Conference coordinators manage all the activities that make a conference successful. They choose speakers and presenters, market the event and make all the arrangements for speakers and delegates. Coordinators organize conferences for companies, professional and academic institutions, publishers and political groups. They measure the success of their events by the number and quality of delegates they attract and the feedback from participants.
Coordinators work with the conference organizers to develop a theme and program for the event. As a coordinator, you must identify speakers who can cover topics that will interest the audience and invite them to participate. For academic conferences, you ask speakers to submit papers for evaluation. For business conferences, you ask speakers for details of their presentations so that you can promote the event to potential delegates. You also have to identify people who can participate in round-table discussions and select a presenter who introduces each speaker and provides links throughout the conference.
When you have details of the speakers’ topics, you prepare a schedule, allocating a time to each speaker and putting the presentations into running order. A coordinator has to categorize the most important topics as keynote presentations and give them important positions in the schedule, such as opening or closing presentations. You allocate time during the conference for break-out sessions in which groups of delegates can meet to discuss topics of interest to them. Breaks for refreshments and lunch also have to be built into the schedule.
If you are not operating from a permanent base, such as a university or a conference center, you must select a location for the event. The venue must be accessible for the delegates the event needs to attract. If the conference is appealing to a national or international audience, you must select a venue that is close to a major airport. Venues for local or regional conferences have to be easily accessible by road or rail. For conferences that run over several days, you must also take into account accommodations for the delegates.
To attract the maximum number of delegates, a conference coordinator has to promote the conference. Using databases of previous attendees and prospects, you release initial conference details by e-mail and direct people to a website. The conference website must provide information on the venue, travel arrangements, speakers and topics. It should include an online registration facility and a forum for delegates to post comments on the event. In the lead-up to the conference, the coordinator must continue to email prospects who have not registered, releasing updates on speakers and offering incentives for registration.
The conference coordinator must check the venue to ensure that it has all the facilities for the conference. Presentation equipment and screens have to be checked, and seating arranged for the anticipated number of delegates. You arrange catering and verify that the venue team is fully aware of its duties. On the day of the event, you maintain contact with presenters, speakers and the event team to ensure that the conference is running according to plan. If necessary, the coordinator has to adjust the schedule to maintain continuity and finish on time
After the conference, the coordinator asks delegates for feedback and takes account of any complaints or problems to improve future events. You maintain contact with delegates and those who could not attend by e-mailing a conference report and releasing details of future conferences. The conference coordinator also has to finalize revenue and costs to ensure that the event met its financial targets.
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