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Planning for a Successful Conference

The boss says, “Janine, I want you to handle plans for the June Conference.”  Whoooooa!  Where to start?  My butt is on the line if things don’t work out.

Here are a few suggestions that will help. 

You can imagine that achieving the best result, with the least amount of stress, requires working to a plan and sharing the important decision milestones

A successful outcome will depend on the planning you do.

We suggest you start the planning by considering: 

  • setting clear goals for the conference 
  • understanding the process of selecting the right venue 
  • establishing a budget
  • how you will manage the conference
  • the process of review

Understanding the purpose of the conference.

Determining the purpose of your conference and writing clear goals and/or measurable objectives is the first step in planning the conference. To determine the purpose and set objectives it will be helpful to understand the various conference types.

Strategic Development / Corporate Retreat 

Particularly important for new initiatives, reviews, internal announcements of
complex senior management issues. Very interactive, often continuous with meal
breaks taken in the conference room, Sometimes private dining, security, may
require a sole use venue. 

Objective: To create future plans for the organization

Transform employees into high performance teams through a range of exciting, challenging and testing programs that:
Identify Comfort Zones

  • Foster Trust
  • Promote Risk Taking
  • Encourage Self-Disclosure
  • Demonstrate Group Dynamics
  • Discover Team Members’ Strengths and Weaknesses

Objective: To develop leadership skills and build effective teams


Training events are generally educational and allow attendees to interact with people from different parts of the organisation. Meeting intensive, evening sessions, lots of visual presentations and flipcharts, little free time, usually external facilitators are used.

Objective: To improve specific skills through learning


Meeting to communicate with the sales force - setting sales goals, announcing new product lines. Can be used to focus individual goals in terms of wider corporate goals. Often use team building activities, multi image AV, lots of product displays, special guest speakers for dinner. 

Objective: To work on sales plans, product knowledge and team motivation.


Annual meeting/conference focusing on past performance and future direction enables members from different parts of the country to interact and put forward their views. Exhibit orientated with lots of discussion groups. Dinners with Industry Awards presentations.

Objective:To gain agreement on future plans.


Reward driven event, recognising excellence in performance. Venue chosen will often be different at an out of town destination with an extensive range of on & offsite recreation facilities. Usually a light meeting schedule.

Objective: To reward staff for their achievements.

When you have the responsibility of putting the event together you need to know the objectives. If you haven’t been given that information or it is not forthcoming, make some educated assumptions then ask for clarification. Having the conference objectives documented and clearly understood is the platform on which all your planning decisions will be based.  Here’s a helpful checklist as a starting point -

  • Clarify reason for conference
  • Clarify type of conference
  • Understand main objective
  • Document objectives

conference planning guide