How to Organize a Tech/Design Conference for 1000+ Attendees from Scratch

A guide of organizing a conference for 1000+ attendees, timeline and checklist included!

We’ve been running JS Conf China for 6 years now, and started the first UI/UX Conf China in 2016. Since all of these tech and design conferences are nonprofit and community oriented, we choose to organize them ourselves. But with the whole team busy with clients’ projects, it’s hard to gather enough internal resources.

We’re shorthanded and short of change, but still manage to pull it off. Here’s how. This article is a practical guide. A to-do list even. No buzzwords, no fluff.

Timeline and checklist of organizing a conference

5 months prior to conference

Logistics/Planning:

  • Select a conference committee team
  • Event date (preferred and alternate dates)
  • Determine the process, tools and platforms (e.g. google drive, github, typeform)
  • Venue: a list of three to five potential conference sites
  • Pick registration platform and set the ticket types and fees
  • Budget plan: based on the signed venue contract and fees for registration etc.
  • Contact external event partner/freelancer if any

Speaker:

  • Define proposal review process
  • Proposal submission & review process
  • Define reimbursement policy
  • Follow-up procedure
  • Set deadlines for proposal submission and confirmation

Design:

  • Visual identity
  • Website: create a conference website or update an existing one with details about the dates and location

Sponsor:

  • Design the sponsorship package(s)

Content & Promotion:

  • Post testimonials from past attendees
  • Set the conference theme and write up a call for proposals
  • Copy for the website (call for speakers, call for sponsors, about us etc.)

Documents:

  • Sponsorship contract
  • Food & Beverage vendor contract
  • Venue contract
  • Media contract

Timeline and checklist of organizing a conference

4 months prior to conference

Logistics/Planning:

  • Confirm video & photography crew
  • Confirm venue
  • Conference schedule
  • After-party plan

Speaker:

  • Invite speakers
  • Define the review process and criteria for scoring proposals
  • Confirm the first batch of 5 speakers

Design:

  • Website QA & launch

Sponsor:

  • Promote sponsorship packages
  • Sponsorship contract confirmation
  • Map of conference exhibit hall with booth numbers listed
  • Invite sponsors
  • Look for F&B vendors

Content & Promotion:

  • Social media strategy
  • Speaker invitation letter template
  • Content calendar
  • Email campaign
  • Press kit
  • Milestones:
    • Website is online
    • Announce first batch of confirmed speakers
    • Venue confirmed

3 months prior to conference

Logistics/Planning

  • Reserve hotel rooms
  • BD/Branding plan

Speaker:

  • Confirm the second batch of 5 speakers
  • Send email updates to speakers, with tips for a good presentation and reminders about reimbursement and housing
  • Last call for speakers
  • Send accept and decline letters to all speaker applications

Design:

  • Update website (e.g. replace call for speakers with confirmed speakers )

Sponsor:

  • Confirm the sponsors
  • Sponsor booth arrangement

Promotion:

  • Milestones:
    • Last call for speakers
    • Second batch of confirmed speakers
    • Third batch of confirmed speakers

Timeline and checklist of organizing a conference

2 months prior to conference

Logistics/Planning:

  • Translation services (if required)
  • Insurance plan
  • Hire security

Speaker:

  • Collect decks and give feedback
  • Update the conf agenda, accommodation plan

Design:

  • Update website: add final confirmed speakers and schedule
  • Contact suppliers for supplies (tote bags, badge paper and holders, ribbons etc.)
  • Event brochure, banners, badges, swag, T-shirts

Sponsor:

  • Collect banner KV from sponsor
  • Contact info from sponsor

Promotion:

  • Send out the event program to all attendees

Milestones:

  • Last batch of confirmed speakers
  • Speaker bios

1 month prior to conference

Logistics/Planning: Confirm the after party venue and schedule

Speaker:

  • Collect final decks
  • Update accommodation info

Sponsor:

  • Reminder of setup
  • Gather contact person details

Promotion:

  • Milestones:
    • Research nearby restaurants and attractions that might be of interest to attendees.
    • Introduction of each sponsor
    • After-party plan

Timeline and checklist of organizing a conference

2 weeks before the Conference

Logistics/Planning:

  • On-site staffing plan
  • Volunteer training
  • Event breakdown
  • AV needs

Speaker:

  • Tips for presenting
  • FAQ list (e.g. transportation and seating arrangements etc.)

Design:

  • Create a list of signs to be printed
  • Anything that is still outstanding

Sponsor:

  • Collect digital promotional materials from the sponsors

Promotion:

  • Prepare a post-event survey that will be emailed to attendees after the conference

1 week before the Conference

Logistics/Planning:

  • Contact information of the key members (venue, supplier staff, sponsors, construction, speakers etc.)
  • Ship materials to the venue
  • Send all decks to translator

Speaker:

  • Reminder and follow-up

Sponsor:

  • Collect sponsor pamphlets and flyers (physical)

Promotion:

  • Milestones:
    • Send out reminders to all participants (Conference is coming in one week)
    • Promote the speakers, schedule and sponsors
    • Promote after-party

Timeline and checklist of organizing a conference

1 day/night before the Conference

Logistics/Planning:

  • A pre-conference meeting with venue staff to clarify individual responsibilities
  • IT and audio-visual equipment check
  • Check-in table setup
  • Workshop room setup
  • Move all materials to the site

Speaker:

  • Speaker round up and briefing
  • Stage and projector testing

Sponsor:

  • Sponsor booth setup

Promotion:

  • Milestones:
    • Send out reminders to all participants (Tomorrow is the day)
    • Reminder for workshop sign-ups

Timeline and checklist of organizing a conference

During the conference

Logistics/Planning: Check-in setup and process confirmation Workshop setup and process confirmation

Speaker:

  • Timer

Promotion:

  • Social media real-time interaction

After the conference

Logistics/Planning:

  • Appreciation letter to volunteers
  • Accounting report
  • Post-mortem

Speaker:

  • Appreciation letter & photos

Sponsor: Appreciation letter & photos

Promotion:

  • Email post-event survey to conference attendees
  • Event recap post
Coco Yu
Account Manager
Posted on January 24, 2018 in Events