Successfully planning an academic conference can take years. With so much time passing between initiation and execution, it can be difficult to maintain an overview of the tasks that need to be completed and avoid feeling rushed in the final weeks before the event. Follow the tips below to ensure you stay organized and efficient, even when it’s crunch time.
Set yourself up for success from the very beginning. A strong foundation is the key to a smooth and efficient planning process. Of course, every conference organizer knows that a detailed budget, including up-to-date quotes from suppliers (don’t rely on last year’s numbers), is an essential first step. Remember to set funds aside for emergencies—it pays to expect the unexpected. For your to-do list, divide overarching goals into smaller, intermediate ones to help you keep the big picture in mind without getting too overwhelmed. Include dates: Having a clear idea of what needs to be done with deadlines will help you delegate tasks to your team.
Create your own event standards. On the basis of all the experience you’ve gathered from past events, create your own individualized event planning strategy and adjust your actions over time. Collect information from previous events to build a data-driven approach that hones in on the key needs and priorities for your attendees. Constantly optimize your strategy as you gain new insights.
Make the most of your planning time. Keep daily and weekly to-do lists and schedule times into your calendar for batch activities, like signing invoices or responding to emails. Download organizational tools like RescueTime, a browser plugin that breaks down all the time you spend on your computer and highlights where you’re getting distracted. Use this information to make regular adjustments to your workday. That being said, don’t forget to leave some wiggle room in your schedule for last-minute requests.
Optimize your content management software. Organizing the abstracts, posters, and presentations at your conference can easily become your most time-consuming task. Streamline this process by using a technology provider that prioritizes a great user experience and that has an open API so it can be easily integrated into other software services. This will reduce your workload by ensuring the time it takes you to onboard your team is minimal and that you can easily switch from service to service. Delegates also benefit from having a straightforward and easy-to-use tool to upload their research, reducing the overhead for technical support.
Listen to the data. Years of conference planning experience is invaluable, but using data will allow you to inform your gut instincts, eliminate guesswork, and avoid costs caused by unplanned recalibrations. Your content management software should support a data-driven approach to conference coordination. For instance, to ensure a speedy peer review process throughout the abstract submission, use a software service that examines keywords and topics to help you assign reviewers based on their expertise. Post-event, make sure your content management software provider sends you a report detailing the most popular research, keywords, and posters. You can use this information to effectively plan your program for next year and to target new groups of delegates.
Get ambassadors to spread the word. You don’t have to do all of the legwork when it comes to marketing and attracting new attendees to your conference. Social media can help your cause as long as your posts are engaging and include a ‘call to action’ that people are excited to react to, comment on, and share. Additionally, encourage delegates to use your conference hashtag and post on social media when they’ve uploaded abstracts or posters to your event. These expanded networks will help you reach beyond your current mailing list and have the added benefit of engaging ambassadors that will organically spread the word amongst their peers.
With the wealth of digital resources at our fingertips, there are now more ways than ever to stay on track and maintain efficiency at your event. Streamlining the conference planning process, leveraging social networks, and taking advantage of valuable data all make up part of the modern toolkit that will help you make the best use of your time, right up to launch.
Sami Benchekroun is the cofounder and CEO of early-stage research platform and conference management software company Morressier.