How to Organize a Seminar or an Event
by Matt Bacak
Seminars and events have always been implemented as a holistic experience to participants. Thus, organizing an event requires extensive planning and preparation with most work implemented at least a few months before the actual event. Most of the time, seminars seem to run like clockwork with all events flowing smoothly according to schedule. In reality however, much groundwork has been worked on with the purpose of developing the right atmosphere in addition to a beneficial experience to partipants.
1. Establishing the theme of the event
Each event follows a theme and purpose which will drive the event set-up, the target audiences or the participants, the guests and the marketing approach. In general, a business event such as an international conference for a particular industry will appeal to participants conducting businesses within that industry as well as sponsors who gain mileage out of publicizing their products during the event.
Apart from that, the theme of the seminar will also determine the type of marketing channels to be used to for publicity. This also holds true for the seminar marketing team who will need the event theme to correctly identify target participants and companies to sell the event to.
2. Selecting a venue
Venue selection is highly dependent on the scale of the event. Usually this is determined by the number of participants, the presence of any guests of honor (such as royalty or politicians) the activities during the event, or if there are additional floor space required for exhibition purposes.
A typical seminar of about 100 – 200 can be comfortably implemented in a hotel seminar room, possibly in a theater style setting or classroom setting. However, larger scale events with participant numbers scaling between 500 – 1000 may require a large hall, ballroom, auditorium or a convention center.
The location and quality standard of the venue is also important especially if the event involves the participation of VIPs. With this, a reputable location would be imperative, including good quality and wide range of seminar facilities available. It is always wise to explore the possibility of a few venues and examine their location suitability, level of services, ambience, and costs before coming to a decision.
3. Seminar Marketing and Publicity
Seminar marketing is by far the most critical and often most challenging task in event organizing, and is often regarded as the most critical factor of an event’s success. This is because the number of participants turning up for a seminar is highly dependent on the strength of marketing activities and publicity. Whether or not the event achieves its objective or whether the organizers will walk home with a profit or loss largely depends on the marketability of the event. This means that the right marketing strategy and seminar positioning must be adopted in order to draw adequate event sign-ups.
Most of the time, event organizers who have large budgets will turn to above the line marketing such as newspaper and magazine advertisements as well as radio and television advertising to publicize the event. Press releases may also be sent in to major newspapers, in order to create the awareness of the upcoming event. Additionally, large advertising media banners and posters can also be purchased to advertise the event in high human traffic areas. When using print advertising, the specific magazine or newspaper used must have the target audience of your event as their primary readership base. Also all print media should be copy written with an enticing approach, highlighting the extensive benefits of participation.
However, if budget is a problem, then below the line marketing may also do wonders. If the event is industry specific, mass faxing to companies belonging to the industry would be feasible. Telemarketing is a very effective marketing channel to create awareness within the right participant group. Additionally, dispatching sales personnel to attend to the requirements of large participant groups is an ideal and effective strategy. Mass emailing has become one of the most cost-efficient methods to reach out to large target audiences. This would be really useful if the event organizer already have an existing database. Otherwise, a list of names can be rented from database companies to attain the same results.
4. Collaboration with sponsors
Getting reputable sponsors to participate in an event will help boost the creditability of the event, as well as reduce costs. Sponsors can also help with marketing, as they also help publicize your event to their customers. Apart from that, some of the sponsors can chip in on venue rental in exchange for exhibition space or publicity for themselves. Some sponsors also require a short message of their company to be given to the participants during the event. Others give away sample products or door gifts to participants.
5. Managing People and working with speakers
A seminar will not be successful without the people running it, as well as the speakers sharing their knowledge to the participants. Invite speakers who are of caliber and reputation to the event, and who will provide the participants with relevant information to their work, industry or business. Prepare the speakers beforehand and work with them on their Power point presentations as well as pre-inform them of the logistics processes, timing as well as the expected audience size. Check with them on any special requests, such as the requirement for an overhead projector or additional microphones to be used for question and answer sessions.
All events require a good team of people handling tasks on ushering, registration, customer service as well as handling financials. Familiarize the team with any required event protocol to eliminate the possibility of confusion or error. In order to ensure smooth implementation, each person should be familiar with their individual roles. This can be ensured through a preparation of a detailed schedule of events coupled with roles and responsibilities for each person. Ideally, a project manager should control the whole team and ensure that everyone is carrying out their duties efficiently. Apart from that, the project manager also has the delegated authority to deal with all parties such as the venue management as well as the sponsors and event exhibitors.
6. Actual Day – Preparation, Registration, Ushering, Feedback
All seminar planning and preparations, constituting 80% of total work involved, cascade to the actual event which may last only for a few hours or a few days. On the day before the event, visit the venue to ensure that everything is in order according the requirements and specifications. Microphones, projectors, audio and video systems must be all checked to be in excellent working order. Over at the office, have a packing list prepared and get all require items transferred to the actual venue at least a day before the event. Event staff should be dispatched to work on site preparations, including setting up booths, decorations and posters, the day before the event.
On an actual day, staff should be present at the venue at least 1 ½ hours before commencement. They should report to their duty stations and must be ready to receive participants half an hour before they are scheduled to file in. Registrations must be made at the door to ensure authorized access. Name tags, door gifts and event schedules or booklets will be given out at this point and ushers will show participants to their seats in the event hall.
Staff will also be responsible for providing advice or help to participants during the event. Finally, feedback forms should be distributed and then collected from participants to determine the satisfaction level on all aspects of the event experience. This is in order to receive pointers, ideas and advice for future improvements.