How to Plan Your First B2B Conference

Posted by Rafael Indyarta on Jul 2, 2020

There is no greater feeling than planning a successful event! 

Seeing the faces of the guests you brought together, building new connections, and learning new skills. All of this manifested from an idea months earlier. 

The reward is truly great, but it only comes with months of planning, organizing, and hard work. Plans fall through, people cancel, and technical difficulties are just some of the challenges you’ll have to overcome if you’re going to plan your first event. 

Bringing people together is a wonderful thing and we want to help you achieve your goal. Using our knowledge in the event planning space, and having worked with promoters and venues alike, we want to give you a guide to successfully execute your first Business Conference. 

Know your “why” and plan around it.

Before making any plans, book any caterers, or sell any tickets,  you need to know why you are hosting this event in the first place. 

What made you want to bring people together? What sets your idea apart from other existing conferences?

Knowing your “why” will carry you as you proceed with the next phases of planning. Use your why to establish your theme, and present your event’s unique value proposition. 

Without your “why”, your conference will be like every other conference in your industry, putting you behind the more established conferences. 

As long as you remember your “why”, you’ll be able to create a unique and concise experience for your guests, who have likely been waiting for an event like this as well. 

Set a timeline and budget

Other than knowing your “why”, knowing “when” and “how much” is also very important. These two factors will be the framework of your conference, as you proceed planning.  

Your budget can not just act as a restriction on spending, but can also act as your checklist. Spend a little extra time on writing down what you’ll need, or potentially need. 

Conferences can vary from industry to industry, but here’s a list of some important expenses to account for in your budget:

  • Venue

  • Catering

  • Accomodations 

  • Marketing

  • Speakers

  • Gifts

  • Activities

In addition to your budget, your timeline is also important when establishing your event’s framework. Set the dates for your actual event, ticket launch, and any other key events.

When selecting your event’s date, there are several things to consider. Avoid any long weekends, or other major festivals or events. Schedule your business conference on a weekday, for those attending as a part of their jobs. Also, give yourself plenty of time to plan, giving yourself enough time in case plans change. 

Let your budget and timeline guide your event planning efforts and keep you organized. As you begin planning, you can easily get lost in all the work, so your timeline and budget can keep you on track. 

Book the perfect venue

With all the planning and organizing in place, it’s now time to put it into action. 

The first thing you need to book for your event is always the venue. Having the location of your venue in place is crucial for booking all other assets. You can’t begin to market your event, if you don’t have a location, and you won’t be able to book speakers until you can tell them where to go.

When looking at venues, consider your goals for your conference. If you are featuring speakers, make sure the venue can accommodate a stage and projector. For trade shows and networking events, consider how the venue will house vendors and the flow of the venue. For more immersive conferences, look for venues that have rooms for collaborations and workshops. 

Figuring out the goals of the conference will allow you to have goals in mind when selecting a venue. Aside from these goals, here are some other variables you need to consider when selecting a location for your event.

  • Price

  • Size

  • Decor

  • Location

  • Accommodations nearby

  • Entertainment and Attractions

  • Facilities

  • Technical Capabilities

Hotels, and Universities are a good place to start, but don't be afraid to look a little deeper than that. Imagine having your trade show in a castle or abandoned factory, and how your guests will feel about that!

Book Speakers

The speakers can make or break an excellent conference and can be the deciding factor for many of your attendees. 

Try looking at industry experts with whom you have a mutual connection, so there is already an established trust. You can reach out in a more casual manner, and use friends and colleagues to vouch for you. 

For speakers that you have no connection with, it may require a little more convincing. With your event being new, you’ll need to rely on your professional background and charm to convince them to come. 

Next thing you’re likely wondering is if you should pay your speakers. Right of the bat, you should at least cover your speakers’ food, travel and accommodation if needed. If they are willing to volunteer their time and knowledge, the least you can do, as a host, is to cover the travel, especially if they’re coming from far away. 

Aside from this, speaking fees are common for big name speakers, and is something you need to discuss before making any sort of deal. For a first-time conference, getting a big name speaker is not always necessary. In fact, focusing on other aspects of your event (like networking, workshops, and professional development) instead of booking big name speakers is more important in your first years. 

Although speakers can be a selling point, they aren’t everything. Book speakers that have knowledge to share, that help you fulfill your event’s goals. 

Marketing your Event

Marketing your event is explaining why your event is different than the others and what guests can expect. 

Using your early planning efforts, outline your event’s purpose and theme, you can effectively share to the world why they should come. Remember why you started your event, as there may be several others who share the same desire. 

Check out our other blog [link to event marketing blog] for more detailed descriptions and checklist for your event’s marketing plan. 

Essentially, having concise messaging, exciting graphics and content, and leveraging your purpose will entice those who feel the same. 

Another important aspect of marketing is ticket pricing. Choosing the lowest possible price, that can cover all the costs is key. Breakdown your pricing into phases to create urgency in your tickets, and constantly communicate. 

Keep in mind that ticketing platforms and processing fees are a part of your registration process. 

Other aspects to consider

Catering: How are you going to feed your guests, if at all? Sometimes, your venue has its own dining option, or restaurants nearby. 

Gift bags: A tangible object will help add value to your event. Mugs, merchandise, calendars, or gift cards are examples of gifts for your guests. Another option is to leverage your sponsors or vendors to give a special promotion to your attendees. 

Scheduling and additional events: Your event cannot just include speakers. There needs to be additional events inside your conference that further adds value. What sorts of activities will help your guests? How can you incorporate sponsors and vendors? What sorts of professional development and skill building opportunities are in demand in your industry?

Flow: This factor may slip when planning your schedule but your conference’s overall flow is very important. Understand how your guests will work their way through your venue and move from section to section and activity to activity. 

Click here to learn more about how you can start your first B2B conference!