Are you considering organizing a conference for your industry? Or perhaps it’s a national conference for your company? Planning and executing a successful conference or any event of that magnitude requires superior organizational skills and creativity. There are a lot of moving parts to organizing a conference that usually require a small team of people to carry out. And if you’ve never done it before, it can be daunting. We have some simple steps to follow and a few suggestions to make conference planning a breeze for you. The first step is to create your wish list. Where would you ideally want your conference to be held? How many attendees would you like? How many speakers? Will there be workshops? What quality of participants and speakers are you aiming for? What about catering? The next step is to come up with a budget. How are you going to pay for this event? Are there any resources that you can take advantage of for free? How much will you to charge participants to cover costs? Is making a profit your goal? Will you have to pay speakers? Get a spreadsheet started listing the major costs of your ideal conference. Some expenses to keep in mind: • Rental space • Staff • Speakers • Catering • Signage • Audio/visual equipment • Printed materials • Giveaways Always build in a 10 to 15 percent cushion just in case expenses run over or there are last minute costs you didn’t account for. Once your wish list is budgeted for, start thinking practically. What are the must haves on that list? Can you make do with a different, less expensive option? And what can you let go of. This is the time to choose practically. Your ideal location may be too expensive, but if that’s a must have, then think about where else you can cut costs to stay within budget. One way to keep costs down is to outsource the planning and execution of your conference. There are many good reasons to consider outsourcing, just apart from cost cutting. • You’ll get better rates across the board. An events company will have already negotiated deals with all the vendors needed to throw a large conference. That venue you want? They can probably get it at a cheaper price, or some place equal. They can get you hotel rooms for attendees at block rates, and caterers at reasonable prices. All because they purchase from vendors at bulk, something you are unable to do as a private organizer. • When you outsource your event, you can expect the event company to focus their full attention on it. Unlike yourself and your employees who will have to fit arranging the event around their regular work schedule, for the event planning company, it is their work. • You’ll get specialized skills and experience with an event planning company. They’ll be able to market your event to the right crowd, deal with the advertising, printing, press releases, participants and speakers—all the while keeping you updated. • The event will stay on budget. And if there are extra expenses, you’ll be informed of them upfront, with no shocks at the end. • Event planners are able to suggest ideas, make improvements to your concepts and fill in any gaps you may have left. • After the event has successfully concluded, you’ll even receive valuable technical data from the event company, to show you what worked, what didn’t and what attendees liked. Going forward, such data is invaluable for future events. • Finally, consider the cost to your goodwill, if you plan an amateur event. And consider the jump in your business when your event is polished, run like clockwork and executed professionally. That alone is reason enough to outsource. Ultimately, regardless of whether you manage your event in-house or outsource it, it’s essential to really plan it all out as best you can, make checklists and keep a sharp eye on that budget. Planning an event can be enjoyable, and give you a sense of accomplishment when it all comes together.