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How To Plan And Run A Great Conference Experience


Nothing compares to a good conference: the atmosphere of being immersed in a crowd of people who share the same passion as you, the lessons you learn and advice you take in, and the friends you get to meet and the new ones you make. You leave a good conference re-energized — full of zeal for your job and bursting with fresh ideas.

That’s exactly what I wanted to create with HybridConf, and I am proud that we achieved it in our first outing last year. Our guests learned, shared stories, made lasting friendships — even a relationship or two — and undoubtedly had a good time. I felt like I had succeeded in giving back to the community some of the same experiences that I so value from conferences of the past. This year, we’ve switched cities, but our goal is the same: to bring people together in one place where they can discover and share and then leave full of positivity towards the great community we have the privilege to be a part of.

Since starting HybridConf, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive countless pieces of advice from other conference organizers. The advice has been invaluable to me, so I wanted to pay it forward with this article and help more of you succeed, too.

Make Sure That Organizing A Conference Is Right For You

Before delving into a list of tips, I should say that running a conference is incredibly hard, much more than you can possibly imagine, so make sure that it’s really right for you before you start.

If you are going to run a conference, then you will need to be prepared for many late nights, big money worries, a roller coaster of emotions and a prolonged period when your loved ones, social life and free time take a back seat. There’s no escaping that. It’s a huge responsibility and one that will take up a lot of your time, both in physical labor and in constant worrying. It really is a massive amount of work, especially for those of us (like me) who do this on top of a day job. Sometimes it feels insurmountable.

Then, there is the stress from money, because — let’s not beat around the bush here — putting on a conference of a certain size can be very expensive. Add to that the worry of not really being able to control exactly how well the big day goes. You just have to plan and organize and sell as well as you can and keep your fingers crossed. Considering all of this thoroughly, therefore, and whether you really want to commit this much time and brainpower is really important.

One of the best ways to counteract the stress is to have a really clear understanding of why you’re doing this in the first place. You need to have a solid reason that you can believe in and that will drive you forward and help you to make a lot of the decisions along the way. My reason was that I was tired of so many UK conferences featuring the same speakers with the non-divergent opinions. After complaining about it on Twitter for so long, I decided that I had to just stop complaining and try to fix it. So, I took the opportunity to make the type of conference that I would want to attend myself.

So, with all of that being said, if you’ve read this far and still want to put on a conference, high five to you! I’m very glad I haven’t scared you away, because later I’ll talk about all of the wonderful rewards that this stress and hard work bring you.

Learn How To Run A Great Conference

This section shares my top tips for getting started with your conference and staying organized along the way.

1. FIGURE OUT THE THEME

Having some kind of unifying idea is important. It could be relatively broad and high level — like ours, which was to bring designers and developers together — or much narrower, such as Break’s theme of removing the barriers between different specializations of design, or perhaps a conference focused on a particular technology. JavaScript conferences do incredibly well, in part due to the language being the hottest topic in the industry and because such conferences have such a sharp focus.

The question isn’t whether a theme is right for a potential attendee, but rather whether there is one at all. Having a theme helps to unify your ideas, to get appropriate speakers, and to sell and market to the right people. It will also help you to come up with a name. Pick something simple, punchy and on topic. A mission statement will also help you to stay on track and attract your target audience.

Keep reading at: smashingmagazine.com

Posted on August 19, 2014, under Marketing/Social

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