Top Tips for Planning a Two-Day Conference
Updated: Apr 9
With the UK starting to head back to "normal", it's likely that many companies will be thinking about planning conferences and events to bring their teams back together and re-align company objectives. With so much to consider, planning an overnight conference can feel overwhelming, and we often find that conference organisers don't know where to start. With conferences coming in all shapes and sizes, we've shared below our top tips for planning a two-day conference that’s a success all round; including how to keep it fun and engaging whilst getting the most out of your attendees.
Create a clear agenda from the start
Planning should start as far in advance as possible; not only to allow enough time for all the details to be confirmed, but also to ensure you get the suppliers you really want to make your event a success. It's important at this early stage that you take the time to decide upon your event objectives - you can ask yourself these questions:
- Why are you bringing people together?
- What is your vision for the event?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- How will your attendees benefit from attending?
Once you have this vision, it will make it a lot easier to decide upon the activities and sessions required to make your event a success.
With this information, you'll be able to set out an event agenda. By creating a clear structure, you’ll make all the other planning aspects much easier, including budgeting and supplier management. At this stage, it's also useful to create a conference planning 'to do' list, and assign tasks to your different team members.
We like to think of this agenda as a 'journey' for our attendees. Think about every aspect of the event, including the invitation beforehand, to the follow-up afterwards. You want to think about how you are going to make your guests excited to be joining you. At this stage, you should also decide which main topics you’re going to address each day. Any key speakers should be split between the days, keeping the right balance of important and digestible information.
Plan fun and engaging conference activities
We've all missed connecting in-person with our team members over the last year. It’s a great idea to fit something fun into one of the afternoons, this could be an outing or a teambuilding activity - work-related or not! Make sure to schedule your important topics for the morning when your employees are most engaged, as this is when you'll get the best out of them, and keep the fun session scheduled in the afternoon when your employees are likely to start flagging.
Adding something memorable into your afternoon will give the guests something to look forward to and fond memories to look back on which will help with staff retention. If you can, try and find a way to link this to your event vision; perhaps you want to integrate new team members, or maybe you're launching a new product or service soon. There are plenty of ways to make team building activities both fun and educational.
You can also integrate fun into your working sessions by making them more interactive. There's nothing worse than death by powerpoint! Give guests the opportunity to submit questions, or split them into groups where they can really engage with the topic, and this will instantly make the information more memorable.
Serve drinks one afternoon
Serving drinks mid-afternoon is something we have found to be a hugely successful. Guests will begin flagging mid-afternoon so having a small selection of refreshing mocktails, delicious coffees or even cold beers on offer can get guests up, moving around and feeling refreshed for the last section of the day - especially if the sun is shining. Why not transition your daytime conference into a summer party?It will also come as a lovely surprise and reward to guests for sitting through a long day at the conference.
Some companies prefer to serve these on the first day if they’re having an evening dinner that night, and others prefer to do this on the second night at the end of the conference. One thing to consider is that most people will be travelling on the second day and will need to use public transport or drive which will affect whether people take up the offer.
Consider your conference menu
Food can make or break a conference experience. Have you ever been to a conference and been served dry rolls? It’s not what you’re looking for after a long morning of taking in information.
Just before the first lockdown, we did a large conference for a company with over 300 of their managers over 3 days. We got really creative with the menu, and the venue loved creating different cuisines for each day. We had 4 different dishes on offer at each lunchtime served as bowl food. After each lunchtime, we had even the fussiest eaters raving about the food because it was interesting, tasty and most important gave a variety of options for all dietaries and palettes. One of our top secrets to success was that we made all our options gluten-free. You never would have known, and the gluten-free dietaries were overwhelmed with the choice and delight when they had expected to receive defrosted ‘free-from bread.
Bowl food works really well at a corporate event. It allows people to mix and mingle and try multiple smaller dishes without standing awkwardly whilst trying to remain professional with a messy slab of lasagne.
Appoint someone internally to be the point of contact
As professional planners, we know that no will event run smoothly from start to finish without any hiccups! Most of the time, if planned correctly, these are small and manageable.
The most important thing is to ensure you’ve appointed someone internally to be the point of contact and have the authority to make the executive decisions when asked. There’s nothing worse than turning small questions into a major problem because no one knows who to ask.
Appointing one person internally to liaise with your external events team or suppliers, will make the event run much smoother. That person will know everything that’s going on and feel in control. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have smaller groups working internally, but your appointment person will know the overall figures and facts to make decisions quickly and efficiently on the day.
Planning a successful conference
Planning an overnight conference has huge benefits and is worth the time and investment that it requires. You’re much more likely to see the benefits you’re hoping for, and for many it can be a real treat to be taken away for the evening.
By following our top tips, planning your overnight conference will feel manageable and help keep everything on track with the right balance of fun and work-related content. If you’re looking for someone to help and manage your event, we can take the stress away and ensure you deliver a conference that’s a raving success. Get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org.