Monthly Archives: March 2014

Tips on how to run a Successful Conference or Seminar: Planning for a conference – Accommodation Considerations

Overnight accommodation

  • Agent or direct with hotel – You may chose to do this direct with the hotel or use a booking agent.
    It is worth noting that the booking agent will probably get a good price for the hotel bedroom due to the amount business they take to the hotel. If you chose an agent which has the benefit of saving time or research, you may not be able to further negotiate on other conference services such as room hire, audio visual equipment, food and beverage rates as you are dealing through a third party who is claiming commission.
    Sometimes you can negotiate a good deal if you use a hotel chain for other events or do repeat business. Like all business relationships it has to work both ways.
  • The accommodation type required for the delegates and staff will vary according to the type of event: whether it is residential or off site accommodation for an event taking part in a nearby venue. Consideration needs to be given as to how long the event is taking place i.e. the number of room nights. Some events promote the ability for delegates to have an option on choosing different class hotels for their accommodation during the event.
  • Meeting with hotel management – When organising a meeting with the hotel either at the site visit or at the stage of  further negotiations it will help considerably to have past event statistics of types and class of rooms required, or the number of beds required in the various categories of hotel room. If it is a new event let the hotel know the number of delegates you anticipate will attend and what types of bedrooms they will require.

Some hotels will charge a different rate for the different types of rooms. If, however, the event requires you to use most of the hotel bedrooms you may be offered the run of house of all the rooms at one set rate. It is then important to know the room repartition (number of type of different rooms) as this can be pertinent if all the delegates are supposed to be treated equally. A single room and a double room for single use can be quite different in room size as well as size of bed. A standard room and an executive room may be the same size but one may have a queen size bed and the other a king size bed with additional amenities, plus separate shower and bath included.
You need to check with the hotel exactly what is included in the room rate.

  • Know the accommodation required by your delegates -Bear in mind that you may need a range of different rooms for your different status delegates and company staff such as VIP guests, senior management, celebrity speaker, famous entertainers, and sponsors. If delegates are paying for the accommodation then you may need different types of rooms at differing quality hotels from the inexpensive through to the five star. If status is irrelevant then make sure that all the delegates are allocated the same standard of room at hotels of similar star category.
  • Understand requirement of the hotel contract – It is important when you negotiate with the hotel for bedrooms that you know the number you require and attrition clauses in the contract.
    Know the cancellation policy: take note of dates and the percentage of rooms you are able to cancel without having to pay cancellation charges.  Also note determine whether you have to pay a full 24 hour delegate fee for cancellations, which includes the food and beverage, or the room only rate which will be much less. This consideration will make a big difference if the number of attendees drops below your guaranteed number.
    Also take note of when the deposits have to be paid as well as when rooming lists and final numbers will be required.
  • Check-in process and payment – Make it clear to the hotel if the rooms are charged to a central account or if the delegates are going to pay individually for the accommodation or their extra incidental charges on departure.
    It is important to discuss with the hotel management whether it is a group or individual check in and what the check out procedure is. This will enable you to make sure that there are plenty of reception staff and porters available if the group arrives at the same time.
    Delegates will not expect to have to wait a long time in queues. If a group arrives before the rooms are available then you may wish to have an area set aside for guest refreshments and room keys to be given out.
    Consideration should also be given to luggage storage.
  • Check in time and check out times – Ask the hotel what the arrival check in and the departure check out times are. It is important that your delegates are aware of check-in process so that you that you can set expectations of what the hotel can fulfill.
    You may need early access to rooms if the delegate is arriving on an early overnight flight. The delegate will probably want to check into his room on arrival and you may have to book the room for the night before. If the hotel is not booked the night before they may allow the guest into the room early without extra charge.  The same applies if you need to negotiate late check out for certain delegates.
  • Rooming list– normally if it is a large conference the hotel will require a rooming list in arrival date order. This will be most useful if it is in alphabetical order with the number of nights required and type of room with any special needs. It is helpful to give this list to the venue as soon as possible or at least two weeks before the event.
  • Negotiation with hotel – Hotels on the whole are open to negotiation if you are reasonable with them and they are able to comply and are not too busy the night before the event. Some hotels will give you upgrades at no additional charge if you are booking for a large group; some will allocated a specific number of staff rooms at discounted cost. All this depends on the individual hotel but it helps if you can build up good rapport with the hotel conference manager.

You may well be able to negotiate better term if you are dealing with a large size group, or are using other services of the hotel in relation to room hire, ordering onsite food and beverages.

Remember there has to be some give and take on both sides. The hotel wants to make sure that your event gets the best service just as you do. The more you let the hotel know about the event — the profile of delegates, the objective of the event and the event organisation and timings — the better prepared they are to give you good service.

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Tips how to run a Successful Conference: Event Management and Planning Logistics, The invitation Process

The Invitation Process

 The marketing and creativity side of the invitation process was covered in part 4 of tips; here we will concentrate on the process.

the invitation is not only a way of inviting delegates but also a way to confirm name and contact address of potential delegate and open a dialogue for further communications before and after the event.

for this you need a database, depending on the event this can be a database of your own employees, a prospect list from your CSR system, sales records, website inquiries about your products or services, commercial lists although these are not always so successful and you cannot always know how clean and up to date these are.  Third party lists from your partner or distributors, can also be invited.  Remember you need to invite far more people than you actually want to attend and there is often a 25% drop out rate.

Software products are available on the market for the actual process of administrating the attendees, and if you do several events a year it is worthwhile investing in a package.

The invitation mailing should be creative and follow the theme of the event, it should encourage acceptance, and give the essential information an attendee requires before deciding to attend:

  • Name, title, address of delegate
  • Date and location of event, map and rail/road/air connections
  • Start and finish times
  • Theme of the conference and why they should attend
  • Guest speakers if famous or a renowned authority on the subject
  • Personalisation from the conference sponsors
  • Reply device, with space for delegate contact details and any special needs

the timing of sending out the invitation is important and this should be built into your invitation plan and further reminders of the event should also be planned before the event and added to your time line.  Certain audiences may require at least three months notice of the event, with reminders sent out to the undecided as you near the event.

confirmation of attendance, this should be done immediately as you need to build up a communication channel to the delegate leading up to the event both to promote your company and also to reduce the inevitable drop-out rate.  Communication should be regular and involve email messages, news letters telephone and further details on the programme, joining instructions, travel and accommodation details, hospitality arrangements and other relevant information you would like the delegate to receive before the event.  If you are using web based registration you can add their own personal login and ability to communicate with other attendees and find out information on the event.

the registration system will be used to create badges for the delegates that can be created by the software package you are using and colour coordinated if required to show the different categories of delegates, sponsors, speakers, staff, exhibitors etc.

The delegate attendee list will also be created from the registration list and can be analysed and produced as required.  The contact list is most important if there is a crisis during the event and should be up to date and available to all those concerned in dealing with a situation if the needs arises.

Tips on how to run a a Successful Conference Part 6A: Event Management and Planning Logistics

The event logistics and management is a large area to consider when organising any conference so we will cover this in 5 sections starting with whether to manage the conference yourself or outsource, creating time line for project management plus transportation.

The main check points to consider when planning and implementing event management for
a seminar or a conference are:

In house or outsourcing the event management
Whether you decide to do the whole event management and logistics in‐house yourself or
with your team or use an event company to assist in part or all the logistics and management of the event you will need to have a person responsible for the project management of the event. I will do a separate blog on choosing an event company to manage an event.

Project Management
Once the time and place of the conference or seminar has been decided it is very important
to manage your tight deadlines to make sure all the processes, plans and deadlines are
completed and that the schedule is adhered to.

Create a Gantt chart or time line schedule, start by working back from the event date,
highlight dates and projects when they need to be started and completed. It is most
important when setting the dates and actions that the person or team responsible is clearly
shown. All of the logistics and management planning of the event should be included. Ensure that the invitation, marketing, logistics of the delegate registration as well as the production side and venue communications are all included and nothing is missed out or forgotten. The time line is one of the stepping stones to planning a successful event.

Travel arrangements

‐ Depending on the event some delegates may be making their own way to the event and will require a map or link on how to find the venue and know the distances from bus, train, motorway and car parking facilities.

Delegates flying to the event may require to be picked up from the airport and
taken to the venue, or at least information on how to reach the venue from the port
of entry. Depending on the event you might be responsible for organizing hostesses
at the airport to meet and greet, and coach or private car pick up for VIP or foreign
attendees. You will need to know the group size of attendees arriving on internal or
international flights and arrange the method of pick up according to size of group.
There are many excellent transportation companies used to picking up clients from
airports and stations that have the vehicle suitable to the group size. It is important
that you have informed the delegates beforehand about the pick up arrangements so
that other passengers are not delayed. If the venue is near the airport then shuttle
bus services can be advantageous.

‐ It is as important to get the delegates there on time as it is to make sure that their
return transportation is waiting for them (order at least 30 minutes before the
conference ends) and they have the details correct for departure time and checkout
process especially if flights are involved. For national day conferences bear in mind
the length of the day: do not start too early say around 10:00hrs or finish too late at
around 16:30 so that delegates have time to travel back and not have to leave the
conference or seminar before it is finished.

The next blog will highlight tips on the invitation process.

Reference Reading:

John G fisher – How to run a Successful Conference

Tips on how to run a successful conference: Part 5B Finding the Right Venue for an Event

Location & Meeting Space for the Event:

  • Location is a very important to consider: make sure that the venue is easily accessible for all attendees.  Will the delegates be coming from near or far, do they need overnight accommodation, Is the event best suited for a city centre or country location, near an airport or train station, easy access to public transport, or do you require near access to motorways and a venue with plenty of parking?
  • Accommodation:  Is the event just one day or over several days? Do you require on-site accommodation or a conference centre or venue with a selection of hotels near to the venue?  Even if the event is only for one day you may still need accommodation for the set up staff, or delegates and speakers.
    • The programme of a conference or seminar will dictate how much time you need to hire the space for setup, rehearsal, exhibition set up if linked with a conference, and de rigging if you have much staging after the event.  You will need to take this into account when finding out what space is available on the dates you require.
    • Understand how many meeting rooms and what size, breakout rooms, exhibition space, registration area and lunch. coffee break area you require and on what dates. It is easiest to set this out on a spreadsheet and add to this the number of overall attendees you expect at each session.  You need  to understand how many rooms you require and their layout such as theatre style will not require as large a room for 50 pax as one set out for cabaret style, or classroom style for the same number.  Always make sure that you have adequate space for your delegates to be in a meeting without feeling cramped, this is also important for the coffee break or lunch areas where the delegates will want to network.
    • The facilities – Staging,  A/V, multi-media and technical support must be taken into consideration.  Each session requirement will affect the size of room required.  Ceiling height restrictions, weight load bearing factors and easy access is important to consider when the space is being used for exhibition.  If the event requires simultaneous translation you will need to leave adequate space for booths to be set up.  The plenary room may require, back projection with stage set this will take up quite a large area of the room.  Note that some venues already have tiered theatre seating and in-build A/V in their meeting rooms.  If wishing to have a private lunch area consider whether this will be a stand up fork buffet suitable for a networking lunch which will not require such a large area as a seated buffet lunch.  Coffee break area’s should be with-in easy access to the meeting rooms or a central place where the main exhibition area is set.

Venue Search and Site Visit

Venue search can be done by a specific venue search agent who do not charge a fee but get commission from the booking.  Alternatively an event company used for managing the event can do a venue search and booking on your behalf.  If you prefer to do this yourself, then tourist offices, hotel chains, trade directories, the internet, can all assist.

Once you have a short list of venues you think are suitable you must always do a site visit to inspect the venue as brochures and website will never compensate for an actual visit and understanding the layout of the venue and how the delegate flow and programme will work.  When doing a visit always have an inspection check list, (If you require further information on the check list please contact B2B Event Management and we will send out.)  When you do the site visit you must also be prepared to discuss your programme, and give the venue as much information to enable them to understand the best use of their site for your event.  Before making a final decision make sure you understand the contract and cancellation policies. It is also advisable to see if you can get any references from other organizations  who have used the venue for their events.

Reference reading:

John G Fisher – How to run a Successful Conference

Tips on how to run a Successful conference: Part 5A Finding the Right venue for your event

Finding the right venue for a conference or seminar:

Previous articles have detailed the reasons for having a conference and how to plan for this.  Before selecting the conference or seminar venue it is important to understand the goals and objectives of the event and what you want to achieve. You need to have set the budget to understand how much you can spend on a venue as well as understanding what type of audience you will be inviting and where they are located  as this will influence the location and type of venue most suited for your event.

Timing of the event:

  • Before choosing a venue you need to decide on the date of the event.  The more in advance you can book the venue the better choice you will have in finding the right venue and getting the facilities that are suitable.  Different times during the year are popular for events and the venues will normally charge a premium at these times.  Certain days in the week are more popular like midweek, venues again may charge more for room hire.
  • Make sure that the date does not clash with other National events that may affect attendance.  Different seasonal times of the year, public and school holidays can affect the attendance of an event.  Remember if you are inviting guests or holding an event in different countries you need to be aware of their public holidays. Be aware of other large events that could affect you holding your event as this could clash with some of the delegates attending or the location of your venue. Also any large event such as a sporting event or large convention or exhibition in the locality can affect accommodation, restaurants being fully booked and lack of meeting space.

Image of the Event and Delegate Profile

  • It is most important to make sure that the image of the company or Association is matched by the image of the conference or seminar venue.  The tone and type of venue should be in keeping with the conference concept and part of the overall theme marketing of the event.
  • Delegate profile must be investigated before deciding the venue. Research of attendees status, where they are located, numbers to attend, age, male to female ratio, can affect the type of venue suitable for your event.

Reference reading:

John G Fisher – How to run a Successful Conference