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Conference Planning | Your Critical Path Timeline

Checking in at Southern Sun Waterfront.
A Critical Path of the conference time line is just that - critical. It tells you and your team what tasks have to be done and by what date. Once you have a Critical Path, you can get on with assigning what tasks to whom.

Designing a Critical Path

The Critical Path is designed by starting with the dead-line date by which everything must be completed.

The secret to creating a Critical Path is imaginary hind-sight. if you want your brochure tomorrow, it should have been commenced six weeks ago.

Working backwards by say, it takes two weeks from order to get printed material, and it takes two weeks from the design brief to get the final art material. Then it takes ten days before that to write and finalise the copy - then you can see the time line needed.

That is if you want it in time without angst and anger built into the equation.

Also you should work on the premise that nothing ever goes really smoothly - and build in a few days as a contingency to cover any un-forseeable delays.

14 Months Prior to Conference

  • Select Conference Committee
  • Determine conference site and date
  • Obtain information statistics from site
  • Begin preparing a tentaive budget

13 Months Prior to Conference

  • Set the working theme or message
  • Prepare proposal form outlining content of the conference
  • Prepare proposal the proposed sessions for the program booklet
  • Set registration fees

12 Months Prior to Conference

If this is an annual conference:
  • Distribute proposal form at this year's conference
  • Begin contacting keynote speakers

9 Months Prior to Conference

  • Select conference sessions
  • If no proposals were submitted in some areas of interest, start sourcing possible presenters
  • Set conference schedule
  • Send confirmations to all speakers

6 Months Prior to Conference

  • Begin preparing registration brochure
  • Arrange menus for meal functions with the catering and banqueting managers at the venue
  • Start determining what IT and Media Centre requirements will be
  • Determine table decorations, source venue decorators
  • Design e-mail new letter / mail shot for sponsors, attendees and speakers

5 Months Prior to Conference

  • Commence mail shot sponsors, attendees and speakers
  • Start gathering content and design next e-mail new letter / mail shot
  • Print Conference flier

4 Months Prior to Conference

  • Distribute conference flier with registration materials included
  • Begin a registration file
  • Send PR release to the media
  • Start media accreditation
  • Arrange for entertainment at meals

3 Months Prior to Conference

  • Commence mail shot sponsors, attendees and speakers
  • Start gathering content and design next e-mail new letter / mail shot
  • Secure Audio-Visual needs from speakers
  • Secure introducers for speakers
  • Prepare verification forms for conference
  • Decide on the final agenda for large meetings and meal functions (Who will introduce, bring greetings and so forth?)
  • Begin preparing the printed program using information submitted on the proposal form
  • Design meal tickets and name badges

2 Months Prior to Conference

  • Commence mail shot to media, sponsors, attendees and speakers
  • Send Audio-Visual needs to hotel and Audio-Visual committee person
  • Confirm conference IT and Media Centre requirements are being met
  • Order flowers for the head table
  • Send room set-up forms to the hotel
  • Determine head table seating for meals
  • Prepare menue programs
  • Send preliminary meal guarantee to caterer
  • Prepare evaluation forms for conference
  • Send reminders to speakers of date, time, and room assignment

3 Weeks Prior to Conference

  • Assemble goodie packs for conference
  • Ensure deposits to suppliers are being paid

1 Week Prior to Conference

  • Confirm AV equipment
  • Confirm room set-ups

3 Days Prior to Conference

Give final guarantees to caterer for the number of meals to be served.

The 2 Days Before

  • Be on-site early to meet the suppliers, fitters and decorators you have contracted
  • Ensure that everyone has your mobile number
  • Be calm

Conference Day/s

Maintain a file for any bills that are signed during the conference.
Relax and enjoy it. You and your team have done everything you could do to make it a success.

After the Conference

Review all bills and settle unpaid bills immediately.
Send letters of appreciation to speakers and to any one who performed any special services.
Assess evaluation forms to be passed on to next year's conference committee.
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