A conference planning guide for beginners’: 14 steps to event success

Conferences comprise many moving parts – event planning, promotion, securing a keynote speaker – which can soon become overwhelming. Having a solid conference planning checklist, however, can help alleviate some of the stress and keep you on track towards executing the perfect event.

Events are at the heart of what we do at Congress Centre. Since our doors first opened in 1958, we’ve adapted to the evolving conferencing landscape and been involved in a wide range of events. From fashion shows and product launches to training events and speaker sessions, our team knows what it takes to get an event off the ground and running successfully.

We’ve combined our team’s events knowledge to create an essential conference planning guide from pre-event right through to post-conference.

1. Set clear objectives

The first step to executing a successful event starts with the event planning stage. Without a clear vision or goal in place, it’s hard to start planning a successful conference that resonates with your attendees. Therefore, consider:

  • Who your target audience is
  • How many people will be in attendance
  • What your end goal is (i.e., increase sales, encourage people to sign up or register, train or educate attendees)

Once you’ve established your goals, put them in writing. This is an often overlooked step, but seeing your objectives on paper can help you visualise everything more clearly and hone your focus.

2. Define the concept

As part of the planning process, you’ll need to establish the key concept of your event – one that speaks to your target audience and their needs. This is a crucial piece of the event planning puzzle as it will ultimately shape how attendees experience your conference.

Once you’ve come up with a concept, you’ll need to make sure your brand’s messaging around the event is consistent (through content marketing, social media, word of mouth etc) and that you weave your tone of voice and style into the concept throughout.

3. Decide on a format

Providing a suitable event format – one that resonates with your concept, content topics, and audience – is a key component to planning a successful conference. Popular examples include roundtables, trade shows, seminars, Q&As, and workshops.

4. Establish an event budget

Once you’ve decided on a concept and format, you’ll need to establish an event budget – start planning for this as soon as possible. A crucial part of pre-event planning, a budget will help guide your decisions on recruiting speakers, hiring vendors, and the kind of venue that you’ll pick out.

When establishing a budget, you’ll need to consider a variety of different expenses, including:

  • Catering
  • Printed resources and materials
  • Social media marketing costs
  • Transport costs
  • Venue cost
  • Staff costs
  • Speaker costs
  • Equipment
  • Licenses and permits
  • Entertainment
  • Goody bags

Don’t forget to plan for contingency costs too – just in case problems crop up that you weren’t expecting.

5. Settle on a venue and date

When it comes to choosing a venue, the sooner the better, as it will have an impact on several other factors, for instance, budget and format. Nearly all venues will provisionally hold the date for you for a certain period while you secure speakers etc, so don’t be afraid to book your venue as soon as you have a date in mind.

When selecting a venue, you’ll need to consider your format, and overall concept (see 2 and 3 above). If you’re not sure where to start, ask around and get advice from other event planners and organisers – particularly those who have specialist experience in your industry.

6. Select speakers and vendors

Selecting speakers and vendors is a key part of planning your conference. Make sure you take the time to filter out and secure a great keynote speaker – it’s really important you choose someone who aligns with your event concept. This can be the difference between a successful event (especially if the speaker is widely known within the industry), or a flop.

You’ll also want to secure vendors – food, drinks, management software, and other technology – for the event. Again, the sooner you do this the better, to get the best choice and secure the best deals.

7. Consider all customer touchpoints

Another core component of a successful conference is the journey that your delegates go through – from initial awareness, to booking and attending your event. You want to make the experience as smooth and memorable as possible, so make sure you consider:

  • Transport links
  • Networking opportunities
  • On-site facilities
  • Start and finish times
  • Accommodation options

Gathering all this information can be overwhelming, so you might find it helpful to use management software to speed up the process and provide a central source of truth for information and version control.

8. Assign roles to your team

Your team is the glue that holds your conference together. Without them, the entire planning process can quickly unravel. As the event manager, it’s your duty to delegate the right tasks to the right people – so make sure everyone on the team knows exactly what they’re doing, when and why.

9. Utilise technology

As part of planning your conference, think about the kind of technology you might need (project management software, live streaming technology, point-of-sale technology). Most conferences have opened up new networking opportunities by incorporating tech into their event, for instance using an app – such as Phoneshake – that enables attendees to connect and access contact details quicker by shaking their phones.

10. Create an agenda

This wouldn’t be a conference planning checklist without… an agenda! When writing up your agenda, include:

  • Location address, directions and contact details
  • Opening time and departure
  • A full itinerary (i.e., which speakers are presenting and when, networking opportunities, lunch, drinks, reception)

11. Promote your conference

Planning a successful conference means nothing if you’re unable to actually drive people to sign up for your event. You also need to craft a solid marketing plan that gets your conference out into the limelight. Think about your target audience. What platforms do they use? What are their pain points – and how can your event solve their problems?

Once you’ve discovered these insights, create promotional content across a mix of channels, including:

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Trade or local press (newspaper/radio etc)
  • Google Ads
  • Posters and stand-up banners

12. Send reminders

Don’t forget to send reminders to your attendees a few days before the event. You’ll also need to keep your keynote speaker and other vendors in the loop, informing them of any changes to the schedule.

13. Collect feedback

Post-conference, don’t forget to collect feedback from your attendees via a form or anonymous online survey – these insights will help you make future events ten times better.

14. Share follow-up resources

One of the most important things you can do post-conference is to share any follow-up resources – via social media or email – that were promised on the day. Sharing photos or quotes from the day can serve as promotional material for future events, too.


With a wealth of experience in event planning, Congress Centre is the ideal venue for both small- and large-scale conferences. Alongside AV facilities, we also offer 16 different event spaces with room for 10-500 guests – so you can choose a space that fits your event budget and needs.

Situated just a moment’s walk from Tottenham Court Road tube station, Congress Centre is convenient for all local transport links. Whether you’re an event manager or event planner, or need help planning your next conference, contact our team today at or call 0207 467 1318.

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