Conferences and conventions are a mainstay of the tech industry. Over your career, you’ll probably attend hundreds of them. They are so popular because they’re a great place to network, improve industry connections, and learn something new. But what happens when you want to host one?
A tech convention is not an easy thing to pull off, no matter how large the venue or how many people will be attending. There are a whole lot of moving parts, from booking the venue to arranging the speakers and keeping everything in budget.
So how can you make organizing a tech convention less of a gargantuan task? Luckily, there are lots of tips, tricks, and tools out there to make sure that your event runs smoothly, on schedule and within budget!
Get a strong mission statement
A strong, effective mission statement will help everything else slot into place. It’ll help with marketing since a compelling statement helps people to know what your event is and why they’d be crazy to miss out. It might also help with sponsorships and partnerships since a cohesive mission statement makes you sound credible. If you’re not sure where to start, think about what your convention’s niche will be. How do you fit into the already saturated market of tech conventions and what do you have to offer that’s unique? Let people know what problems your solving and what makes you unique. Once you’ve got a mission statement, you can use it to underpin all your other choices, from venue hire to marketing.
Set up effective partnerships
Effective partnerships can save you money and help you to get more value from your tech convention. Partnerships can come in many forms. You might partner with the venue, with relevant companies in your industry, or with media outlets who will get you more coverage. Think tactically and consider what you can offer them in return, you need to make the partnership appealing for them too.
When approaching sponsorships, you’ll want to look out for businesses that are thematically linked to your event. Make sure the sponsor’s brand doesn’t conflict with your brand’s values. You could also want to think about how much say a sponsor will have in the event. You might be wary of losing too much control to sponsors, so consider where you’re willing to draw the line. Strike a balance between a mutually beneficial relationship and one in which the event loses its integrity.
Get software on your side
You don’t have to do everything from scratch. Using good software can make planning your event cheaper and easier. Managing conventions with software can reduce a lot of the strain by streamlining everything in the planning stage. This includes creating schedules, selling tickets and sorting out registrations in a simplified and centralized way.
Remember to include every possible thing in your budget, from the venue and speakers right down to security and name badges. You don’t want any nasty surprises. Using a handy budget template can help you stay on track and adapt to changing needs. Remember to budget for things like staffing, accommodation, transport, catering, and marketing. Cover all your bases. Some speakers might be willing to appear for free, but in this case, you’ll need to think of other ways you might compensate them, like helping them to publicize their own work.
It might be possible to reduce costs through sponsorships, so reach out to relevant people or businesses in your network. You can also cut costs by using volunteers for jobs like stewarding. Local university students might be interested in this, or attendees who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a ticket.
Secure the perfect venue
The venue is what most organizers stress about the most. But you can find the perfect venue with good research and networking skills. The size and scope of the venue will be constrained by your budget, but there are other things to consider too. You need the venue to be large enough to accommodate the right number of stalls and demos, but if it’s too large you’ll be left with a venue that’s impossible to fill. Think about how accessible the location is, and select a venue that reflects your brand and the audience your convention is aimed at.
Choose the best date
Don’t forget to pick the dates for your tech convention carefully. Ideally, you want to pick a date that won’t conflict with any major holidays, festivals, or other large conferences. You’ll also want to avoid periods that might mean more people are out of town, like the height of summer when most people will take a vacation. Think about who your event is aimed at and whether a weekday or weekend event is more suitable.
Market like mad
Without effective marketing, your convention won’t be the success it should be. You need to get the word out via all channels and reach as many potential attendees as possible. Use your own platform to promote the event by making the most of your email lists and social media platforms. Social media is vitally important, so be sure to plug the event on your channels as well as via paid advertising to help you reach a wider audience. Your sponsors and partners might also be able to help you market the convention, so think about including this in your package.
Get the word out on the day
Get the most out of the event by maximizing the press it receives. You’ll want to send out press releases well in advance of the convention and think about giving free tickets to members of the press. You can also generate your own media by making sure you hire a photographer and videographer to produce content you can use on social media and in future marketing. Live-tweeting the event and going live on Facebook are also great ways of getting your message out at the event. Social media moves fast, so make sure you’re putting out messages at regular intervals throughout the day to generate excitement about your event and your brand.