Running a Conference for the First Time

If you work for an academic institution, a charity or a business, a great way to raise your profile and gather lots of fascinating new ideas is to organise a conference. This brings in specialists in the field from across the country and even the world, giving them the chance to exchange ideas and socialise under your aegis. While they’re building out their professional network and profile, all of it is associated with your name, positioning you as a dynamic leader in the field and generating lots of favourable publicity. If, of course, that event is run well. If it’s run badly, word will undoubtedly get around and you’ll find it difficult to try this tactic a second time.

You have to get it right first time, and that’s why we have this helpful guide for you today.


Working out the theme for your conference is perhaps the most important first step. It will inform everything that follows, including your budget!

You need to focus your conference on something that’s current: an issue that’s already making headlines, and one without a consensus. Reappraising an accepted ‘truth’ of your industry or field can be a good idea, if there’s a genuine debate to be had: questioning received wisdom is a rarely a wasted exercise.


Finding the right venue is the next question you need to address. You need to make sure it has all the facilities you require – appropriate capacity, perhaps multiple rooms to accommodate simultaneous talks, and nearby accommodation for speakers and guests – within an appropriate budget.

If you’re not tied to a location, finding somewhere central is a good idea. For example, even if you’re based in London, holding your conference elsewhere can lower the budget and make it accessible to more people. If you look for a meeting room Manchester has lots of facilities to offer, as well as plentiful transport links to the rest of the UK – and the rest of the world through it’s airport.


Contact your speakers early. Good public speakers in any speakers are very much in demand, and most people make their decisions about their appearances for the year early so they can balance speaking engagements with other work – especially in academia.

Contacting the people you want to have at your event well in advance gives you the best chance to secure their attendance. And with a venue, theme and confirmed speakers, you have the best chance of selling this conference to an engaged and enthusiastic audience and building a great reputation from it.

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