Organising conferences can be quite the challenge at the best of times and in all seriousness adding the element of it being in an entirely different country does elevate the complexities ever so slightly! However, it is largely the same process with a few extra considerations which will extend your timescales and expenses budget.
Here are the main areas which differ from organising a regional or national conference. Everything else – from purchasing badges for conferences through to the registration process and structure of the event can remain the same.
However, this is where your super-efficient organisational skills will no doubt be maximised to their full potential. Once you have this one under your belt you will be chomping at the bit to organise the next one…well perhaps after a little rest!
If you still need to decide on a country to hold your conference in, you will need to make this choice early on before even setting the conference dates. After all, you don’t want to end up going somewhere in monsoon season, do you?! Furthermore, the location will determine your budget and expenses and remember of course, the further away you are, the more expensive your conference becomes!
Once you have chosen the country, opt for dates outside of the peak season to keep flight costs down but at an appropriate time of year where the weather is not extreme.
Securing the Venue
This is the big one! Whilst the online research will be similar, if your delegates are visiting from different countries, the venue will ideally need to be close to an international airport. Hotel chains often have international standards, so this can be a great place to start your research.
To ensure a successful conference, it is also imperative to visit the venue. Therefore, do plan time and budget for this.
Research and contact potentials with the aim of visiting a few on the same visit. Ideally, you will want to arrange food tasting as a part of your viewing to ensure the catering will meet the required standards.
Once there, it is important to do a recce of the surrounding areas. Note down the following:
- Local amenities – restaurants, bars, entertainment, supermarkets etc
- Public transport accessibility – is it simple to get to from the airport?
- Accommodation – are there plenty of places to stay close by?
- Parking – depending on where your delegates are traveling from, it is always useful to have some parking available
Support from Venue
Before you make a firm decision, it can be beneficial to utilise the venues local expertise and knowledge as much as you possibly can. Some of the information you may wish to collect includes:
- Any local supplier contacts they can recommend e.g. decorations, AV equipment, entertainment etc
- Popular local tourist attractions
- Vegetarian and vegan-friendly eateries
- Car hire companies
- Taxi firms and local bus information
Speakers and Exhibitors
If your conference requires keynote speakers or exhibition stands, you will need to discuss expenses and make your expectations clear regarding what will/won’t be covered in terms of flights, transport, accommodation, evening meals etc.
Equipment and Materials Sourcing
Although in an ideal world you would use locally based suppliers or international suppliers in your country of residence, you will undoubtedly need to transport some materials to the venue. This can seem quite nerve-racking as you really don’t want a key element to go walkabout! Therefore, to significantly reduce this risk, invest in having your packages fully tracked and use a trusted shipping firm.
Whether you decide to use local suppliers for technical equipment or not, there is a risk of encountering technical issues, so be sure to test configuration and power outlets for compatibility in advance.
If your guests are traveling to attend your conference, to make things as easy as possible for them, you might like to consider providing some entertainment or an outing. It can be a good idea to provide a real taste of the local culture by using local entertainers or musicians. The venue should be able to help you with contacts for this.
Furthermore, it can be a bit of a downer when you’re in a new country and you don’t get to expereince any of it, so providing the opportunity of a tour or something similar will go down well with your delegates.
Bear in mind that your risk analysis will likely change and so too will your contingency planning. The risk of things like delayed speakers and guests, missing equipment, technical issues, unsatisfactory catering are all slightly higher. Therefore, ensure you plan for and mitigate each potential risk to avoid negatively impacting your conference.
And finally, remember to bring lots of international power adapters just in case!