Below we compiled the 11 most important guidelines for each conference. Follow those guidelines and you are well on the way to organising your event.
Start planning early
When organising a large, international conference (approx. 200-800 participants) you should start working out the logistics at least 18 months in advance. For smaller events give yourself at least 9 months preparation time.
Take care when selecting conference date
The success of your event may depend upon proper scheduling. Be prudent when scheduling your event to avoid clash of appointments and ensure maximum visitor turnout. Carefully check if any parallel academic, local or trans-regional events are scheduled for the time and date you have chosen.
Inquire early about available venue space
In general, when organising a scientific event at the university you will not be charged room rental - venue space is available free of charge. Due to high room demand during the semester, it may only be possible to reserve a lecture hall or room on a weekday during semester break.
Financing your event
How are you going to finance your event? Draw up a financial plan of anticipated income and expenses, where income should at least cover the event’s expenses. Budgetary items to include are: registration fees, grant money, sponsorship, trade-show revenue, catering costs, social programme costs, transportation costs, etc.
Keep in mind that proposals for conference funding generally need to be submitted early; for example, 12 months before the conference date when submitting a proposal for funding to the German Research Foundation (DFG).
You can use our finance plan template to keep track of the finances and to better plan the event.
Konstanz is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its stunning location and surroundings. The flip-side of its attractiveness is that from May to September it can be a bit of a challenge finding appropriate accommodation for large groups. Contact Tourist Information in the early phase of planning: inquire about and block suitable hotel rooms.
Agendas fill up fast. Contact your desired keynote speaker(s) early to check availability.
Work breakdown structure (WBS)
Well done! You have put together a rough event concept using the above advice. Now it’s time to take the next step and visualise your project with the help of a work breakdown structure. This will allow you to keep track of all necessary task packages, responsibilities and appointments.
Timeline and milestones
Create a detailed event timeline, fastidiously listing all deadlines. Items to include are: keynote speaker selection and invite, funding application submissions, seminar/workshop/lecture proposal submissions, event programme, participant registration, personnel recruitment, and sponsor and/or third party funds provider invoices.
Target group and PR
Event flyer and website are almost always a must and relatively easy to design but not necessarily adequate as sole PR messengers. How will you publicise the conference website? To which mailing list database(s) do you have access? General mail-outs are costly. Chances are good that your department already has some form of a distribution list. Narrow the distribution list down to your target audience.
Get organised. Devise a project task list
From the get-go be clear about who from the programme committee, the organisational committee and/or the secretariat is responsible for what organisational tasks. And be clear about the level of participation/cooperation you expect. Draw up a project task list with the other organisational members. This is a good way to avoid any future misunderstandings.
Inform yourself about administrative regulations
There are legal guidelines to follow when procuring and allocating third party funds - a third party funding process. Failure to do so can result in criminal prosecution. Contact the finance department.
The best way to successfully move your project along is to clearly define your goals in advance. To this end, it is useful to write down the goals and basic parameters for the project and to share this information with all those working on it. The most important aspects:
Organisational committee, project team, scientific advisors, organisational oversight, ...
Topic, goals, ...
Date/Time, length, milestones, ...
Event location, rooms, supplementary programme activities, ...
Type of event: Lecture, podium discussion, workshop, poster session...
- For whom?
Target group (geographic location, age, level of education, job, number of participants, ...)
- What goals are we not interested in pursuing?
What do we NOT want to achieve with this project? What can we do without? (Clear boundaries, prevent the project form mushrooming in size).
- How do we define success (performance indicators)?
Number of participants, finances, public relations effect, ...
Work Breakdown Structure
With the help of a work breakdown structure (WBS) you can successfully plan events by breaking them down into controllable sub-tasks and task “packages”. The basic work breakdown structure addresses a single question: “What needs to be done to complete this project”? The extended work breakdown structure is especially useful for complex projects: It includes information about who is responsible and who participates, the due dates and the time needed to complete the project.
The project timeline is the prerequisite for the time schedule and specific checklists. The timeline specifies the order in which “packages” of project tasks are to be completed. It is created on the basis of the work breakdown structure.
Online project management
An online project management tool based on the open source software Redmine is available from the university’s IT Service Centre. The service includes the following features:
- Managing planned activities: To do lists, goals, unfinished tasks and deadlines, task assignments, recording of project progress as well as undecided and decided business
- Uploading files to document each of the various steps
- A project Wiki for working on shared documents
- Discussion forums
- Recording the time spent on the project