought, research, planning and effort – to deliver an event that’s fully effective and will attract and engage delegates from all over the world. It’s a big task, but you don’t need to take it on yourself. With our award-winning team of conference specialists (we won best international conference at the C&IT awards in September) we can offer a range of supporting services. Whether you need full event service or delegate registration management, or just help with logistics or accommodation, you can choose how involved you would like us to be.

We’d love to excite, engage and inspire you and your delegates with our effective conference services. To speak to a member of our team:

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.