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10 Things I Learned About Hosting A Conference By Hosting a Conference

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Sorry I’ve been MIA. I’ve have been neck deep in event planning. That’s right.. event planning. I realize this is my more techy blog but it’s really an outlet for my work and recently my work has been dominated by event planning, not web development. Which I have to admit, is a nice change.

So yea.. if you missed it, I recently organized and planned the first ever FitBloggin’10 conference in Baltimore MD. It was a year in planning and I learned a lot a long the way.

  1. Planning an event requires a formal budget. I wish I paid more attention in accounting class because a real budget would have helped immensely. I’m still trying to figure out the financial impact of the event on my companies bank account.
  2. Form a team and form them early. Do not attempt to plan the conference in a bubble. You will need people to bounce ideas off of. Preferably people that understand the target audience of the conference.
  3. Poll your potential attendees. What do they want out of the event. Are you on track with your session topics. Are they attending alone or with a group. These types of questions will give you invaluable feedback when planning the schedule and activities.
  4. Hire an editor or at least have your friends proof read. Being so consumed with all aspects of the conference you will not be able to focus on the details. You’ll see the schedule. You’ll glance it over. But you will probably not be in the right mindset to catch the little nit picky typo things.
  5. Be prepared for unexpected costs. Shipping, storage, postage, bank fees, I could go on and on. Remember that formal budget? Well… pad it. I’d recommend at least 25%.
  6. Sometimes you just need to make a decision and stick to it. I found it overwhelming to decide everything from the session lengths to what we would be serving for lunch. I also had to cut things because, yup you guessed it, budget. There will be times you just need to make a decision and then stand by it, no matter what the reasoning. A conference needs a leader.
  7. You can NOT make everyone happy. Believe me. I try. It’s just not possible. There will always be someone who doesn’t like the lunch, or the venue, or a particular speaker, or even the other attendees. Do your best to offer a variety of options for the attendees based on the survey you did. You did the survey, right?
  8. Hire volunteers outside of the conference niche. You don’t want your volunteers distracted by the events or fellow attendees. Try to find friends and family that understand the conference topics but aren’t invested in them.
  9. Not everything will go as planned. How you deal with the problem matters more than the problem itself. Expect things to go wrong and be ready to make some snap decisions.
  10. Stick by your values and do the best you can and you’ll be fine. This one pretty much speaks for itself and is really a note to self but as I get older and take more risks (I can’t believe I actually pulled this off!) I’m learning that all I can do is the best I can do and that will just have to be good enough. Not everyone will get it, like it, or agree with it and that is O.K.

I’ve learned a lot about event planning (and myself) by hosting this conference. I’m glad I took the chance and gave it a shot. It was stressful but fun.

If you want to read a my journal account of the weekend check out my post on Roni’s Weigh. I mention a few of the problems and a little about my mindset as I hosted.

Comments/questions are welcome but if you dare ask me about FitBloggin’11 I’ll reach through the computer screen and strangle you. ;)



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Discussion

There are 8 comments so far.

    Melissa

    March 23, 2010

    You did a fabulous job, the conf. was awesome, and these learnings are great advice for anyone. Thanks!!!

    Meg @ Be Fit Be Full

    March 23, 2010

    I had a wonderful time at the conference and thought everyting was executed very well!

    Love your steps listed. Event planning and coordination takes a lot more time and energy than people EVER imagine! All those little details….Boy I miss that….oh can’t believe I said that….Off to check out your other post…

    Terry Odell

    March 23, 2010

    Having helped organize scientific conferences for up to 2000 attendees, I definitely hear you on this one! Teamwork. Divvy the labor. And start EARLY.

    Jim Doran

    March 23, 2010

    Since you mentioned fitbloggin’ 2011….JUST KIDDING!

    These are great tips. Lest anyone who WASN’T there be confused, the event was a seemlessly smooth, smashing grand slam of a success. I’ve been to a lot of conferences, too.

    I’m so totally impressed/proud of you.

    Michele

    March 23, 2010

    I was wondering how everything got paid for. I knew you had sponsors but I didn’t know exactly how that worked. I used to work in event planning and I know how much work is involved in planning these things. I’ve been reading everyone’s blogs and it sounds like you did a fantastic job!

    I’d volunteer to help you with Fitbloggin’ 11 but I don’t want to get strangled! :)

    Nina

    March 27, 2010

    Thank you so much for sharing those tips!

    However, I am a bit disappointed: As a mom, you should have gotten used to the idea that not everything works out the way it was planned. ;9 JUST KIDDING!

    I am sure you did a great job!

    Beth

    June 15, 2010

    Thank you for this. I am saving it and going to start planning! :)