From Comic-Con to SantaCon, there are plenty of conventions worldwide that offer unique experiences for fans and enthusiasts of niche topics. There are even conventions for those who want to dress up as Abraham Lincoln or celebrate clown culture.
In addition, conventions are often held to bring business or industry professionals together to discuss important topics in their field. These events can last anywhere from one day to a whole week of engaging activities. They offer an excellent opportunity to meet new people and make personal and professional connections.
As an event planner yourself, you may be interested in planning a convention for your organisation. Whether you’re planning a fan convention or corporate event, it’s important to incorporate best practices to help your event run smoothly.
Here are five convention planning best practices to help you get started:
- Choose the right venue.
- Create a unique, enticing theme.
- Learn from the past.
- Stay flexible with multiple backup plans.
- Get organised with event management software.
Let’s dive in!
1. Choose the Right Venue
There are plenty of considerations that go into choosing the right convention venue. If you have hosted a similar convention in the past, you might decide to pick the same location. If not, it’s crucial to search for a large enough venue to accommodate your estimated number of attendees.
Your chosen venue should be secure and follow all relevant health and safety protocols, especially in light of the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure the venue is an easily accessible location, such as near a major city or a popular area that most people are familiar with.
Your venue should also be equipped with all the necessary equipment and accommodations you need. This includes technological equipment, adequate restroom facilities, multimedia equipment, and sufficient on-site parking. To learn more about every conference room’s essential elements, check out this article here.
In addition to your venue, you’ll want to ensure you hire an effective catering service. Nothing will make your event collapse faster than not having enough excellent food or not having enough variety for attendees.
Remember, even if your convention is a year from now, it’s always good practice to start planning ahead of time. Your venue should be determined well in advance so you can reserve the facility you want. The sooner, the better! This leaves extra time for marketing your event and getting all your attendees excited to attend.
2. Create a Unique, Enticing Theme
Choosing a fun, unique, and exciting theme for your convention can help you market your event and encourage participants to sign up. This is the perfect chance to get creative! Your theme will set the tone for your convention and be the first impression people will have of your event.
Keep your theme relevant to your target audience. Think about your target audience members (including their demographics and interests) and what your event will offer them. From there, all you have to do is find a way to express that message that resonates with prospective attendees.
For example, if you’re hosting an educational convention for marine biologists and other aquatic studies professionals, you’ll want to ensure your theme conveys an educational message. Although it might be tempting to give your convention a light-hearted theme like “Journey to Atlantis” or “Under the Sea”, your attendees will probably expect a more professional, mature theme, such as “The Future of Our Oceans.”
However, if you’re planning a convention for hobbyist antique collectors, you can keep your theme more casual, such as “Blast from the Past” or “Down the Rabbit Hole.”
Keep in mind that your event’s theme will tie into your:
- Event marketing strategy: A strong theme and event brand can capture potential attendees’ attention and encourage them to learn more about your event. Event branding helps audience members understand what your experience is about and what they’ll gain from attending.
- Event content: A unifying, fun theme gives speakers and event presenters more direction when creating speeches or presentations. For instance, if your tattoo convention’s theme is “What’s Trending in 2022?” speakers will know they should focus their presentations on trends and themes that they’ve seen arise this year.
- Event merchandise: Who doesn’t love an event t-shirt? When your convention has a memorable and unique theme, your attendees will want to purchase your merchandise. This can lead to a major revenue boost for your organisation.
Having a theme allows you to convey the objective of your convention and will ensure all your participants know what to expect on the event day. An exceptional theme might even convince certain audience members to attend your event even if they weren’t initially planning on it!
3. Learn From the Past
If you’ve hosted conventions previously, use past event data and attendee feedback to make your next convention better than ever before. Make a list of everything your attendees enjoyed and the elements that worked in your favour so you know what should stay the same for your next convention.
Plus, understanding the less-successful elements of previous conventions will help you learn from past mistakes and know what you can do differently this time to ensure tremendous success. If you gathered feedback from your past event attendees, this is the perfect chance to go through their responses and gain insights on what can be improved.
For instance, perhaps you sent out a post-event survey to everyone who attended last year’s convention. Maybe attendees expressed enthusiasm for your event’s networking opportunities but wished there were more of them. For your next event, you can plan more options for participants to make personal and professional connections and facilitate these introductions with ice breaker activities.
Or maybe, you hosted a virtual event last year and are looking to plan a hybrid event so attendees can engage either in-person or online. Review your statistics from the previous year’s gathering, such as the number of RSVPs vs actual attendees or how long each attendee watched each session on average, to figure out how to make your virtual components more engaging.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with changing things up! Doing something different will help generate more excitement when you reach out to your potential attendees, as they will look forward to the change.
4. Stay Flexible With Multiple Backup Plans
While planning your convention, it’s always a good practice to have a plan B as problems are bound to happen. Your catering could fall through, COVID-19 restrictions could force postponement or a transition to the virtual realm, or your t-shirts might not be shipped on time. Make sure you have a few backup plans in your pocket, allowing you the ability to pivot and still offer a fantastic event.
For example, don’t let technology let you down on the day of your event! Be sure to test your technology in advance to avoid as many disruptions as possible. Speakers, laptops, and WiFi can fail at any time, so it’s also a good idea to download any music or presentations you’ll need for your event in case of any tech roadblocks.
A lack of amenities can also ruin a great convention. For instance, you may have more attendees than expected, and if you do not have enough bathrooms or food options, your attendees will feel frustrated and unsatisfied with the planning of your event. These are all factors to consider before event day and determine how to avoid roadblocks before they become catastrophes.
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5. Get Organised With Event Management Software
Planning an event is no easy feat! To ensure your guests and volunteers have a memorable experience, there are many things to think about. It may start to get challenging to keep track of everything if you keep your to-do list in an ever-growing spreadsheet.
Investing in event management software solutions will help you keep all of your planning tasks organised and offer a better experience for the dedicated volunteers that help make your convention a success. Search for software tools that provide the following features to help manage your convention:
- Branded, customisable volunteer sign-up pages – You can promote your volunteer opportunities on your recruitment page for all your volunteers to view and sign up for roles that best suit and interest them.
- Volunteer scheduling tools – Save time and allow your volunteers to self-sign-up for shifts that work best for them. This offers your volunteers the flexibility to work around their schedules and reduces any back-and-forth communication.
- A mobile app to check volunteers in and out – Empower your volunteers to check-in and out of shifts when they are on-site, review their volunteer hours, and sign up for more shifts, all from their mobile device!
With the help of event volunteer management features, you can empower your volunteers to help make your convention a success with all the tools and information they need to thrive and deliver exceptional event experiences.
Now that you’ve explored some convention planning best practices, it’s time to start planning accordingly and put your best foot forward! Remember, planning well in advance can help ensure that everything runs smoothly on the event day.
If you’ve planned a convention before, take note of what worked and what didn’t to give you a better idea of how to proceed for your next event. Review feedback from all attendees and understand your event’s strengths and weaknesses to exceed attendee expectations with future events. Good luck and happy planning!