Here're few tips on how to organize conferences in a smart way
- Identify a theme/topic/subject, chose a fancy title
- Approach key people specializing on the above theme/topic/subject and request them to speak at the event. Many of them might refuse outright, but coax them to say “Tentatively Yes, I’ll try to come”. That person knows he/she won’t be coming, you know that he/she won’t come. However, go out and publicize this celebrity speaker. “Mr X is coming to the event, how can you miss it”. Use this person (more than one of them, preferably) as a bait to attract other speakers, sponsors and participants. (You don’t have to compensate anyone for “unfortunate, last minute cancellation” of this celebrity)
- Invite a few “Social Media experts”. They will provide the initial boost on social media, by posting updates on twitter, facebook that they’re attending this particular event and how great it is
- Create some hype online, either hiring some social media savvy college students as volunteers, or partnering with a social media agency (or mutual understanding basis)
- Approach sponsors- depending on how much hype you could create and how much deep you can dig into a company’s pockets, pitch for various types of sponsorships- gold, platinum etc. Offer free passes (companies will give these free passes to their employees/customers and you’ll be assured of some minimum audience). Offer speaker slots (off the record), so that company executives can come on stage and indirectly boast about their product and services, offer publicity booths, displaying promo videos, mention of their name everywhere. Tell them how sponsorship lots are being picked up and what great opportunity they’ll miss if they don’t decide asap. Eventually few will fall for the trap.
- Now start selling the ticket. Offer early bird discounts and group discounts. Some will buy because they want to cash in on the offer, others will buy it because they’ll anyway get it reimbursed by their company
- If lot of speaker lots are empty, extend lunch and tea breaks. Call it “Networking lunch”, “Networking tea break” etc
- If there’re lot of speakers, run parallel tracks. Those who pay for full conference will get to attend only half of it, but who cares.
- If the number of attendees are less, ask the hotel for a smaller room (so that it looks full). Also announce spot bookings with nice girls at the reception, so that people won’t say NO to overpriced registration charge.
- See if you can get a sponsor for tag, conference folder, bag, dinner, pen, paper, podium, transportation etc. This way all your expenses are taken care.
- Collect business cards, in the temptation of giving away prizes. End of the conference, sponsoring companies will have loads of contact details, to spam unsuspecting customers with offers
- Get some tweeps and bloggers to live blog/live tweet. The hashtag may not trend in your city, but see if it trends in your street/building. If yes, hype it as much as you’d have, if it had trended worldwide
- Last minute, announce the cancellation of celebrity speaker (step 2, remember?). If slots are left, push in a panel discussion or unconference.
- End of the conference, attendees who came at company’s expense won’t have anything to complain. Those who came paying their own money can feel contended that they got good lunch. Sponsoring companies are happy to see a hall full of audience and their brands forced on audience via multiple means, organizers get to pocket money from all corners.
No offense to genuine organizers. Above are inspired by my observations at various conferences attended during past few hours