The Ins And Outs Of Running An Annual Conference

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Many of the best known conferences and events in the world aren’t just one-off affairs; they happen one or more times a year. Annual shows like the DEVELOP conference give industry professionals a chance to strut their stuff, while trade conventions like the Consumer Electronics Show bring the world some of the coolest technological innovations ever designed. Today, I’d like to discuss some of the finer details of running an annual conference – assuming you want to do so.

Now, it bears mentioning that much of what goes into running a yearly conference is pretty much the same as running a standard event. You’ve got to work out the details of the venue, staffing logistics, supply, marketing, and the event date. In a lot of ways, however, an annual event is both simpler and more difficult than a one-time conference. Let’s take a look at a few questions you’ll be asking yourself as an annual event planner.

Is It Worth The Effort?

The first question you’re going to want to ask yourself is whether or not it’s worth your time to run an annual event. Is the conference you just ran the sort of thing you can reproduce year after year, with fresh, original content each time? Is there clear interest from attendees in making a return trip? You’re going to need to discuss things very thoroughly with everyone involved to determine whether or not you want to make a conference a regular affair. 

Fixed Or Rotating Venue?

Next up, there’s the question of the venue. While it can certainly save a great deal of time and money to have the same venue each year, there’s also something to be said for hosting an annual event at a different location each time you run it. Mostly, this has to do with how the event’s location impacts who attends (and who participates). You’ll likely attract a different crop of attendees, speakers, and vendors in Canada than you would in the United Kingdom, for example. Plus, you give everyone attending an excuse to see different parts of the world. Not a bad deal, right?

Of course, with a fixed venue, you can probably negotiate some pretty fantastic savings, as well. You just need to decide what is important for your specific event. 

Who Should Be On The Events Committee?

When you’re running any event or conference, you’ll want to appoint an event committee to oversee things. In the case of an annual conference, you’re going to need to ask yourself whether or not you want to appoint a new committee every year, or keep the same crop of individuals running things every time. Keeping the same group for each new iteration of the event can cause burnout, while hiring a new crop of individuals to oversee every event can get exhausting and lead to staffing problems down the line. If your team did a great job the first year, it would be good to give them the chance to come back and bring some fresh faces for new ideas. 

When Should The Event Be Hosted?

Believe it or not, annual events don’t always fall on the exact same day every year. If you run a conference from May 2-4 one year, you might well end up hosting it May 20-23 the next. There are a few reasons for this (including changing calendars), but suffice it to say you’re going to need to take them into consideration each year. It’s really not as simple as just picking a date and rolling with it.

How Should The Event Be Marketed?

Last, but certainly not least, you need to consider how you’re going to market the event each year. Although eventually word-of-mouth is going to take care of awareness, you still need to consider how you’re going to let attendees each year know about the details.  How are you going to manage your event page? Mailing lists? Social media accounts?

In Closing

Managing an annual event certainly shares a great deal in common with managing any other type of event. With that in mind, however, annual events bring with them their own set of requirements, challenges, and concerns. Knowing what to expect is the first step in overcoming them.