Scheduling, educational materials, registration, speaker management, catering, exhibitors, etc. The list of things that you are responsible for if you are planning a conference or event is exhausting. Which is exactly why, once in a while, we all lose sight of the main purpose for having your conference in the first place. Don't feel ashamed if this has happened to you, because you're definitely not alone.
Defining Your Purpose
The most important part of not losing sight of the purpose or mission of your conference, is to clearly define it in writing. This may sound like a fairly simple and basic thing to do, but to write out exactly what you want your conference to accomplish is a really vital to actually accomplishing it. After all, how do you define a successful conference if you don't know what success means to your organization. Writing your purpose down forces you to construct a clear and concise message that can help guide your decision making process during planning. It can also help potential attendees determine if they'd like to attend or not. Showing them a clearly defined purpose does two things: 1) It helps them identify if the conference is right for their interests and needs 2) It tells them if the conference is worth the investment of time and money.
So how long should your written purpose be? What should it include? When defining your purpose, I always suggest keeping it to one short paragraph, or about 2 to 3 sentences. This may not seem very long, but it will force you "cut the fluff" and truly identify the roots of what you want your event to accomplish. Make sure to include what you want your attendees to take away from the event, and by what means you plan to do that. Being as detailed as possible makes planning much easier.
Making Budget Decisions
Once you've defined and written out your purpose, you can use it as a guide to what you spend your budget on. For instance, if the main purpose of your conference is to educate and inform new members and attendees on a certain topic, you might want to rethink throwing everything online, which seems to be the trend, (Survey: How & Why Your Youngest Members Read from the Page), and go with printed materials. If you're conference is intended more for members of your industry to get together and network, considering a mobile app that allows and encourages social interaction is key.
Choosing the way you distribute your content is much more than selecting the cheapest option. It's about identifying the purpose of your conference and making budget decisions that help achieve that goal.
Adjusting Your Purpose
As anything in life, the purpose you identify originally before the conference isn't going to be perfect. Making adjustments to accomplish the goals that you've set is very important, and essential to the future success of your conference. Anonymous after conference surveys are a great way to truly determine if you've accomplished your goal. If your purpose was to educate your attendees on a revolutionary new product within your industry, then blatantly ask them in the survey if they feel competent and knowledgeable on the topic.
Everything you do in life should be with a purpose, so being able to clearly identify it is essential. Take the time to plan what you want to accomplish before you make budget decisions and you'll quickly realize that you are providing attendees with a much richer experience, one that they'll want to return to experience each time your event takes place.