I have been in the event planning business for over 25 years and I know how to plan and organize successful events. However, I never stop using my event planning checklist for every event I organize. Because;

  • It’s the easiest way to create a common language with event stakeholders and partners to work in close coordination,
  • The simplest way to share tasks and responsibilities with event stakeholders and partners,
  • I don't want to keep my head busy with the question of whether I'm missing a task.
  • Allows me to focus on the "How can I do it better?" question instead of the "What should I do?" question,
  • As I update my checklist with each event I organize, it transforms my knowledge and experience into an easy-to-use roadmap,

Did you know that event planning and management software also works like a checklist and guides you step by step with a "must have" and "nice to have" approach? For example, regardless of the complexity of your events, by using MeetingHand Online Event Management Software, one of the widely used event management platforms in the market, you can plan and run every step of your events in a seamless way by benefiting from the experience of many events organized by it.

There are many different checklists to help you plan your events, taking into account criteria such as timeline, topic, or event type. But the most important thing here is to agree on a traceable workflow with your business partners.

Considering that each event has unique planning and management concerns and needed to be handled with a broad perspective, I wanted to share with you my academic and scientific conference planning checklist, which is one of the most comprehensive types of events, so that you can create your custom checklist that might suit your needs best.

I'm sharing my checklist here as a general guideline, but you can always email me for more details explaining your specific requirements or mentioning your interests.

Build your conference identity

As success always lies in the details, start with analyzing and defining the essentials of your conference. At this point, my to-do list includes these steps:

  • Clarify the aims and objectives of your conference,
  • Form an organizing committee,
  • Create a master plan with a timeline,
  • Choose an online collaboration and communication platform,
  • Build your event management team,
  • Choose a conference venue/destination and set the conference dates,
  • Fulfill legal permits and procedures which are necessary to hold the conference,
  • Set start dates and deadlines for registrations and abstract submissions.
  • Prepare the necessary information packages and documents for your potential participants.

Make a financial forecast for your conference

Accurate financial forecasting will help you better focus on planning and executing the conference goals. For seamless financial forecasting, my checklist includes the followings:

  • Get at least 3 quotations from third-party suppliers for services such as venue, food, & beverages, technical equipment, travel, accommodation, additional staff, insurance, etc.
  • Define the registration types, and fees and decide if you wish to offer advantageous registration options, such as early bird discounts to increase attendance,
  • Prepare written sponsorship proposals including sponsorship categories, benefits, and fees,
  • Prepare a cashflow table for the conference expenditures,
  • Define the free or paid services that will be provided to participants,
  • Create a conference budget and keep it updated,
  • Choose the payment processing methods; offline, online (gateway), etc.
  • Deposit conference payments in your account and pay the suppliers,
  • Keep your conference records, contracts, expenses, and revenue details,
  • Always update your budget with actual expenditures and revenues.

Develop a conference program

Start finding an answer to the "Why should they attend this conference?" question as “it’s the key to convincing the target audience to attend your conference”. Then follow these steps:

  • Set up the initial "Conference Program at a Glance"
  • Decide on the conference theme, topics, and presentation types,
  • Recruit your conference speakers,
  • Plan the schedule of the social activities,
  • Finalize and announce the detailed conference program,
  • Create the Book of Abstracts / Conference Proceedings,

Promote your conference

In fact, the whole success story is about how to encourage your audience to attend your conference, the marketing tactics you will apply to re-engage your previous attendees, and ultimately how to make your conference stand out.

Follow these steps to stand your conference out;

  • Build a conference brand identity,
  • Plan the advertising and promotional activities of the conference,
  • Prepare visual materials for the advertisement and promotion of your conference,
  • Purchase a web page domain and create social media accounts,
  • Create a stunning conference webpage including the biographies and images of your invited speakers, and/or with relevant details, links, and logos of your sponsors, etc.
  • Review lists of your past conferences to contact potential contributors, authors, partners, and sponsors,
  • Plan the timing of the materials you intend to share at regular intervals, such as your announcements, posts, press releases, and reminders, and decide upon their contents,
  • Publish your conference web page and share the link on your social media accounts,
  • Personally lead your promotional activities for the conference,
  • Publish the first announcement or the invitation for the conference,
  • Send an invitation e-mail to your target audience as a "Call for Abstracts",
  • Send registration or participation invitation e-mails to your target audience,
  • Announce and promote your invited speakers and social activity programs of your conference on your website and in your social media accounts,
  • Remind registration and payment deadlines,
  • Remind registration deadline and payment due date,
  • Periodically update/inform your audience about the important activities of the conference.

Setup your online conference management system

The success of a conference largely depends on how seamlessly you collect and manage the registrations, abstract submissions, and payments, and how harmoniously you can coordinate your team, reviewers, partners, etc.

In fact, how to run a conference is a serious issue that every event planner must decide at the very beginning of the planning process. For this reason, the organizers prefer to use event management software where they can manage all processes and bring all parties together on a common ground.

To find out your software requirement and set up your event in it follow these steps:

  • Determine what participant information you need to collect during online registration,
  • Determine the format in which you will collect the abstracts and which information about the authors you need,
  • Consider the additional services you’ll offer during your conference; contents, fees, and terms,
  • Determine the additional services you’ll offer during your conference; contents, fees, and terms,
  • Define solutions and features’ requirements of conference management software that enables you easily manage the whole process of registration, submission, scientific program, and more,
  • Research the market and select an online conference planning and management tool,
  • Set up your registration, payment, and booking forms
  • Set up your abstract submission form,
  • Set up your abstract evaluation system by defining your abstract evaluation criteria, and adding reviewers
  • Set up and customize your management process,
  • Build a communication and follow-up plan with your participants, authors, and partners,
  • Publish online conference registration and abstract submission forms,
  • Track and manage collected registrations and abstracts,
  • Assign abstract submissions to reviewers and follow the evaluation process,
  • Notify the authors of the abstract evaluation results and remind them about the payment deadline,
  • Confirm the conference attendance status of your participants and place the accepted abstracts in the conference program and their presenter details.

Arrange and coordinate your suppliers

Who is the right supplier?

  • The supplier who gives you the best possible advice and focuses on your conference goals,
  • The supplier who you can trust that would provide you the solution that will not keep you busy and complete the work on time.

Select your business partners and suppliers by following these steps:

  • Choose a venue that fits your conference requirements such as the number of meeting rooms, capacities, and breakout areas, and check their policy about providing technical equipment, food, and beverage,
  • Plan the food and beverages to be served and,
  • Identify your visual and technical equipment needs in detail,
  • Determine the necessary services for the social activities within the scope of your conference,
  • Identify your travel and housing needs,
  • Determine the services to be provided to the invited speakers including the fees and conditions,
  • Make agreements with the supplier you have selected including all the possible details such as payments, penalties, amount updates, insurance, etc.
  • Determine and purchase the participation kit items you will distribute to your participants,
  • Determine the decoration and visual material needs of the conference venue, have your designer make the designs, and coordinate when and how the installation will be done,
  • Review logistics services and determine the exact amount to be served,
  • Prepare guidelines for onsite registration and identify and supply the tools to be used at the registration desk,
  • Check the workflow, job descriptions, and instructions with your team one more time, and rehearse the event flow with your team onsite,
  • Prepare speech notes such as welcome, the introduction of the speakers, thanks, and closing speech,
  • Set up an onsite registration desk and measure the registration time of an average participant,
  • Plan the presentations of the speakers, test the entire system including computers, speakers, projectors, and connections, rehearse the presentations to be projected on the screen and set up a presentation management desk,
  • Build an operational team of staff, vendors, students, and volunteers.

Manage the conference onsite

The conference start date is the most exciting time for every event planner when months of preparations and plans will be implemented and rewarded.

For the success of your conference, you must reinforce your well-planned workflow and instructions with effective communication. A seamless communication will enable your team to work together as a single body.

To make things work as planned, do the following:

  • Inform all stakeholders and your team members about the duties and timelines,
  • Assign tasks and give instructions,
  • Rehearse and see how it works,
  • Check logistics, decorations, visuals, equipment, exhibitors, etc.
  • Open the gates, give badges, accept new registrations, and collect the presentations,
  • Start the conference with a Welcome Speech
  • Share conference images and news on social media channels,
  • Compile and report details of the daily activities, including registrations, payments, documents, etc.
  • Periodically check the process and do daily evaluation sprints,
  • Check the services offered by the suppliers every day and agree on the figures,
  • Share the final figures and highlights of the conference, on the closing session, social media, and the conference web page.

Conclude the conference

Completing and concluding a conference is not just about closing the budget and packing the technical and visual materials in the conference venue. It's also about doing public relations and keeping in touch with your attendees and partners for next year's conference.

You can do even better by using my checklist:

  • Gather all data, documents, feedback, and suggestions from the team, committees, venue, and suppliers,
  • Follow up with everyone attending the conference,
  • Send thank you messages and collect feedback,
  • Analyze the data and feedback of the conference,
  • Prepare a conference report covering attendance and presentation numbers, conference goals, budget applications, satisfaction level, recommendations, etc.,
  • Organize an after-action-review meeting with the organizing committee,
  • Archive conference data, important documents, and reports.