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2nd Edition

Plan and manage conferences


BSBADM503B

Student Workbook

Student Workbook
BSBADM503B Plan and manage conferences
2nd Edition 2010

Part of a suite of support materials for the

BSB07 Business Services Training Package

Acknowledgment
Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council (IBSA) would like to acknowledge
EQUIP GROW LEAD PTY LTD for their assistance with the development of this
resource.
Writers: Shane MacDonald and Peter Baskerville
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2010 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd
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Published by: Innovation and Business


Industry Skills Council Ltd
Level 11
176 Wellington Pde
East Melbourne VIC 3002
Phone: +61 3 9815 7000
Fax: +61 3 9815 7001
e-mail: reception@ibsa.org.au
www.ibsa.org.au
ISBN: 978-1-921788-20-8
Stock code: BSBADM503B2CL

First published: January 2010


2nd edition version: 1.0
Release date: June 2010
Printed by: Fineline Printing
130 Browns Road,
Noble Park North
VIC 3174

Table of Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................. 1
Features of the Training Program .................................................................... 1
Structure of the Training Program ................................................................... 1
Recommended reading .................................................................................... 2
Section 1 Planning a Conference ....................................................................... 3
What skills will you need? ................................................................................ 3
The conference planners role ......................................................................... 4
Conference concept .......................................................................................... 9
Budget and managing costs........................................................................... 15
Venue appraisal .............................................................................................. 18
Speakers plan ................................................................................................ 24
Draft program schedule .................................................................................. 28
Section summary ............................................................................................ 31
Further reading................................................................................................ 31
Section checklist ............................................................................................. 31
Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference ........................................ 32
What skills will you need? .............................................................................. 32
Promoting a conference ................................................................................. 32
Organising a conference................................................................................. 37
Preparing contingency plans .......................................................................... 41
Section summary ............................................................................................ 44
Further reading................................................................................................ 44
Section checklist ............................................................................................. 44
Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up ......................................... 45
What skills will you need? .............................................................................. 45
Coordinating conference proceedings........................................................... 45
Follow-up conference proceedings ................................................................ 49
Finalising correspondence and financial activities....................................... 51
Section summary ............................................................................................ 53
Further reading................................................................................................ 53
Section checklist ............................................................................................. 53
Glossary ................................................................................................................. 54
Appendices ............................................................................................................ 55
Appendix 1: Sample speaker confirmation letter ......................................... 55
Appendix 2: Answers to select Learning activities ........................................ 57

Student Workbook

Introduction

Introduction
Features of the Training Program
The key features of this program are:

Student Workbook (SW) Self-paced learning activities to help you to


understand key concepts and terms. The Student Workbook is broken
down into several sections.

Facilitator-led sessions (FLS) Challenging and interesting learning


activities that can be completed in groups or individually by distance
learning that will help you consolidate and apply what you have learned in
the Student Workbook.

Assessment Tasks Summative assessments where you can apply your


new skills and knowledge to solve authentic workplace tasks and
problems.

Structure of the Training Program


This Training Program introduces you to concepts and skills for conference
management. Specifically, you will develop the skills and knowledge in the
following topic areas:
1. Plan a Conference (SW Section 1/Session 1).
2. Promoting and Organising a Conference (SW Section 2/Session 2).
3. Conference Coordinating and Follow Up (SW Section 3/Session 3).
Note: the Student Workbook sections and Session numbers are listed next to the
topics above.
Your facilitator may choose to combine or split sessions. For example, in some
cases, this Training Program may be delivered in two or three sessions, or in
others, as many as eight sessions.
Innovation & Business Skills Australia has licensed the use of over 200 video
vignettes from the Channel 9 television program, Your Business Success. The
videos have been carefully selected and embedded into relevant learning and
assessment resources in order to assist education providers and students in the
learning process.
Each video is accompanied by a learning activity. Videos can be found on IBSAs
YouTube channel at <http://www.youtube.com/ibsachannel>.

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Introduction

Student Workbook

Recommended reading
Some recommended reading for this unit includes:

Craven, R., and Johnson Golabowski, L. 2006, The complete idiots guide
to meeting & event planning, 2nd edn, Alpha, New York.

WCER: Wisconsin Center for Education Research, 2007,


Conference/meeting planning resources, viewed June 2010,
<http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/serviceUnits/busofc/conf_planning_
resources.php>.

BESydney - Business Events Sydney, (no date), Event planning toolkit


ideas and help, viewed June 2010,
<http://www.businesseventssydney.com.au/plan-an-event/eventplanning-toolkit>.

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Section 1 Planning a Conference

Section 1 Planning a Conference


This section is about planning a conference and involves understanding the
conference planners role, preparing a conference concept, preparing a budget,
managing the speaker engagement and preparing a draft program schedule.
Scenario: MacVilles annual managers conference
MacVille is a business with diverse interests that include importing espresso
coffee machines as well as operating some independent fuel outlets and
supermarkets. MacVilles annual managers conference is in four months time.
The annual managers conference is used to educate staff about new
processes, inform them about the coming year and build networking and social
bonds while awarding achievers from the previous year.
The Events steering committee, responsible directly to the marketing director,
has asked John Sams, a senior manager, to take responsibility for planning,
coordinating and following up the conference. The event is held over two days
with one dinner and evening show. It is a weekend event. All managers are
offered accommodation for the night in a shared arrangement within the venue.
It is not compulsory, but over 90% of the 120 managers and executives attend
the conference, which is always programmed with group breakout sessions. The
male to female ratio is about 50/50. Partners are welcome to join for the
second days social and dinner activities but they need to register.
The budget for the weekend is $60,000 which includes about $10,000 in
sponsorships. The balance is met by the MacVille company. MacVille executives
and supplier CEOs fill most of the speaking roles, but the steering committee
want one keynote speaker. Before committing to anything, the steering
committee wants John to prepare a conference concept document regarding
how he intends to meet the objectives.
Throughout this unit, and for the purpose of assessment, we will work with John
as he prepares his conference concept document.

What skills will you need?


In order to work effectively as a conference planner you must be able to:
explain the conference planners role
prepare a conference concept plan including purpose, style, timelines and
liaison with the target group
budget and manage costs
identify, select, invite and brief speakers
prepare a draft program schedule.

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Section 1 Planning a Conference

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The conference planners role


In a business context, a conference is usually an interactive gathering of people
that have been specifically invited and have agreed to receive, discuss and
exchange information on a particular topic. Their intent is usually for the purpose
of solving problems on current issues relevant to their interests or bettering the
relationships between organisations and their clients. The term conference has
no special connotation as to frequency, time, or even size, although conferences
usually have specific objectives and of a short duration.
Some terms are used interchangeably for conference, like conventions and
seminars. The former relates more to a large, formal assembly while the latter
relates to a small conference of specialists and interested parties. Symposiums,
forums, exhibitions and events incorporate activities similar to a conference. More
recent developments include videoconferences and teleconferences.
Videoconferences allow people who are geographically separated to engage with
one another using video technology and teleconferences achieve the same
outcome via telephone conference-call links. Live video streaming is increasingly
becoming a feature of conferences.
Different roles in conference management
As conference manager, the tasks and functions that you will be called on to
perform and manage are many. The core functions include:

plan, e.g. preparing a conference plan

liaise, e.g. share information with a range of people both internal and
external to your organisation

delegate, e.g. supervise tasks efficiently

negotiate and resolve difficulties

control, e.g. operate within budget

communicate, e.g. track and report progress to the relevant personnel as


required

problem-solve to deliver within timelines

oversee conference proceedings on the day

manage follow-up procedures to finalise financial arrangements

report conference documentation, etc.

Learning activity: Resources analysis


Refer back to the scenario on page 2, MacVilles annual managers
conference.
Which key resources do you think John will need to complete his assignment?
Note your answers on the following page.

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Section 1 Planning a Conference

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Conference activities
Compared to most business activities, a conference is usually a large event in
scale, in scope and in cost. A conference can bring together many different
activities, people and ideas into one place to be delivered within a short time
frame. For this reason, long-term planning of up to 12 months may be required.
Typical planning activities include:

providing accommodation providing a place for delegates to sleep when


a conference runs over more than one day

arranging travel helping to arrange travel for delegates, speakers and


business representatives from airports and train stations to hotels and
conference venues (Note: Any issues surrounding parking at the venue
should also be examined)

providing catering making sure that delegates are properly catered for
and their special dietary needs are accommodated

arranging meetings ensuring all requirements for meetings are met


including necessary furniture, equipment and rooms

negotiating venue costs, facilities and equipment

crowd management events starting and finishing at the same time can
present logistical problems for the ill-prepared.

venue security and occupational health and safety (OHS) concerns

using technology using specific computer software in the booking


system, conference presentations, communications and marketing

arranging the social program using social networking and people


management to arrange social activities that complement the main aims
of the conference

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negotiating sponsorship liaising with industry stakeholders to arrange


sponsorship as payment for promotion, supply of personnel and
giveaways.

Learning activity: Austrade export awards


Watch the video BSBADM503B: Austrade export awards on IBSAs YouTube
channel at <http://www.youtube.com/ibsachannel>.
This video is showing the opportunities that can come from attending a
Business Club Australia conference. During a conference, attendees can meet
and greet one another. What planning is required to make this part of your
conference successful?
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How would the situation shown in the video change if the conference had 1000
attendees?
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Section 1 Planning a Conference

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Learning activity: Self-appraisal


Prepare a list of all the activities or roles that John is likely to participate in
during the planning, coordinating and follow up of the Annual MacVille
Managers Conference.
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Section 1 Planning a Conference

Conference concept
The first part of the planning process involves preparing a conference scope. The
scope could be initiated by either senior management and delegated to
appropriate personnel, or it could be completed by an individual department.
A conference scope could include the following.

Purpose this is a clearly defined reason for holding the conference based
on the required outcomes.

Type the style of the conference will be determined by the purpose and
the people that are targeted to attend.

Benefits the benefits to the business that are expected to be achieved by


putting on the conference.

When, where, who this covers the dates and the likely number of
attendees as well as the likely geographic location of the conference. You
might like to survey the conference facilities available in order to assist
later when making the venue selection.

Resources the types of facilities, equipment and people needed to make


the conference happen. A quick overview of what resources are in-house
and which might need to be purchased or hired will help later in the
planning process.

Time briefly outline the time it will take to organise the event. Some
conferences are planned years out from their actual date and some can be
organised in a matter of months. You will need to estimate how long it will
take you to plan a successful conference.

Financials these are a key component of any business decision.


Provisions need to be made regarding the cash requirements, and the
estimated returns from the conference need to be weighed against the
investment.

Barriers scope out the potential barriers that may need to be overcome
in order for the conference to happen.

Typical conference planning steps


The following five steps are common to all conferences and need to be addressed
in the planning phase.
Step 1:

Set the aims and objectives. Clearly define the desired outcomes,
including the benefits, purpose and financial goals.

Step 2:

Define roles and responsibilities. Establish the lines of authority and


the people involved in the planning and delivery of the conference.

Step 3:

Establish the scope, situation and parameters. This is generally


grouped into the budgets, the people (organising, attending,
supporting, speaking), the accommodation (venue, facilities) and the
equipment (materials, multimedia).

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Step 4:

Establish systems to manage the conference. Program schedules,


staffing roles, checklists, client support, contingencies.

Step 5:

Feedback, evaluation and report. Collating feedback data through


questionnaires, interviews and discussions and reporting to
management that includes suggestions for next time.

Required outcomes of a conference


A conference, like any business activity, is convened to achieve one or more
beneficial outcomes for the business. There are many beneficial outcomes that a
conference could deliver to a business. Here are some examples.

Increase market awareness of your organisation and its products and


services, improve the organisations image, and provide professional
development.

Make sales. Expand the number of business contacts available to a


business. This could be useful for a new business launch or a geographic
expansion into another market.

Promote and inform clients of new products. When a business introduces a


new product line, they like to create some hype around the event which
builds a market interest and momentum that they hope will eventually
translates into sales.

Promote people networking. This is often stated as one of the major


reasons that people like to attend conferences. Franchisee conferences
are populated by people wanting to discuss shared experiences.
Industry associations use conferences to promote networking across an
industry sector whereas other businesses could benefit from networking
within a specific geographic zone. Conferences also facilitate development
and networking opportunities for industry members, or provide an
opportunity for industry members to share and debate current issues.

Improve professional development and training. The savings from


providing training is seen by many as a benefit that outweighs the cost of
training in each geographic zone. Professional development for industry
practitioners ensures that they are brought up-to-date on changes to
standards and codes of practice that have taken place.

Financial outcome: run at a profit, loss or break even.

Conference style
The style of a conference is determined by the goals of the organisation, the
needs of the conference attendees and by the nature of the conference topic.
For example, a conference on AIDS treatment attended by the leading doctors and
disease specialists of the world would likely be very different in style from the
annual, two-day Sony Playstation3 Developers Conference.
The style of conference can be defined by its:

Tone formal (requiring registration) or informal (open invitation).

Audience internal (organisation staff only) or external (open to the


industry/public).

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Section 1 Planning a Conference

Size a conference of 30 people is considered small; a conference of


3,000 is considered large.

Programme presentations only (plenary session) or multiple concurrent


sessions (rooms divided)/

Format instructional (one-to-many) or participative (many-to-many).

Duration one day or several days.

Registration of interest
A conference is a product that must compete for peoples attention, time, and
money, and will succeed based on its ability to meet the needs and interests of its
target market. Your planned conference topic, theme, location, and venue must
be of enough interest for delegates to want to register. There is a need to
remember that your conferences may not be the only conference dealing with the
proposed topic and thoughtful planning will be required to gain the upper hand
over other conferences.
Sending out a registration of interest form prior to any planning taking place is a
common procedure to check the level of interest and ensure the conference will
be of value for the targeted delegates. Other methods include talking to industry
specialists and analysing trends. Combing all these methods together, prior to
sending your registration of interest is highly recommended.
Selecting a date
Selecting the date of a conference is contingent upon a number of factors.

The needs of the organisation:


For example, a company may wish to launch a promotion of its new
products and launch a series of sales to industry specialists, the general
public and media.

The needs of the industry:


Busy periods and seasonal factors should be taken into consideration.
There may be occasions when the timing conference may play on a
seasonal factor. For example, an automobile conference in Melbourne
would be ideal in February-March, to coincide with the Formula 1 Grand
Prix and the Melbourne International Motor Show.

The needs of the target attendees:


For example, scheduling conference times during after work hours, or on
weekends, and avoiding scheduling anything during school holidays.

Competitors:
For example, your company is a small logistics and packaging company
and is holding a conference in the hope of winning new clients. However,
Federal Express is also holding a conference in the same city on the
weekend to win new clients. You will need to decide if this is the right time
for you to hold your conference or not.

Untenable factors:
For example, Christmas or the end of financial year are both untenable
times of year to hold a conference. It is unlikely a conference would be

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held during, or immediately after a national holiday when people wish to


have a break. Conference organisers must also be aware of the diversity of
the speakers, delegates that may wish to attend the conference. Other
nationalities may have religious observations or holidays to attend with at
specific times, while other delegates may have little time during specific
periods of the year. People within the hospitality and service industry may
be too busy during summer to attend a conference.
Managing planning documents
Planning and managing conferences inevitably involves the collection and
management of many different types of documents. These should be filed under
the three main areas involved in the process:
1. Conference administration. This includes agenda and minutes of meetings,
letters, timelines, contracts and insurance.
2. Conference finances. This includes the budget, supplier quotations, and
final report.
3. Conference promotions. This includes the program, participants and
advertising materials.
Timeline
Everything takes time, and planning a successful conference takes more time
than most people think. As mentioned earlier, some conferences take over a year
to plan and even a small one day conference can require over three months
planning. A comparison can be made with producing a feature length movie. The
movie itself may only run for two hours, but two years probably went into the
planning and production.
Here are some tips to consider when preparing a timeline.

Use a sophisticated project planning software program. This can help


calculate, timetable and manage the conference schedule.

Use Gantt, flow and PERT charts to help you assign tasks, calculate
deadlines, and identify tasks that can be done simultaneously. They also
help track the tasks to see if they are on schedule.

Scope of all tasks in the timeline.

Assign to each task a person or people responsible.

Assign a completion date and highlight milestones.

Ensure that realistic deadlines are set but allow for the unexpected.

Put the tasks in chronological order and include follow-up responsibilities.

On the following page you will find an example of a conference-planning schedule


and some of the tasks required to undertake a conference.

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Section 1 Planning a Conference

Sample Simple Conference Planning Timeline


CONFERENCE PLANNING SCHEDULE
SUGGESTED TASKS
126
months
ahead

64 months
ahead

43 months
ahead

6 weeks
ahead

3 weeks
ahead

1 week
ahead

1 week postconference

finalise meeting dates

assemble mailing lists.

select menu

finalise special event details

PERSON
ASSIGNED

DATE
COMPLETED

select meeting location


create a website
send save the date notices via email
begin planning agenda format
begin speaker/topic selection
establish working budget
determine theme, if any
decide special events (golf outing, fun, etc.)
additional contracts transportation, equipment
rental, etc.)
finalise program and agenda
finalise speakers and topics
finalise special event costs and schedule
review audio-visual availability and needs
obtain maps, etc. from hotel
update web page to include information on
accommodations.
submit facility contract for processing
mail registration instructions
request speaker handouts
send room set ups to conference centre
update website.
obtain registration headcount
order attendee materials (portfolios,
notebooks, etc.)
update website, post agenda
order name tags/badges.
confirm guest/meeting room arrangements
confirm menu
print program
assign session moderators
complete sponsor signs
update website.
ship materials to hotel
hold pre-conference meeting
send email update to participants/speakers
review all set-ups and AV needs
develop registration sign-in sheet.
send sponsors, VIPs, speakers and
participants thank you letters.

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Learning activity: Conference concept areas


List all the areas that you think John should include in his conference concept
plan. Given that the annual conference is for the MacVille managers, how would
you rank these areas in importance to MacVille senior management?
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Section 1 Planning a Conference

Budget and managing costs


Your budget is likely to be the deciding factor that moderates and controls every
activity and choice. There is little point in booking a fabulous venue with all kinds
of added extras such as golf and free city tours, or engaging a caterer who
produces exquisite foods, if their costs are way outside your allocated budget. Tips
on budgeting include the following.

Ball-park figures only need to entered at this point as it is an exercise in


viability establishment, i.e. we need 40 people paying $400 per person to
pay for all costs.

Overall budget should be broken down and allocated to the different cost
centres prior to any expenditure taking place. This should be allocated
based on rank of importance in relation to the targeted outcomes.

Breaking cost centres down into estimated task costs will ease the job of
checking that quotes for individual services are inside the guidelines, and
assist in keeping track of the costs.

Mine the archives from previous conferences to help you in establishing


budgeted costs and suppliers.

Before any bookings are made and deposits paid, it is usual business
practice to approach at least two suppliers of each item for a written
quotation for the cost.

The budget will dictate venue, catering, accommodation, number of


speakers and quality of conference material such as conference papers,
promotional information.

Use budget control charts and appropriate software applications as a


planning tool to help you calculate and monitor all expenses.

Timing of payments and income rarely match which is why a cash flow
budget should also be prepared to identify the cash balance at each
critical point in the planning phase.

Cash flow management

Timing decisions concerning finances (such as when invoices are paid or


registration fees accepted) have a direct impact on funds available to
finance the conference plan.
This needs to be managed closely to ensure that funds are available for
important engagements and key contractual obligations. The following
cash flow plan can help with this management.

It is your job to control the budget to ensure actual cash flow matches
initial estimated costs. Use financial management or accounting software
to track and monitor the budget. Is it going over budget? How can you cut
back?
Refer to your action plan and liaise with your financial department to
monitor the budget effectively. As the budget is a crucial element in

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conference coordination, a major responsibility is to always keep the


management committee updated on expenditure.
Learning activity: Cash flow
Enter the following into the cash flow plan below and calculate the closing
balance in Month 3. Starting with $20,000 in the bank:

you need to pay casual support staff $3,000 per month


sponsors will be paying you in Month 3 the sum of $3,000
a supplier donates $1,000 in Month 1
the conference venue wants $12,000 in Month 2.

Will you have enough to pay the bills each month?


Description

Month 1

Month 2

Month 3

Opening balance
Add cash in

Less cash out

Closing balance
Budget items
All budgetary matters must be confirmed by the conference management
committee. They will have to ensure that the directive made to them is being
monitored and controlled. These could be directives for the conference:

to make a profit and a guide as to how much

to break even (where income received is the same as expenses paid)

to cost no more than a set amount of money that will be recovered from
the future benefits of the conference.

Your budget must include profit or deficit, and operating costs, such as the
organisers time and overheads. You may be able to negotiate discounts,
especially through your organisations preferred suppliers.

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Section 1 Planning a Conference

Income items:

sponsors

delegates fees (these need to be determined)

payment for promotional booths.

Costs:

speakers fees and gifts

venue

security

staffing (including translators if needed)

catering

publicity material including the conference kit

meeting documentation

travel and accommodation

equipment hire

insurance

giveaways such as satchels, pens, clothing

follow-up material

last minute costs of contingency plans.

Learning activity: Conference income


List all the ways that conferences make money. Which ones could John look at
introducing in the MacVille conference?
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Venue appraisal
Deciding on the conference venue
The conference venue choice is directed by factors that include the size of the
budget, the number of attendees, the intended style of the conference and the
preferred location. This is an important decision that impacts significantly on the
success of the conference, so confirmation by senior management as well as the
steering committee is considered paramount. Following are the five steps to take
when making a decision on a conference venue. At each step it is important to
understand the issues impacting on that phase in the decision-making process.
Step 1:

Identify the conference requirements.


This would involve you defining clearly your specifications based on
your target market and the directions from management. Understand
the features you must have, it would help to have and you would like
to have.

Step 2:

Select the general type of conference site.


This choice may include a city hotel, a resort venue, gaming or sports
venue, cruise ship, college or university venue or a specially designed
conference centre.

Step 3:

Match the broad conference requirements to the venue.


Here you would seek the opinions of the team and seek management
consent, check out the current popularity of site, match the size and
style of conference and consider easy geographic access to and from
the venue.

Step 4:

Complete a site selection checklist.


Here you would look at the availability of function rooms, the food and
beverage arrangements, and the amenities. Where possible, use
references from recent clients.

Step 5:

Make the venue selection.


It is usually best to identify three venues that match the conference
needs and ask for a written quote to the detailed requirements list that
you attach.

The venue choice and arrangements will depend on the type and size of the
planned conference. Also the lead times required for bookings will vary between
the different conference suppliers and will also be impacted on by their internal
processes and work load. Where possible, the earlier the bookings can be
confirmed, the better.

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Conference facility requirements


The conference facility requirements will be directed by the general planning and
broader decisions made to date. The following are some of the considerations and
questions you might ask.
Location:
Can the venue be easily accessed by most attendees? Is there public
transport nearby? Are late night taxis accessible? And how far is the venue
from the nearest major airport?
Is adequate parking available on site to cater for both numerous cars and
multiple bus loads of people?
Is suitable accommodation, entertainment venues, shopping centres,
ATMs, banking and a Post Office nearby?
If visitors from afar are attending, is the venue location in an ideal or
scenic area? In many cases a speaker may bring his/her partner or family.
The location of the venue may be the deciding point to them attending or
not.
Are all the required rooms and facilities easily accessible and in close
proximity?

Venue room size: is the room big enough? Could it be divided to


accommodate smaller groups and break-out sessions?

Amenities fit: is there an appropriately sized area for registration? Is it a


safe workplace and does it meet the OHS standards? Is there appropriate
access for people with disabilities? Are the air conditioning, lighting, power
points, comfortable seating, kitchen, restrooms, business facilities, and
conference support personnel adequate?

Available audio-visual equipment: does the venue provide video, overhead


projectors, flip charts, computer equipment, and electronic whiteboards?
Can they arrange for outside providers or help with equipment-hiring firm
contacts?

Catering capacity: can the venue provide for your catering times,
food/beverage items and the special dietary needs of your attendees?

Social event capacity: can the venue cater for the social needs of the
attendees, such as entertainment, a formal dinner or a cocktail party?

Learning activity: Research venues


Research at least three venues in your or the closest major city that could
accommodate the MacVille conference.
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Venue floor plan
The floor plan will depend on the format of the session and the presenters
requirements. For example:

a question-and-answer session may include a long table where the panel


are seated with the attendees facing towards them

a PowerPoint or flip chart presentation may have a speaker at a lectern to


the side with attendees seated in rows, similar to a theatre layout

a round-table discussion led by a speaker with participation of all in


attendance might have the chairs arranged in a large circle or several
concentric circles.

Example of a conference entrance and floor plan

You may require the use of several individual rooms for the conference.
Depending on the size of the venue, it may be possible to create smaller
temporary rooms or spaces within its main space. Below is an example of the
various table and chair arrangements that can be used for seating within a
conference, and adjoining conference session rooms or workshops.

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Larger groups

Theatre-style seating is ideal for accommodating a


large number of people. It is a great style for notetaking, lectures, large scale audience seating, and
media events.
Theatre style

This is very similar to the theatre style, but attendees


have a table. Classroom style makes it easier for
participants to take and allows them to use
handouts and samples, allowing for greater
interactivity.
Classroom style

Chevron style provides more personal space for


audience members and allows for interactivity
between the speaker and the participants.
Audience members have space for beverages and
have better visibility of the speaker. Media have
more space for equipment setup if required.
Chevron style

The modified chevron style provides better visibility of the


speaker for audience members seated on the sides. It is
more interactive than a theatre or classroom set up.

Modified chevron style

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Smaller groups

This set up can be used for meetings when


hierarchy is not an issue. The style encourages
audience participation although the use of visuals
can be awkward. A network of computers will assist
visual and product demonstration.
Hollow square or
rectangle style

A boardroom set up suggests formality and


hierarchy. It may be difficult to control the seats at
the far end of the table if the audience is more than
15 members.
Boardroom style

In the perpendicular style the speaker can survey


audience members work and provide easy
assistance when required. Exchange between the
presenter and the audience is easy and the centre
space can be utilised for exhibits, demonstration,
role plays and simulations.
Perpendicular style

The U-shape style encourages collaboration and


group feel. The centre space can be utilised for
exhibits, demonstrations, role-plays and simulations,
and the set up can be used with or without speaker
table.
U-shape style

The semi-circle or circle style can be used with or


without tables. It encourages collaboration and
group feel and is excellent for informal sharing of
information and ideas in a small group setting.
Semi-circle or circle style

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Table cluster style

Section 1 Planning a Conference

Table clusters are excellent for presentations with


breakout groups (having groups do tasks/projects on
their own). Clusters return to being a single group
when directed by the speaker. Tables can be either
round or small rectangles and have the added bonus
of being easily transformed into meal tables.

Source: Wallace, M., 2002, LLRX.com, Guide on the side Room setups for presentations &
training One size does NOT fit all, viewed June 2010,
<http://www.llrx.com/columns/guide59.htm>

Venue equipment
An important task is to confirm the equipment requirements of each speaker, as it
is quite possible the venue may fall short in having all the necessary resources.
Additional equipment will need to be sourced either through purchase or hire. The
venue management should be familiar with the equipment suppliers in the area
and should secure its acquisition. Some or all of the following resources may be
required for a conference:

audio-visual equipment

computer equipment and high speed internet access

wireless technology

electronic whiteboards (that print or send material via Bluetooth)

microphones and speakers

teleconferencing equipment

flip charts

overhead projectors and screens

voice recorders

videoconferencing monitors and video cameras

large overhead screen or monitors

Learning activity: When things go wrong


Look at the list above and give John some ideas that he could look at if each of
these items either failed to appear or failed to work, i.e. where could he go for a
replacement? How could he substitute? Which are most likely to fail?
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Speakers plan
Conference speaker types
Once the conference concept has been confirmed by management, more detailed
planning commences. While most business conferences may source a significant
number of presenters from the business itself, conferences provide the
opportunity to invite speakers that would not be commercially viable for small
business units.
Typical types of conference speakers include the following.

Keynote: the keynote speaker sets the theme


and provides the structure and motivation on
which the other conference speakers can
deliver their material. They are often used to
draw people to the conference which
becomes part of the memorable and talked
about experience.

Motivational: the motivational or inspirational


speaker provides the impetus and drive to
launch a sales campaign, a new company
initiative, a successful merger or drive a
leadership program.

Technical: the technical presenter is mostly


the business representative whose job it is to

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cover the technical aspects of the conference focus. They may also be the
sales coordinator who can speak about the product on offer at the
conference.

Corporate team-building: conferences bring many diverse personalities


together from diverse backgrounds, so it can create an opportunity to help
build a cohesive body.

Entertainers: the quality entertaining speaker can make all the difference
to a conference and may need to be included in the mix just to keep the
attendees in a good frame of mind for the more in depth presentations.

Master of Ceremonies: a variation on speaker type is a master of


ceremonies. This person acts as a facilitator who helps keep the
conference running smoothly and on track.

The celebrity: The celebrity speaker combines public profile with proven
communication skills. The celebrity speaker is ideal as a drawcard or in a
keynote or conference speaker role.

Learning activity: Research conference speakers


Research and list with addresses, three agencies that provide conference
speakers.
1. ________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
2. ________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
3. ________________________________________________________________
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Identifying possible speakers
Speakers are a key component of any conference, particularly those conferences
wanting to charge a registration fee. An appropriately targeted keynote speaker
can make or break a conference in terms of its financial goals and credibility and
the longer term implications for the organisers brand and image. In other words,
a person may register for a particular conference, for the sole purpose of listening
to and possibly meeting a specific keynote speaker.
While recommendations are solicited from every stakeholder, the steering
committee usually has the final say. Speakers can be drawn from:

existing business networks

relevant speaker websites

suitable in-house presenters

recommendations from previous conference committees

having seen the speaker perform at a another conference.

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The speaker must serve the needs of the conference as determined by the
desired outcomes. So, with the style and theme of the conference in mind, here
are some aspects to consider when making the final selections:

Would they make a good keynote speaker?

Do they have expertise in current issues?

Can they bring different perspectives?

Are they effective public speakers?

Do they relate to the target audience?

Could they be a drawcard like a famous personality or a well-known


expert?

What style do they bring to the mix, i.e. humour, cutting edge research,
thought-provoking, technical expert?

Can they do all of the above, while being entertaining, interesting and
memorable at the same time?

Can the conference committee afford the speaker?

Can the speaker be used at the next conference if required? Implications


could be the cost to use the speaker, travel arrangements and availability.
For example, a well-known US business leader may be a drawcard, yet
costing to send the speaker more than once may pose a problem.

Learning activity: Research keynote speaker


Of the available keynote speakers at the three agencies identified, which one do
you think would be suitable for the MacVille conference? Explain why.
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Speaker recommendations
When making your draft speaker recommendations to the steering committee or
to senior management it is useful to provide the following details:

international or local

fee

other charges, i.e. accommodation, travel, visas and meals

qualities and references

expertise

style

availability (if known).

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After consultation with the steering committee and senior management, an


approved list of speakers and presenters that best meet the conference
outcomes and constraints can be drawn up. Speakers need to be booked well in
advance. Speakers may also be VIPs or internationally known leaders in the field.
They may require special accommodation and security arrangements. Keep all
details of speakers handy as this becomes a key resource to fall back on if those
originally selected are unable to accept.
If verbal agreement is achieved than it is best to follow up with a formal letter
outlining the program and the time they will be speaking. Alternatively, provide
times that best fit their requirements. You could ask them to submit a
biographical profile, and any requirements they might have like electronic
multimedia presentation facilities. Remember, the more explicit your brief to the
presenter, the greater the likelihood they will perform as you would want. It is also
important that you attend to their needs and desires as they are a guest at your
conference.
For example, you may have spent thousands of dollars on the most up to date
multimedia set up available. You hope your guest keynote speaker makes the
most of the technology. However, if your keynote speaker is wanting 5 flip charts
at strategic points throughout the room, and will not use the multimedia, then you
will need to fulfil his/her requirements without question.
Speakers brief
To get the best results from your speakers, it helps to provide them with a
speakers brief. This is a written document that outlines the:

Title the session title.

Tips for example, how they could connect easily with the attendees, what
not to be concerned about and a single positive thing that they could focus
on.

General briefing this outlines how this topic fits in with the conference
theme. It explains who and what is on before them, together with whom
and what is on afterwards. It covers the general structure including the
room layout, breaks, break-out sessions and question time. It would also
be useful here to provide a demographic and attitude profile of the
attendees.

Presentation briefing this outlines the time duration and more detailed
aspects covering the purpose of this presentation, how it would be useful
to the attendees, as well as what is important for others.

Resources required this covers the resources that will be provided for
the speakers and the resources required of the speaker to supply to the
attendees. It should also ask what resources best suit the speakers
needs.

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Learning activity: Confirmation letter


Prepare a letter of confirmation to the keynote speaker who has agreed to
speak at the MacVille conference. Present the letter as prescribed by your
assessor via email or printing.
See Appendix 1 for a sample conference confirmation letter and search online
for additional samples.

Draft program schedule


Program session elements
There are a variety of session elements that can be incorporated into a
conference program. Variety is important because each session element is best
suited for a particular outcome, target group and topic to be addressed. Some
conference topics and activities are best suited for a different style of sessions.
Here are some examples.

Plenary session these sessions are delivered when it is intended that all
members of the conference attend (see Theatre Style). These are the
usually the sessions that will be addressed by the keynote speaker will be
used as a time to summarise the conference activities using a panel
discussion.

Break-out sessions not all topics are relevant for all attendees. To ensure
conferences deliver good value for all, break-out sessions are organised
that deal specifically with a sub-topic of the conference theme. The
conference breaks up into these smaller groups with each attendee
benefiting from the topic of most interest to them.

Demonstrations some things just need to be demonstrated rather than


talked about and so this session element will need to be incorporated into
the program.

Workshop discussions small groups discussing a topic in a workshop


environment are also an effective way for attendees to engage with one
another and benefit from each persons knowledge. Brainstorming
sessions may also take place.

Practice sessions these sessions can also play an important role in the
overall mix of activities that make up a conference.

Activities during breaks these could be video presentation of the local


geographic area, promotional booths or selling goods from speakers,
suppliers or the firm itself.

Draft conference program schedule


The overall shape of the conference is determined by the speaker choice and the
determined topics. Once this is in place you then need to outline a draft program
schedule. Things to consider when developing this schedule include the following.

Remember this is a draft and subject to change as speakers accept or


decline.

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It is likely that some aspects of the planned schedule prove to be


overambitious or unrealistic. Be prepared to adjust as required.

Determine the keynote speaker early and build the remaining program
structure around this presentation.

Have appropriate stand in speakers and contingency plans available to


keep your program plan running when/if disruptions and changes occur.

Determine the order and style of presentations, the length of sessions, the
number of breaks, and how the program is to be arranged over the
allocated number of days.

Provide appropriate, meaningful or memorable names for differing rooms


within the conference. For example, if the conference topic is discussing
automobiles, you may want your rooms named with an automobile theme
in mind. If the topic is sustainable energy and the environment, you may
want to name each room a natural element of the earth. It is easier and far
less confusing for delegates to recall names, rather than numerous room
numbers.

Give adequate time to key sessions and avoid ones that are overly long.

Avoid programming so tightly that delegates need to rush from one session
or room to the next.

Balance the program interestingly between sitting and listening, watching


visual presentations and being interactive to periods of light
entertainment.

Make sure you have provided enough refreshment breaks and they are
appropriately spaced and timed.

In parallel to a conference program schedule, it is a good idea to prepare a run


sheet for those responsible for setting up equipment in the rooms, arranging the
furniture and naming the rooms. The run sheet and the program are identical
except for instructions relating to the requirements of each aspect of the program.
For example:

conference name

topic

day

presentation style

date

breaks

time

catering

venue

presenter name

running sheet, which includes


requirements and instructions.

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Learning activity: Draft conference plan


Design what you would think would be a good last day conference plan for
MacVilles managers.
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Section summary
You should now understand how to explain what a conference planner does, how
to prepare a conference plan, develop budgets, engage speakers and write a draft
conference plan.

Further reading

Rogers, T., 2003, Conferences and conventions: a global industry,


Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, UK.

Simple web resources with tips:

Roocroft, T., 2007, Online event planning guide to help you organise
functions & plan special events, Event planning, viewed June 2010,
<http://www.eventplanning-tips.co.za/>.

DBVirago, 2009, eHow.com, How to manage conferences and meetings,


viewed June 2010, <http://www.ehow.com/how_5024962_manageconferences-meetings.html>.

Chapman, A., 2010, businessballs.com, Project management, viewed June


2010, <http://www.businessballs.com/project.htm>

US Department of Justice, 2008, Office of Justice Programs, Conference


planning guide, viewed June 2010,
<http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/publications/infores/res/confguid/welco
me.html>.

Holidays Allover, 2007, HolidaysAllover.com.au, Conference planning


guide, viewed June 2010,
<http://www.holidaysallover.com.au/resorts/conference/>.

Conference Speakers Australia, 2004, Conference Speakers Australia,


viewed June 2010, <http://www.conferencespeakersaustralia.com.au/>.

Section checklist
Before you proceed to the next section, make sure that you are able to:
explain the conference planners role
prepare a conference concept plan including purpose, style, timelines and
liaising with the target group
budget and manage costs
identify, select, invite and brief speakers
prepare a draft program schedule.

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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a


Conference
This section is about preparing a promotional strategy with the accompanying
publicity material, as well as understanding the issues and best practice relating
to the registration process, specific needs and contingency planning.
Scenario: Making it happen
Johns conference concept plan was discussed at length with MacVilles event
steering committee and while the majority of his concept was approved some
areas John conceded needed moderation and were overly optimistic.
The approval of the concept meant that John had no time to lose if he were to
make this years MacVille managers conference the best ever. Still facing him
were the need to come up with a promotional strategy and to determine the
publicity materials he should use.
There was a lot of confirming to do to make sure the key elements of the
conference were in place and solid. He was still concerned about catering to the
special needs of the attendees and making sure all the information needed to
make the conference successful was sent.
Being an experienced manager, John knew that not everything goes according
to plan so with that in mind he set about preparing as best he could for the
contingencies that might arise.
We will follow Johns progress through these issues, offering suggestions and
examples as we go.

What skills will you need?


In order to work effectively as a conference manager, you must be able to:
promote a conference by developing a promotional strategy and publicity
material
organise a conference by implementing a registration process, catering for
specific needs and planning contingencies.

Promoting a conference
Because conference programs are infrequent events, they need publicity to
attract their clients. Non-existent publicity or publicity delivered to inappropriate
people at an inappropriate time can be the difference between success and
failure. Because of the critical nature of this activity and the specialist skills it
requires, some organisations choose to engage a specialist media company while
others will organise it in-house.

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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

Promotional strategy
Promotion is the activity used by organisations to communicate information about
their product or service to their markets with the intention of convincing them to
use it. There are four main promotional tools: advertising, personal selling, sales
promotion, and publicity. Combining these tools with a well structured plan will
produce effective promotional strategy for your conference.
The first step is to prepare a media and publicity plan based on a promotional
strategy. The aim here is to generate publicity for the conference and enhance the
image and profile of the organisation.
Publicity should be scrutinised to ensure that:

it is formed based upon the conference subject matter

it is directed at the target audience

it is disseminated in the most appropriate and cost-effective way

it should be free from errors.

Here are nine steps you could follow to develop a strategy.


Step 1:

Establish who you really are, your identity.

Step 2:

Decide on the product (the conference) and develop a theme: what is


unique?

Step 3:

Identify your target audience and who you want to attract.

Step 4:

Set your objectives, and the outcomes you want to achieve. Include
qualitative measure to achieve and by what time?

Step 5:

Develop the message you wish to convey. Does it:

Step 6:

focus on being informative or persuasive?

appeal to logic supported by evidence?

appeal to audience needs and desires?

Decide the message structure.

Rational message = promise + supported evidence + warranty.

Rational message: one- or two-sided argument.

Motivational message: the claim and the appeal.

Informational message: logical and orderly.

Step 7:

Decide how to present the message: which media to use?

Step 8:

Choose your delivery system: formal or word of mouth?

Step 9:

Constantly evaluate how it is going. Check expenditure against results


and strategy objectives.

Remember that promotion is a process and should remain flexible. Furthermore a


good strategy is cost-effective in that it achieves the results without over
extending the costs and that it provides sufficient coverage yet falls within the
timelines and budget constraints.

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Learning activity: Publicity


List some avenues John could use to publicise the conference.
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Choosing media
Various decisions are involved in choosing the media. The following are some
examples.

Method of distributing promotional material:


o post, direct mail
o fax
o email
o articles on your organisations website
o promotional gimmicks, such as giveaways, postcards, etc.

Mailing list:
o in-house mailing list
o commercial database listing.

Included in mail-out:
o covering letter
o brochure
o flyer
o poster
o contact information
o response card

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o registration form
o topic and session program
o other material
o possible voucher for the conference kit.

Media press releases:


o print media
o newspapers
o magazines/journals
o paid advertisements in trade magazines, journals and newspapers.

Electronic media press release:


o radio (commercial and/or community stations)
o television
o the web.

Display media:
o billboards
o posters
o signs
o promotional displays at appropriate venues, such as colleges,
shopping centres.

Designing the registration invitation


It is important that your invitation captures the key information
necessary for you to manage the attendees needs and those
of your resources. In your options you will need to balance the
wishes of your attendees with the limits of your resources. The
following aspects need to be considered when designing the
invitation form and the process.

The information to include on the form:


o Which personal and contact details?
o What choices will you give the attendees?
o Will they select sessions or will everyone attend each session?

The position of the registration form:


o Attached to the program or on a separate form?
o How is payment accepted:
o Credit card, cheque or cash?
o What is the closing date?
o Discounts for early registration?

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Accommodation:
o Any special deals available to attendees?

When to send the form?

How to send? Will the forms be printed?

Design of the database to capture the information from the form?

How will registrations be handled on conference day?

What space is required?

What will delegates need to do?

How will you handle attendance if people turn up who have not registered?

What type of name identification is needed? Can people pay on the day?

Invitation as publicity
The invitation is usually the first piece of information people receive about the
conference. For this reason it takes on an important role in promoting the
conference.
Some important aspects to consider are that the invitation:

must attract attention and create the desire or a need for people to attend

must be explicit and set the mood

sets the theme or slogan that becomes the visual logo for the event

usually accompanies the registration form

you may consider using an external designer.

You are still responsible for:

the accuracy of the information

meeting the deadlines

obtaining the steering committees approval.

Learning activity: Registration form planner


Discuss the timeline and milestones that would make up the planning and
distribution of MacVilles conference registration form.
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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

Information /Conference kits


Often the invitation is included within a much bigger pack of documents known as
an information or conference kit. These documents inform potential delegates of
the conference. They can also be provided on the first day of the conference
during the registration period in the form of an attractive kit bag, Depending on
your budget, these documents could be included in a specially printed folder or in
an elaborately printed bag with conference or sponsor logos. Typically such a kit
could contain:

the invitation

registration form

the program

a summary of the speakers and their topics

posters

information about the organisers and sponsors

small gifts with printed logos on such as pens, mouse pads, mugs,
magnets, or even such larger things such as umbrellas or a calendar.

free vouchers to be used in the sponsors businesses.

Organising a conference
Once registrations begin to roll in, your job will move from a planning role into a
more organising one. The emphasis shifts to ensuring all the arrangements are
completed prior to the conference date, that everyone involved is clear on their
timelines, and that allowances are being made for any contingencies. While you
may have delegated many of the tasks, you still have overall responsibility.
Tasks involved in organising the conference
Confirm the venue:

confirm appropriate booking and insurance has been arranged

confirm responsibility for setting out the rooms

confirm the registration area

confirm if any music will be playing during the conference, when, how loud
and what style of music. For example, light or motivational music may be
wanted during registration. Perhaps some dynamic or exciting music will
play when the key note speaker walks up to make the key speech. Music
depends on the theme, style and topic of the conference and should suit
the venue surroundings.

confirm point of sale material and position.

Make the bookings:

prepare a database

allow enough time for the lead times

attend to the needs of speakers and delegates

ensure travel and accommodation bookings have been made

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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

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make the relevant catering arrangements, including menu, serving times


and location of refreshments and meals

book specific equipment required and prepare a checklist detailing the


type, cost, dates required and delivery times.

Registrations:

train people in the registration procedures

fees should be receipted and confirmed promptly with delegates

keep database accurate at all times

all other information from the registration form must be noted

prepare name tags accurately

have appropriate space for people to queue in an orderly fashion,


especially on the first morning before the conference commences.

Learning activity: Registration forms


Find two conference registration forms either online or in paper and identify
items that are not included on both.
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

Do you think John should include any of these on the registration form for the
MacVille conference?
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
Identify special needs

Presenters may need specialised equipment, e.g. overhead projector,


video and voice recorder, flip chart, HDMI cabling (pc to panel TV) and
back-up systems such as extension power cables and projector globes.

Delegates may have specialised food needs, e.g. vegetarian, kosher,


diabetic, etc.

Session participants may need consumables, e.g. whiteboard markers,


pens, notepads, butchers paper, bowls of sweets, water jugs and glasses,
name tags.

Sponsors may need promotional material and equipment, e.g. satchels,


notepads, diaries, floodlights or other lighting arrangements for their own
promotional requirements.

Delegates may need special access, e.g. facilities for participants with a
disability, or equipment for vision- or hearing-impaired delegates, etc.

Presenters or company executives may need specialist accommodation,


e.g. four or five-star for VIPs and presenters; discounted rooms for
delegates.

Speaker gifts, e.g. for the keynote speakers, presenters, organisers.

Social activities, e.g. activities during breaks, dinners, parties, and visits to
appropriate venues, entertainment, and activities for delegates partners.

Confirm the program

confirm the presenters

define the session topics

allocate times for all sessions and breaks

identify the location of all sessions, workshops, activities

identify any activities for the breaks if appropriate

confirm and prepare all conference papers

prepare profiles of presenters

prepare maps of the conference venue and session locations

confirm sponsors information and promotional material

organise the preparation of information kits

confirm program with the management committee.

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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

Student Workbook

Learning activity: Planning checklist


Develop a detailed conference facilities checklist that John might use in the
planning of the Macville conference.
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

Despatch pre-conference information

Ensure conference material is provided to delegates in plenty of time.

Material to be despatched may include:


o the final program
o confirmation of registration (including receipt) and allocation of
sessions
o details of travel and accommodation
o pre-reading
o relevant maps
o profile of presenters
o promotional information about the conference organisers and
sponsors.

Preparing contingency plans


In any conference or event, things dont always go as planned. Unforseen events
can threaten your plans at any time. These unexpected risks can stem from
events such as:

emergencies

mismanagement on the part of other people

conference venue being damaged or destroyed (e.g. fire)

accommodation venue needing to be changed at the last minute

large numbers of conference attendees falling ill (food poisoning)

sudden cancellations of speakers just prior to the conference.

Contingency planning is the systematic approach to identifying and assessing


these risks. It allows you to:
1. identify, characterise, and assess potential threats to the project
2. determine the risk (i.e. the probability, impact and overall seriousness of
these occurring)
3. foresee the potential implications of the risk
4. identify strategies to manage the risk.
In terms of potential risks for a conference, contingency planning allows you to
prepare alternatives such as:

back-up speakers

a substitute venue

alternative accommodation

different catering choices

spare sets of material

extra equipment to cover a technical breakdown.

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Tip: Review the risks


It helps to review risks in terms of their probability and impact. For example, a
high priority risk is one that combines serious consequences (impact) with a
high probability of the risk occurring.

Example: Contingency plan


John has prepared the conference program, the keynote speaker has confirmed
their acceptance and topic, the publicity material has gone out but John
receives an apologetic call from a speaker two weeks out saying they cant
make it.
John had enough foresight to have created the following contingency plan in the
event that this would happen.
SEVERITY
Risk
Description

Probability

Impact

Overall
Potential
seriousness Implications

1 Keynote Does
Medium Medium to
speaker
occur
to high
high
cancels
sometimes
their
speaking
commitment

Unable to
obtain
another
speaker at
such short
notice.
Participants
cancelling
registrations.

Page 42 of 57

Possible
Resolutions
Source another
speaker equally
qualified.
An insurance
policy to cover
unexpected
losses.

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2010 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd

Student Workbook

Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

Learning activity: Contingency plan


List some of the possible risks that could affect your conference:
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
Select two of the risks you have listed above and use them to complete the
contingency plan template below. Use the previous example as a guide.
SEVERITY
Risk
Description

Probability

Impact

Overall
Potential
seriousness Implications

Possible
Resolutions

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Section 2 Promoting and Organising a Conference

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Section summary
You should now understand how to prepare a promotional strategy with the
accompanying publicity material for a conference. You should also understand the
issues and best practice relating to the registration process, specific needs and
contingency planning.

Further reading
Conference management software

Nefsis, viewed June 2010, <http://www.nefsis.com/manual/pcconferences.html>.

ConfTool, viewed June 2010, <http://www.conftool.net/>.

Conference Manager, viewed June 2010,


<http://www.confmanager.com/main.cfm?cid=1>.

OpenConf, viewed June 2010, <http://www.openconf.com/> (free


software).

Section checklist
Before you proceed to the next section, make sure that you are able to:
promote a conference by developing a promotional strategy and publicity
material
organise a conference by implementing a registration process, catering for
specific needs and planning contingencies.

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Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

Section 3 Conference Coordination


and Follow Up
This section is about the on the day activities of a conference that need
coordination as well as the follow up work in reports, financial reconciliation and
conference papers after the conference is finished.
Scenario: Day of reckoning
The first day of the conference had arrived. John was there early, as were the
staff members who had been assigned to help him. John was confident in his
plans and in particular the contingencies he had built into them. His prior
training of the support staff gave him an added confidence that the day would
work well.
He had his checklist and was beginning to do the rounds. He knew what was
ahead and he was making sure that this conference was given the best
opportunity to succeed that he could.
After the successful conference day, John still had one matter to attend to.
His past experience informed him that a successful end to the conference did
not end the work for him. He knew that a post-conference brief or report would
be required by the MacVille events steering committee and the senior executive.
He also knew that there would be much work to be done with the completed
questionnaires, conference papers and the reconciling of the financials.

What skills will you need?


In order to work effectively as conference manager you must be able to:
coordinate the day of the conference
follow up on conference proceedings.

Coordinating conference proceedings


Once more your role will change once the opening day of the conference arrives.
You will move from organising activities to coordinating and making sure that the
conference runs smoothly. This will only happen if you are well prepared to deal
with the difficulties as they arrive.
Keep your contingency plan open and available for changes. Make sure you have
plenty of support personnel to deal with any issues experienced by speakers,
delegates and organisers.

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Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

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Support may be needed to deal with a diverse range of issues such as:

queues for toilets being too long requiring patrons to be directed to other
facilities

speakers experiencing microphone problems

delegates getting lost between session times/rooms and requiring


directions.

Check conference facilities

Check conference facilities early.

Make sure rooms are clearly labelled with session topics and times.

Make sure sufficient seating has been prepared and relevant equipment is
in place.

Ensure lighting and air conditioning is set to the appropriate levels.

Make sure water and glasses are available.

Ensure directional signs are in place.

Keep a close liaison with venue personnel to help resolve the unforseen
events as they occur.

Process registrations

Install your team early.

Ensure registration procedures are followed correctly.

Its important that the registration process is trouble-free, prompt and


helpful.

Ensure that:

registration desk is attended at all times

delegates feel welcome

delegates details are confirmed and recorded

name tags are correct and issued

conference information kits are distributed

queries are answered correctly

delegates are directed to appropriate locations

delegates are fully informed about conference facilities

delegates are informed if needed about the external area surrounding the
conference venue and personal safety issues.

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Student Workbook

Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

Learning activity: Registration


Prepare a plan for John explaining how the registration process could be
handled prior to the conference.
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
Handling the administration of the conference
In your planning you should have organised the way you were going to handle the
following:

opening the conference

discussing housekeeping (the performance and management of tasks)

introducing the keynote speaker (if applicable)

explaining the conduct of the conference

dealing with special needs

timing speakers

announcing breaks

handling late registrations

absent delegates

providing additional information or materials as required

operating equipment as required

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Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

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taking photographs of presenters, activities, delegates, displays

troubleshooting difficulties

distributing post conference material such as thank you letters and


evaluation forms.

Announcing changes to the program


Most people accept that changes can happen in any event from circumstances
beyond the control of the organisers. However, any late changes to the program
must be clearly advertised and communicated to all delegates by a notice:

at the registration desk

by an announcement at the opening of the conference

providing a handout in the delegates kit

clearly noted on the conference website address.

Note: Changes may affect all delegates or only those attending a particular
session.
Attend to the presenters
The key to the smooth running of any conference is the way in which the
presenters are organised: that they know where to go, that their special needs
have been accounted for and that they are in the right frame of mind to deliver
beneficial outcomes for the delegates. When attending to the presenters needs it
is important that the presenter is:

welcomed

attended to with regard to any specific individual needs

clearly informed of facilities

directed in person to their session location

comfortable with the technology and other arrangements

introduced warmly to their audience

given the opportunity to speak within the allocated time

recorded as they speak (if applicable)

thanked and presented with a gift (if appropriate).

Day of the conference checklist


Checklists are a handy tool when having to deal with the many issues that need to
be checked in the time pressured environment of the conference launch day.
Some on the day items that you are likely to include are:

list of all registered delegates details including contact details

delegates kits

name tags

equipment and sound check

extra tables and chairs for people who suddenly wish to register and
attend the conference on the first day (if the option is open)

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Student Workbook

Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

Learning activity: Checklist


List ten more items which you will most likely be required to check on the day of
the conference.
1. ________________________________________________________________
2. ________________________________________________________________
3. ________________________________________________________________
4. ________________________________________________________________
5. ________________________________________________________________
6. ________________________________________________________________
7. ________________________________________________________________
8. ________________________________________________________________
9. ________________________________________________________________
10. ______________________________________________________________

Follow-up conference proceedings


Planning for a conference includes the follow up that needs to take place after the
conference has ended. Reports will need to be prepared for the steering
committee as well as senior management who will want to know if outcomes were
in line with expectations.
These tasks include finalising, recording, reviewing and reporting on the
conference proceedings and outcomes. There will also be the need to finalise
correspondence as well as the financial arrangements that may include an audit.
Some of these tasks you can delegate but the ultimate responsibility rests with
you. Following is a list of tasks that will need to be completed.
Record conference outcomes
A report of the conference is of value to management who will want to know if the
event achieved its stated targets but it will also become part of the corporate
knowledge that will help inform the next conference that is held.
Your suggestions on how to operate a better conference will be of significant
value next time. The information that should be included in this report includes:

a comparison between the stated aims of the conference and the


outcomes to see if they were achieved, e.g. increased sales, enhanced
knowledge, improved image

a report on other outcomes achieved, e.g. increased awareness of the


organisations products or services, increased networking opportunities

an analysis of the conference collated evaluations from delegates

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Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

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the financial report, including a profit and loss statement

the conduct of the conference including comments on the venue, catering,


presenters

a detailed list of difficulties and how they were handled

an objective evaluation of the publicity campaign: a comparison between


money spent and benefit received

recommendations for future actions

any action lists particularly those featuring responsibilities and tasks


relating to clients and sales leads.

You may have to present a written report or make an electronic presentation or


even a face-to-face presentation to management. Marketing may want a brief
overview of results to include in a newsletter, magazine article, or on your
organisations website.
Learning activity: Evaluation form
Research and find an example of a conference evaluation form and answer the
following.
How many A4 equivalent pages was the questionnaire?
__________________________________________________________________
How many questions or sections?
__________________________________________________________________
What scale did they use?
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
Which form do you think John could use for his and why?
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

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Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

Response questionnaires

It is common practice at conferences to ask delegates to complete an


evaluation form as part of the organisations post-conference review. Most
delegates oblige because they understand that constructive feedback
leads to better outcomes for them on future occasions. It is also an
opportunity to give praise where praise is due.

The evaluation survey may be given as they register at the conference, but
it is more appropriate to issue and collect completed forms at the end of
the conference.

Generally, people dont want to complete lengthy forms and prefer to tick
boxes or a rating scale against selected criteria. Sometimes a space is
provided for comments.

In selecting the criteria it is best to focus on specific areas, such as the


quality of the speakers, the value of the information disseminated, and the
choice of venue.

Remember to focus on the sort of information that is essential for your


review of the conference.

Prepare conference papers


At the end of a conference, delegates usually want to receive a record of the
sessions as soon as possible. Quite often delegates will need to prepare their own
reports and need these papers to help them in the task.
These papers should be prepared as soon as possible after the event and may be:

a printed and bound book

a folder of papers

a CD-ROM

provided on a USB stick and sent


via mail

placed on your website

a collection of conference
photographs.

Finalising correspondence and financial activities


Follow-up correspondence
Thank you letters will need to be sent to:

keynote speakers

presenters

sponsors

session leaders

publicity

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2010 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd

those who donated their


services free of charge

services which were particularly


outstanding

caterers

venue coordinators.

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Similarly, if services were not provided to your satisfaction, you may need to
inform the appropriate people and outline your dissatisfaction.
You may also need to present brief reports to individuals or groups such as your
organisations CEO, departmental heads, or teams.
Follow up financial arrangements

Coordinate with the relevant financial officer to confirm payments made


and those still outstanding.

Finalise all payments still owed by your organisation, for example for the
venue, catering, accommodation.

Also follow up any payments yet to be made to your organisation, for


example registration fees from delegates or sponsors contributions.

To verify financial management, you may also need to ensure that the
conference is audited in accordance with organisational procedures and
audit requirements.

This may be done through an external accountant or by your organisations


financial personnel.

Your responsibility will be to provide them with the relevant


documentation.

Learning activity: Conference report


Outline for John the items he could include when creating the report template
about the conference.
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

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Section 3 Conference Coordination and Follow Up

Section summary
You should now be able to understand the jobs and functions that a conference
manager needs to attend to during the conference and after the conference with
the reporting process. Most important, is understanding how to successfully deal
with the unforeseen events that inevitably happen due to the complications of
running a conference.

Further reading
Simple templates and reporting forms for project management that can be used
for conferences:

Chapman, A., 2010, businessballs.com, Project management, viewed June


2010, <http://www.businessballs.com/project.htm>.

Early Childhood Teachers Association Inc, 2007, Conference evaluation


form, viewed June 2010,
<http://www.ecta.org.au/_dbase_upl/07_Conf_Eval_Form.pdf>.

Section checklist
Before you proceed to the next section, make sure that you are able to:
coordinate the day of the conference
follow up on conference proceedings.

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2010 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd

Page 53 of 57

Glossary

Student Workbook

Glossary
Term

Definition

Ball park

Colloquial term, meaning estimate. Relates to sporting


ground, and a ball park figure concerns a maximum
estimate, i.e. the sum is within the ball park.

Break-out session

Not all topics are relevant for all attendees. Break-out


sessions are when the conference breaks up into smaller
groups that deal specifically with a sub-topic of the
conference theme. T

Contingency

A chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something


uncertain.

Delegates

People who attend the conference.

Keynote speaker

The keynote speaker sets the theme and provides the


structure and motivation on which the other conference
speakers can deliver their material. They are often used to
draw people to the conference.

Master of
Ceremonies

A variation on speaker type is a master of ceremonies. This


person acts as a facilitator who helps keep the conference
running smoothly and on track.

Plenary

These sessions are delivered when it is intended that all


members of the conference attend. They are the session
addressed by the keynote speaker or can be used as a
time to summarise the conference activities using a panel
discussion.

Scope

The extent or range of view, outlook, application, operation,


effectiveness.

Stakeholder

A person or group that has an investment, share, or


interest in something, as a business or industry.

Venue

The physical location in which the conference is held.

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Appendices

Appendices
Appendix 1: Sample speaker confirmation letter

[COMPANY LOGO] and/or [CONFERENCE LOGO]


[DATE]

[SPEAKER NAME]
[ADDRESS]
[ADDRESS]
Dear [SPEAKER]:
Thank you for agreeing to share your knowledge with our members at the
upcoming [INSERT NAME] conference. As you know, our organisation is focused
on human resources in the public sector. Our members include employees of
federal, state, cities, and local governments and heath organisations that are
responsible for human resources in their respective organisations. In addition, our
corporate members represent a large variety of industry interests.
We are delighted that you have agreed to speak with our group. This letter is to
confirm the details of your presentation, which is as follows:
Presentation Date:

[DATE]

Session Start Time:

[TIME]

Length of Session:

[DURATION OF PRESENTATION]

Conference Location:

[ADDRESS OF FUNCTION CENTRE]

Session Location:

[SPECIFIC ROOM WITHIN FUNCTION CENTRE]

Presentation Topic:

[TITLE OF PRESENTATION]

Presentation Format:

[PRESENTATION DETAILS: i.e. how duration of


presentation is to be broken up, props and/or
equipment required 10 min PowerPoint
presentation, hour talk, 15 min Q&A, etc.]

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Appendices

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Please confirm the accuracy of the information above by signing and returning
this letter by fax to [FULL FAX NUMBER]. If you should have any questions, or
would like to discuss your presentation further, please do not hesitate to contact
me. Thanks again.
Sincerely,

[NAME]
[POSITION TITLE]

The information listed above is correct, unless exceptions are listed here:
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

Signed: ________________________________________ Date: ________________


Speaker Signature

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Appendices

Appendix 2: Answers to select Learning activities


Learning activity: Austrade export awards
Watch the video BSBADM503B: Austrade export awards on IBSAs YouTube
channel at <http://www.youtube.com/ibsachannel>.
This video is showing the opportunities that can come from attending a
Business Club Australia conference. During a conference, attendees can meet
and greet one another. What planning is required to make this part of your
conference successful?
Appropriate space is needed for both sitting and standing. Large enough tables
would be required for conference registration, paperwork, folio material, name
tags, food and beverages. An adequate kitchen is needed. If speeches are
being made during social conference breaks, sound and lighting needs to be
considered. If people from a diverse background are part of the conference,
perhaps translators will be required. A budget for all this needs to be planned.
How would the situation shown in the video change if the conference had 1000
attendees?
The floor space would be the main concern, along with the catering required to
feed and provide refreshments during a short conference break. Signage and
OHS concerns are also on the top of the list of matters requiring attention.
Appropriate air-conditioning or heating would be needed.

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