Hosting a regional event is a big responsibility, but it can also be a great leadership and teambuilding experience. Organizing a successful conference means not leaving anything to chance. Here are some tips to get you started.
Step #1: Choose a Date
- Choose a time and location for your conference at least six months in advance
- Try to avoid holiday weekends when participants might have scheduling conflicts
- Build extra time into your schedule so guests can explore the area
Step #2: Find the Perfect Venue
- Explore different options, such as college buildings and independent venues like parks and museums in addition to hotels
- Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Meeting rooms for general sessions and small group breakout sessions
- Guest accommodations
- Parking/transportation — proximity to airport, train station, subway, etc.
- Catering that can accommodate special dietary needs, area restaurants/coffee shops
- Comfortable areas for networking outside meetings
- Accessibility for physically challenged participants
- Display space for sponsors/college fair/marketplace
- Recreation opportunities such as a gym, pool, or green space/athletic fields
- Consider technical needs such as:
- Wi-Fi access and charging stations for meeting rooms
- Projection screens and cordless microphones
- See if the venue offers free in-room Wi-Fi for all participants
Need more information? See our event logistics.
Step #3: Form a Powerful & Creative Team
- Administration Team: registration, budget, and agenda
- Communication & Marketing Team: promotional materials, social media, website
- Event Team: venue, hotel, catering
- Sponsor Relations Team: fundraising, advertising, college fair
- Volunteers Team: registration, on-site preparations, and answering attendee questions
If there are aspects of hosting that you don’t know how to handle, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Find additional PTK hosting resources.
Step #4: Set Up a Solid Plan
- Choose a conference theme and name
- Ask a member or graphic design student to create a logo, or utilize free PTK graphics
- Identify sponsors/college fair participants who might cover part of the event cost and/or provide in-kind items such as nametag lanyards, folders, or water bottles
- Set a Budget — include venue and printing costs, catering, speakers’ fees, and other incidentals
- Set a registration fee that will help cover these costs
- Book speakers and presenters — learn more about securing top speakers
- Publicize the event through your regional website, social media, email, and in person
Nevada/California Regional Coordinator-Elect Myriam Moody said her region has learned a lot about hosting through experience, including booking hotel space as far in advance as possible. In fact, the region currently has contracts through 2019.
“We have planning sessions as a board a few months ahead of time at the hotel where the conference will be held so we can get a feel for the place,” she said. “Also, we don’t reinvent the wheel; for the spring convention, we basically use the same timelines as the previous spring convention.”
So, what should you be doing when? Here’s a sample timeline:
Three to six weeks before the conference:
- Create shopping lists and make sure you have basics like scissors, tape, paper, pens, stapler
- Purchase non-perishable items and store them in a safe location
- Calculate anticipated attendees, but be prepared for last-minute or on-site registrations
- Create a photo/video checklist and secure a professional or volunteer to take these
Two to four weeks prior:
- Prepare floor plans/room layouts, including room for dance floor, DJ, etc., if a dance is planned
- Follow venue guidelines to confirm final counts for attendance, catering, and lodging
- Confirm all contracted help, including the venue, photographer, speakers, caterers
- Check equipment and media such as PowerPoint presentations, graphics, videos, etc.
- Start printing the conference program
One or two days before:
- Save important phone numbers in your phone, including all team members and services
- Pick up last-minute items such as balloons, flowers, and ice
- Pick up rental items you have booked in advance
- Prepare payment for all those involved
- If possible, set up early so you have time to deal with any unexpected situations
During the event and beyond:
- Smile. Be calm, organized, and flexible
- Say thank you to everyone involved, and follow up with emails/notes after the event as well
- Once your conference is over, take down your materials, pack your supplies, and clear the venue
- Take note of how everything worked before and during the event
- Get feedback with tools like Survey Monkey, but try to avoid paper questionnaires
- Be responsive to complaints — constructive criticism will help you improve the next event
- Take time to congratulate yourself and your team members on a job well done!
Texas Regional Coordinator Mary Linder also added this advice: Use the resources, skills and experience available to you in your region, and don’t be afraid to try something new.
“A few years ago, the regional officer team proposed running leadership games and activities during a general session, 20 activities happening simultaneously in one room with nearly 400 people participating,” she said. “When the officers pitched the idea, it would have been easy to say no because it was such an unusual activity that had the potential to dissolve into a disorganized mess.
“Ultimately, we moved forward with the idea and the members loved it!”