But... WHY Are You Planning a Conference?
If you’re planning a conference, it might seem silly to ask: Why do we hold conferences? Why do we feel like we need to get people together–physically–so they can socialize and share information?
We ask ourselves so we can set goals!
As a conference planner, you know that something special happens when you get the right group of people together in the perfect location, and guide them to have conversations and connect. But of course you also have to have measurable goals.
Let’s talk about the three most common types of high-level conference goals–to be set early in the process of planning a conference.
You’re looking to generate revenue or raise funds
If you’re planning a conference to raise money, consider these goals.
Tickets sold/revenue from tickets
Ticket sales are a reflection of your success making your conference desirable and marketing it effectively to the right people.
To meet this goal you must find relevant sponsors and sell them relevant, creative advertising opportunities.
Auctions, sweepstakes, contests, tournaments
You’ll succeed if you make the prizes worth it and market effectively to your attendees.
How much should you charge for tickets? The best way to inform an appropriate ticket price: research the conference landscape. Consider factors like event length, session size, the perceived value of the keynotes and sessions, catering quality and quantity, and the venue and location. Will attendees have to travel? Will you be offering discounts? Finally, keep in mind that for many conferences, important connections and partnerships are made. Sometimes an attendee can make back her ticket investment many times over.
Discounts? Will you be giving away free tickets to press and luminaries? Will you offer deeply discounted tickets for early bird registrants? If the answers are yes, work through the expectations for free and discounted tickets and include this in your revenue goal. Once again, you can use a survey tool in your information-gathering phase to find out what people would reasonably be willing to pay and what they expect from a conference like the one yours.
Your conference goal is to increase awareness
Awareness goals can be hard to pin down. It’s not always easy to accurately measure how a large group of people “feels” about something, or how well they remember it. But if you are planning a conference to raise awareness, it’s still important. Measure what you can, set a baseline ahead of time, and keep track of your success.
What does “increasing awareness” really mean?
- Getting the right message to the people at your conference
- Encouraging your attendees to share the message using social media and other amplification methods
- Making sure the conversation keeps going even after you’ve closed the doors of the conference itself
Here are some ways to categorize and measure awareness.
Did you get the message across? Use a post-conference survey tool, and quiz your attendees on your event’s main takeaways. You’ll get insight into how attendees synthesized the information shared.
You can set goals for Twitter hashtag mentions, social media followers and blog post shares.
How long after your conference are people are still talking about the event, your message, or your cause? You can extend your conference’s lifetime by engaging with your attendees and universe, having two-way discussions on social media, sharing valuable follow-up content through email, and bringing your brand to new conferences.
Lifetime goals could be measured as post-event Twitter hashtag mentions, email response, and brand recognition over time.
You’re planning a conference to connect with specific targets
This is just as James Bond-y as it sounds. Do you have specific deals you’d like to close, relationships you need to build, or introductions you want to make? Put on your wetsuit-over-your-tuxedo and get ready to network.
Here are some sample goals: If you have 20 tier-one potential partners attending your conference, make it your goal to have meaningful conversations with 15 of them, and book follow-up interactions within a week. If you hope to close three deals at your conference, make it your goal to close two during the conference’s timeline, and the third deal within two weeks’ time.
It’s a good idea to give yourself some timeline leeway, because you can’t always count on the other parties to be in sync with your planned timeline. Your ability to make connections will be time-bound, and it’s at the mercy of unforeseen circumstances: what if the partner you hope to close can’t make the conference at all due to a snowstorm?
There are many more types of high-level goals you can consider when planning a conference. Building an audience? Launching a product? Please share your experiences with us!