Conference Planning: A Step-by-Step Checklist

So, you’re planning a conference, and you want to make sure everything goes off without a hitch? Then, you have come to the right place. 

Conference planning is vital for ensuring the success of an event. Conference planners should consider several aspects of their events when organizing them, minimize room for mistakes, and keep their organization looking professional to attendees. In addition, determining the objectives of your event and executing the right plan will help you optimize your conference for success. Fortunately, a checklist can provide structure to your planning, and this step-by-step conference planning checklist has all of the information you need for a successful event. Dive in, as this resource provides insights and step-by-step checklist to ensure a flawless event experience.

Conference Pre-Planning

In the Pre-Planning stage, there are essential factors that you should consider related to your ideal conference. Consider the following questions and how you would answer them for your own organization.

  • What is the goal of your conference? It is important to determine your goal and work around the idea of meeting this goal as you plan. For example, a conference to raise awareness for a charity may require visual aids such as slideshows. 
  • Who is the target audience? Ensure your conference resonates with your intended audience. Think about who you’re aiming to attract to the event.
  • What will success look like? To determine what success would look like, consider the best possible result. Perhaps you have successfully shared information on a topic or reached a fundraising goal. Knowing your objective will make it easier to design your meeting around achieving this success.

Conference Planning Checklist


1. Choose a Theme and Format

The first step on the checklist is to choose an ideal theme and format. Once again, your goals should be aligned with the theme. For example, an educational conference about cultures worldwide could have an “Around The World” theme, with booths and activities relating to different cultures worldwide. On the other hand, a “Reach For The Stars” theme with related decor may be more appropriate for a group of students requesting donations for an observatory. Below are some theme and format ideas:

  • Around The World
  • Reach For The Stars
  • Making Positive Change
  • Celebrating Excellence
  • Pay and Play

2. Establish Your Budget

Remember to establish a budget before you run away with ideas about lavish purchases and expensive locations. The budget should be reasonable based on the needs of your organization’s event. To determine a budget, you should look at your event’s fixed and variable costs. This way, you are less likely to miss anything you will need to buy and less likely to go over budget! 

Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are all expenses that you will need to pay, regardless of the number of guests in attendance. Examples of fixed costs may include:

  • Renting the Conference Venue
  • Costs for Conference Entertainment
  • Costs for Conference Equipment

Variable Costs

Variable costs are subject to change, depending on how many guests attend the conference. Examples of fixed costs may include:

  • Costs for Conference Food 
  • Costs for Conference Beverages
  • Costs for Conference Guest Favors

3. Create a Team and Set Roles

When organizing a large event like a conference, it is helpful to split up tasks based on your team members. Once you have created a team, setting roles for each of them can help determine which tasks and actions they will be in charge of. Below are some of the important roles necessary to plan a successful conference. If you require more team members for your needs, you can take a look at our event staff job description and use it to recruit more help.

  • Marketing and Communications: Your marketing and communications team members will organize the event’s advertising. Their job is to spread the word so that potential attendees can be aware.
  • Administration: The Administration members will take care of the staff management and other executive duties relating to the conference.
  • Facilitators: Facilitators can provide support through networking and facilitating conversations among attendees.

4. Choose a Date and Venue

Choosing your date and venue is important and should be handled with care and consideration. For example, during the winter months, events should be held indoors rather than in outside venues due to the cold. In addition, dates should allow guests to enjoy themselves without worrying about the conference getting in the way of their work activities or religious holidays.

5. Choose the Right Conference Technology

To simplify your conference planning, conference technology can be a useful option. These tools can streamline your planning process, and many provide collaboration features so your entire planning team can stay aware of meetings and activity status. Automated alerting is another popular feature that can send guests notifications digitally, reminding them of their invitations. Today’s popular conference planning software tools available on the market include Aventri’s Event Platform, Socio’s Conference Management Platform, and Webex Events Software, to name a few.

6. Hire People and Services

Onboarding the right staff for your needs is essential to creating a clean and welcoming environment for guests. Planners should conduct hospitality staffing to clean and serve guests if food is provided at the event. Additional conference staff may include bartenders, hosts, greeters, DJs, entertainment, and more.

7. Find Sponsors

If it’s starting to look like your event is becoming expensive, never fear. Sponsors can ease the burden of expenses. In addition, sponsors can provide funding for conferences for advertising capabilities at the event to increase their brand awareness. It is essential to reach out to potential sponsors several months in advance, process financial transactions, and come to agreements about the terms and conditions of the sponsorship in time for the event. You can discuss this by organizing meetings with your sponsors ahead of time.

8. Book Event and Keynote Speakers

Conferences often utilize events and keynote speakers for their events. These individuals are usually professionals related to the event’s theme and purpose. Be sure to provide potential speakers with enough time to respond before the big day. Using speakers can be a great way to inform your attendees and even entice them to come.

9. Create the Agenda

The agenda of the conference will establish the order of events that will occur, as planned. In addition, this will have information on start times and ent times, as time should be planned in blocks for easy visualization. Establishing an opening event is the first step, and considering your events’ length can help you figure out the duration of your entire conference. Once the agenda is created, it can be displayed online or provided to attendees so they can stay in the loop with everything going on.

10. Promote Your Event

Nowadays, it’s easy to promote events digitally. Conference software is great for this, as many systems can send out emails notifying potential attendees of event information, like the date, time, theme, and cost of tickets. Online groups are also great for promoting events, and paid promotion is an option as well within publications for users to see. But if digital promotion isn’t your style, conveniently placed flyers can do the trick, so long as they are located in the areas where your target audiences are likely to view them.

10. Send Final Reminders

Life happens, and so do scheduling mistakes. That’s why this step involves sending out final reminders for attendees about the conference. These reminders should notify guests of the day and time, ticket information and should display enthusiasm for the conference.

11. Prepare the Venue

Hospitality staff members should arrive early, along with staff in charge of setting up equipment for the venue. A supervising planner should have a copy of the conference planning checklist and information for checking aspects related to the venue preparation and ensure that they are appropriately taken care of before guests arrive.

12. Prepare Your Volunteers

Event volunteers should arrive early, with enough time to be trained in their roles and responsibilities. Training can even take place on a separate day or over multiple days before the conference for longer events. In addition, volunteers should be informed on the correct procedures for any situation that may take place, even emergencies. Ensuring that staff and volunteers are aware of safety protocols will provide more security for your attendees.

13. After the Conference Survey Your Audience

After the conference has ended, you can provide surveys to the attendees, asking them their opinions on it. The surveys can have different options for scoring enjoyment on conference features like the guest speakers, entertainment, refreshments, location, and more. This way, you can learn what aspects of the event were successful and which may need more attention the next time you hold a conference.

Need Help Staffing Your Conference? Adia Can Help!

If you are organizing a conference, we have everything you could need for your event staffing. Adia is an online staffing solution that matches vetted professionals with open roles. Additionally, the Adia blog provides information on staffing, hiring, hospitality trends, and more. So whether you’re looking to hire or looking to get hired, our system can help!
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