5 tips for successful conference planning

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By Courtney Adams.

Annual conferences seem to be the culmination of a hard year’s work. They’re challenging, they’re fun, and they can be a bit exhausting. But as we wrap up a week after one of these conferences, it’s hard to not focus on some lessons learned.

Be flexible. Nothing will go according to plan. You can script everything out, have what seems to be hundreds of meetings to prepare, and be the little bird whispering on someone’s shoulder, but the item that’s supposed to be in your photo op can still end up in someone’s car instead of on stage. If you just roll with it, no one else in the room will notice that it is missing.

Take notes. In the heat of the moment, when everything is going right, or everything is going wrong, you think, I’ll remember every moment of this. But really, on Friday at 5 p.m. as you’re fighting traffic to get home, you’ll start forgetting all the important things. Take a few minutes to make note of the things to improve on next year, or the things you did really well to make sure they’re executed properly next year.

Steal shamelessly. There are some things that are unique to an event. But there are many others that aren’t. If a registration process works well for one client, steal it and use it again. If you have to reinvent the wheel every time you have an event, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

Take five. Some of the most memorable moments from a conference are cracking jokes in the staff office, dancing around tables while preparing for a lunch program, having a conversation with a long-time association member who has become a friend, or unwinding at the end of the day with a nice meal. These are the moments that make conferences fun. You’re allowed to enjoy yourself, too.

Breathe. You made it through. Take a few minutes when you get back to the office to do a rundown of what worked and what didn’t so everyone can take those lessons learned back to their clients. Now, you get to sleep and celebrate a job well done!

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