By Z. Kelly Queijo
Have you ever considered hosting a conference? It’s an idea I’ve been turning over in my head for some time. My initial thoughts are: 1) it’s a great way to bring people together around a central topic, 2) it’s probably a lot of work, and 3) and I’d better learn more before I get in too deep.
I had the fortunate opportunity to connect with Sherri Gold on LinkedIn and get invited to present at her first-ever Sports Education Expo. I decided to turn to her for advice since she has been in the thick of planning, promoting, and hosting her first conference.
How did you determine how big a conference to host?
SG: We made our decision based on past exhibitions that we have attended or worked and also by the amount of information we were covering. We knew that a hotel would not be enough space for the amount of exhibitors we wanted to have attend and we knew that we had to pick a place that was a destination as well as a good location. We also had to take into consideration the ease of getting to the location and Philly is accessible by plane, train and automobile. Bottom line is that we wanted it big so we started with a big venue.
How are you reaching the audience you want to have attend your conference?
SG: We are applying grass roots marketing to this project by cross marketing with all of our exhibitors. It is in everyone’s best interest to market to their audience by inviting those they want to visit them…in turn that gets the word out to mass numbers through their own databases which total in the millions. We are doing a combination of traditional mixed media (print, radio, web, Facebook and Twitter…LinkedIn) and acquiring media partnerships, whereby we give them space and they in turn give us plugs on the radio. We are also offering a fundraising program that allows teams, schools and organizations to sell tickets to the show with a 25-50% return….they make money and bring us attendees! Win-Win!
How did you determine the number of vendors to invite?
SG: It was a matter of deciding how many spaces we wanted to make available to each sport and category, based on past conference and expo experience, then multiplying that amount by the number of sports we were featuring. Once you decide how many vendors you want there you need to invite three to four times that amount.
What will make this a success for you?
SG: If everyone who attends simply takes away one thing that helps them and the vendors have enough traffic. As with most expos or conventions/conferences the vendors usually have issues with the exhibit floor being empty while attendees are actually in a workshop or classroom. We are working very hard to balance the traffic between the floor and the workshops to avoid this problem.
I’m impressed by all that you’ve put together, any words of advice?
SG: This is a lot of work with a multitude of details to handle. Think it all the way through and do your research first. As with anything you undertake it is crucial to plan it out all the way through before you even start. The most important part to me would be to do your homework on how many of these conferences take place, find the where, when and who. Then plan accordingly. I have found that LinkedIn has been my most valuable tool to date. It has taken a long time to figure out how to use it properly and I am still not 100% proficient but all my best connections have come from there.
Z. Kelly Queijo, founder of Smart College Visit, Inc. was invited to exhibit and present at the Sports Education Expo in December. Follow her company on LinkedIn, on Twitter @collegevisit and onFacebook.
Smart College Visit and VT KnowledgeWorks are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.