Conferences are amongst the most important events that professional event managers organize. The term “conferences” can apply to a variety of gatherings from a group of researchers who meet to discuss scientific results with a group of salespeople who are training. Conference planning can be the responsibility of a corporate employee or a professional conference planner.
Conference management and planning includes several key components:
Conferences are held around the world in small and large cities. The venues vary from meeting rooms in small hotels to large convention halls.
During the tough economic times, many companies are scaling back their conferences and some are even canceling them altogether. The money crunch is persuading companies to smaller cities that offer cheaper rates. Some universities are hosting academic conferences in their own campuses rather than hosting them at conference halls. Smaller colleges are taking advantage of the facilities at the larger universities in their area to save on cost.
Proximity to most of the possible attendees
A gathering of researchers from southern schools in the United States is not likely to be held in London. This just drives up the cost for the attendees and the planners.
The accommodations needed
Even if a school has an excellent conference hall, if there are not enough hotels in town for all the attendees, it does not make sense to hold it there. While many attendees would be willing to drive from several miles to attend, many would not.
The conference room at the venue
This may seem like a small detail to anyone who has never been involved in conference planning, but the conference room is very important. If you are going to make a presentation on a large screen, having the screen and a way to project those images available in the room is a huge selling point in conference management. Many will pay extra just for the convenience of not having to lug their own screen and projector. The acoustics and the seating arrangements also factor into the room set up.
Types of Conferences
There are as many types of conferences as there are venues. While all the conference types share some similarities, there are some differences: Here are some examples:
These can be held for two main reasons. University scientists hold them to announce research results. There is also a “call for papers” where newly published information is presented to a group. Many conference planning companies specialize in these types of gatherings for colleges and universities. These companies help in publishing the research or paper, as well. Many of these conferences are held on the campus of a large university.
Thanks to science, new advances in medicine are announced all the time. Medical conferences are a way for doctors and other medical professionals to keep up with these advances and to earn the needed continuing education credits to keep their license. Often professional organizations such as the American Medical Association host annual conferences to give doctors the opportunity to earn these credits.
These can be several types. (1) Annual meetings. Many companies hold this type of meeting for shareholders to announce the company’s accomplishments of the past year and to highlight the future. (2) If a company has many divisions around the world, often the management teams will get together to talk about the business’ direction and to share best practices. This may be the only time they are in the same town. Often these conferences are held in the same town as the company’s headquarters.
Large organizations, such as United Way, will hold these types of conferences several times a year. This gives everyone the opportunity to learn new information and share best practices with their colleagues. Often training conferences will be presented by a marketing company and will be open to anyone from any company. These types of conferences require a classroom type of setting and easy access to restaurants if lunch and dinner is not included in the session.
These virtual gatherings have grown in popularity as travel costs have increased while company budgets have not. Even though they may seem as simple as just getting online, these conferences require planning—particularly if the participants are in different time zones.
Conference management may seem easy to an outsider: find a place, find a caterer and set up the room. But it is much more than that. Conference planning involves every little detail down to making sure there are enough water glasses on each table to making sure the sound system works.
These tasks are usually distributed to several people and vendors but are usually overseen by a conference manager, who carries a huge responsibility. Any small mistake can put a damper on the entire event.