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Mice Net : August 2009
srunning a One of the most important parts of conference planning is its marketing. After all, if you don’t have delegates you don’t have a conference. Marketing a conference in principle is not different from marketing any other product or service. first, identify your market and the needs and then develop your product, and finally promote your event to potential delegates. A good starting point is to look at who attended your previous conference. If you are running a conference for the first time it could be of benefit to research similar events held nationally and overseas to work out who it would be of interest to. When looking at your previous delegate lists, work out which segment of your industry represents the majority of your delegates. It is important to know where the majority come from as this will affect the development of the content for the event. In order to increase attendance at your conference, work out what topics and speakers were most popular at previous conferences and why. You should be able to gather this information by looking at your previous conference evaluation reports. If your association runs other seminars, find out which events were highly rated and what topics always generate a high attendance. If your study reveals that a particular subject matter has always generated high attendance, you may decide that this is something that you could include in your conference program. When money gets tight, conference attendance is usually one of the first things to go. Therefore, it is crucial to develop a program that is based on your market’s needs. There are a number of initiatives you can undertake to ensure that your content reflects your market needs: • Appoint a conference program committee whose primary function is to research the most topical issues in the industry. This committee should represent as many sectors of your membership as possible so that each one can bring something different to the 28 mice.net uccessful association conference this artiCle has been prepared in two parts by mea Ceo linda gaunt. table. If you are planning a national conference make sure that your committee represents as many states as possible as this may assist you to find speakers from across the country. • You may also choose to go to your industry for conference ideas. Your members will know what problems they are currently facing and what they would like clarification on. Addressing these in your program will also help to generate conference attendance. This could occur through either a call for topics to your members or alternatively a call for papers. It is then up to the committee to select those topics/papers that will appeal to your potential delegates. • Look at the initiatives your association is currently involved in. Ask yourself is there a potential to include a stream or a workshop at the conference targeting that specific group? • By looking at the make up of your past delegates you will be able to determine what proportion of your delegates, for example, come from management positions. You could then introduce sessions that are specifically designed for delegates at senior management level. These can then be marketed specifically to this audience as the reason to attend the conference. Event promotion is a large part of any conference marketing. Event promotion should start well before your conference program is ready. Regardless of the length and the cost of the conference it is important to generate initial interest in your event. Employers need to allocate funds in their budgets to send staff (this may include airfares and accommodation as well as registration fees). Those wishing to attend your event quite often need to go through a line of approval and need to get the dates in their calendars well ahead of time. Part two of this article will appear in the October edition of mice.net magazine. For new on MEA’s latest activities turn to pages 83-4 of this edition.