Planning a successful convention requires knowing the big-picture strategic goals of the host organization before starting work on basic meeting logistics. Using your strategic goals, you can effectively plan how to attract the attendees you want, pick the right venue, select the best speakers and develop the most attractive amenities and activities.
Define Your Strategic Goals
An organization’s goals for a convention are not always the same as the convention attendee’s goals. Learn the organization’s reasons for hosting the convention. It might be to attract and retain members, generate profits, provide board and committee members with a vacation perk or generate media publicity for the organization.
Set Your Tactical Plan
Once you know your strategic goals, set your tactical objectives for reaching them. These can include choosing seminars and speakers to attract specific attendee types, having a revenue-producing trade show, adding spouse activities to increase attendance, organizing social functions such as a golf tournament or river cruise, having an awards banquet or conducting an annual vote of the membership. Your marketing plan should include the advertising, public relations, promotional and social media strategies to promote the convention.
Plan the Budget
Determine the organization’s financial goals for the convention, and review your numbers. You might be limited to a specific budget if the convention is an expense. The organization might have a profit target, or you might be allowed to spend based on your expected revenue. Create projections based on optimistic and conservative registration and sponsorship revenues.
Outline Your Agenda
Next, plan your event agenda. Choose your date, venue and activities. Many conventions have a theme that explains the event’s overall purpose and helps attract attendees. You might need to solicit input on dates and potential locations from your board or attendees and conduct site visits to multiple venues before you choose one. Review information about previous conventions to learn about venues, attendance, financial performance and attendee and sponsor feedback. Create a calendar that starts with attendee check-in and outlines each day’s schedule.
Research Logistical Needs
Begin contacting venues, speakers, caterers, entertainment options, audiovisual companies, printers and travel companies. Determine how to handle marketing, registrations, sponsorships, badges, check-ins, trade show booths, gift bags, program books and website pages. Send requests for proposals for external vendors such as resorts, caterers, golf courses and travel agencies. Put together your desired vendor list and costs.
Write a Proposal
Prepare a document that shows your board or convention team your plan for the convention. Include your understanding of the organization’s goals and how you plan to meet those objectives. Provide an agenda of the event with a detailed daily schedule. Present a complete budget. Explain why you selected the theme, location, seminar topics, speakers and social activities. Justify your attendance, expense and revenue projections based on your research.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.