So you’ve decided to host a conference, awesome! Welcome to a very big undertaking filled with lots of stressful days and nights. In the end, I promise it will be rewarding and worth it. One of the first and very important decisions you will need to make is the length of your conference. The answer is honestly based on a host of factors and should be heavily pondered, as it really has effect on so many other layers of your planning and the final product. Today, I am going to focus on what I believe are the top 3 areas you need to consider in helping you make your decision. Cost, Content, and Logistics.
Hosting a multi-day conference is definitely more expensive than a single day version. Many think they will receive all kinds of discounts for booking a vendor or venue for multiple days in a row. Though, sometimes you can get a break on pricing for certain things, you most definitely are not going to get a deal like “rent one day, get the second free.” Vendors have employees to pay and in some cases those employees start racking up lots of overtime when your conference is more than a day or two long. You need to budget and plan appropriately for the increased cost of hosting more than one day. Do your research and consider how you will aim to get more or higher dollar sponsorships to help cover the extra overhead.
I get the feeling that many think creating a multi-day conference gives the impression that your conference is super awesome and a must attend. The truth is, I have personally attended more one-day conferences that blew my mind, than 2-3-day options.
You need to take a serious look at your content and be realistic with yourself on whether you have something worth sticking around for more than one day for. Are you filling your spots with sponsors and their sales pitch or do you have genuine, insightful, motivational information to share? Additionally, if your speakers are awesome, but you have only a few . . . do not, I repeat do not extend their speaking time to create a multi-day conference. No matter how engaging your speaker, an hour and a half into their speech people just get restless and their minds wander. It would be a total bummer if your feedback from attendees looked something like this “Content was fabulous, but segments were way too long!” If in doubt, refer to the adage Quality over Quantity.
And finally, the area I spend 95% of my day, logistics. The first consideration is the availability of your preferred venue location. I highly recommend the day prior to the start of your event be reserved to make sufficient time for set up/rehearsals/etc. With that in mind, can the venue accommodate your ideal date(s)? Or would you be compromising and in turn potentially end up with a lower attendance turnout? Another consideration is the capacity and available banquet space your venue can offer. Can you effectively cover all your needs in one day or would that second day make all the difference? My final consideration in the realm of logistics is related to your attendee demographic and where you are asking them to travel. If your target is local business people, then a one-day conference will probably be the easiest commitment. Targeting to out of towners or hosting in a destination location would lend towards offering a multi-day conference. A traveler wants to ensure the conference is worth the effort and expense. Would you want to fly to Hawaii for only one day? I think not.
The takeaway here is that one day and multi day conferences can both be a success. The key is to research first and have a deep conversation with yourself (and your team) about what is realistic and most effectively meets your goals and budget. The stressful days and nights I mentioned earlier . . . well those happen no matter what, so pass the planning piece off to a professional.
An event can often entice attendees to travel from out of town, requiring the need for a hotel. As the host of the event, reserving a block of hotel rooms for your attendees is a courtesy that does not go unnoticed. Room blocks help ensure a location near your venue for attendees to stay and a discounted room rate which might just sway a few more ticket sales your way.
A room block is a group of hotel rooms that a hotel puts on hold at a specially negotiated rate for a group of people. This can be set up for a conference, tradeshow or a wedding! Room blocks typically need to be at least 9 rooms (although sometimes hotels offer room blocks for 5+ rooms). You might ask yourself, “what all do I need to cover?” OR “what if I miss something?” I know my first time booking hotel rooms blocks I was so worried I would forget something, possibly costing us a large chunk of money. I’m here to give you the tools to confidently put together your RFP (Request for Proposal), review contracts and secure your hotels.
Things to Keep in Mind
Before you start calling hotels left and right, create a list of questions that make or break a hotel that fits your needs. These are the items I ask myself before locking down 3-4 hotels for attendees to choose from:
Make the Call
Once you’ve locked down your list of hotels, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Call the hotel and ask for the person in charge of hotel rooms blocks. Introduce not only yourself, but your event. Inform the hotel of the expected dates and let them know you’ll be sending an RFP over with your requests and requirements.This shows you not only have expectations but are organized.
Creating an RFP
An RFP also known as, Request for Proposal, lists (in order of importance) your requests and requirements for booking the hotel room block. Here are a few items I include:
Provide Information to Your Attendees
Now it’s time to promote your hotels and get those room blocks booked up. Include some quick hit information that they can view directly from the event website. Let them know pricing, distance to and from the event, a short bio of the hotel and pictures (everyone loves visuals). Allow your guests to be well-informed and make an educated decision.
Hopefully, after reading this I’ve eased your nerves of tackling the “book hotel room blocks” task. Find hotels that meet your expectations, list your non-negotiables, create your RFP and get a signed contract. Impress your attendees and help them out. It won’t go unnoticed.
Multi Day Conferences, Special Events and Fundraisers