ASABE

American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers

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Planning a Conference or Other Event

At some point in their careers most engineers, or the committees to which they belong, will think about holding a conference. There are a huge number of items to consider when developing, planning, marketing and conducting a conference. We will focus on four key areas here. They are: conference topics, speakers, location and timing.

What makes a good topic?

The best topics are hot topics that are at the cutting-edge of the industry. To draw people to your conference, pick topics that are important, relevant and in demand to a large audience.

What about speakers?

Pick well-known experts whenever possible. Better yet, be sure they're also good public speakers. The key is to try to engage speakers your peers will want to hear.

An obvious limitation is money. While some people will speak without reimbursement, others will want an honorarium or a fee. If you don't have a budget for speakers, don't despair. You can still get good speakers, but your pool will be limited. One of the best ways to find good speakers is to ask your peers for recommendations.

When's the best time to hold a conference?

The best time to hold your conference is when your attendees are most likely to attend. Some conferences are best held during a slow time in the industry. When conferences are held at resorts, attendees often bring their spouses, so vacation times are best.

How do I pick a location?

Pick a location attendees will want to visit. Location is a key factor for several reasons. Transportation costs and hotel room rates can affect attendance. Resort hotels during peak season (i.e., Florida in February) will have high rates, which could limit attendance.

What makes for success?

Knowing your target audience is the key. Second is providing a quality product that your audience needs and wants and is willing to pay for. Third, you must market your conference effectively. Finally, you need to stay within your budget. If you meet these criteria, you will have a successful conference.

Is help available?

These are only a few of the items you need to consider to ensure that your conference is a success. As you can see, it is more difficult and complex than it may first appear. Planning a successful conference is both a science and an art -- and that is where your professional meeting planner comes in. Your meeting planner will help you answer these and other questions, to help you guarantee the success of your conference. You have a meeting planner on staff at ASABE headquarters who can help you should you decide you want to hold a conference. Contact Sharon McKnight  to discuss a potential event.

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