29 Aug International Conference FAQ: all you need to know to run a successful event
Throughout the years, we’ve hosted international conferences of all shapes and sizes at FIBES. We’ve met organisers and delegates from all over the world, and have witnessed first-hand the hardships and rewards of setting up a successful event. In this post we hope to share some of our knowledge on how to run a successful international conference. We frequently update this page with new answers and information. If you have a question you’d like answered, don’t hesitate to send us your question in an email on our contact page.
- What factors should I consider when selecting a destination for an international conference?
- How should I plan an international conference?
- How do I market an international conference?
- What type of facilities do I need for my conference?
When you’re in the process of selecting a destination for your international conference, you need to remember your main business goal at all times: to maximise attendance to your conference. Unlike private meetings or other exclusive invite-only MICE events, international conferences tend to be highly commercial. This means you need to consider potential destinations from a logistical point of view as well as from a marketing perspective. While this approach is valid for national and international conferences, the latter require extra consideration from both logistical and marketing perspectives.
Accessibility is the first concern when choosing a destination for an international conference. Is the destination city well connected to international airports, main railway stations, and major motorways? How many countries are connected via international air routes? Consider also local transport – does it operate well and can it cope with a sudden influx of visitors? What about the cost of flights? Is travel affordable from a number of international locations?
Accommodation is another point you’ll want to look into before choosing your location. If you’re holding your event in a hotel, does the hotel offer enough rooms for delegates? Are there enough alternatives available around the city at the time of year you want to organise your conference? The largest international conferences usually attract thousands of visitors, and not all cities are able to respond to mass tourism.
Don’t forget to check the current political situation in the destination country. Make sure there is no current or pending instability. You wouldn’t want demonstrations bringing the city to a halt, or strikes affecting transport for your event.
From a marketing perspective, is the destination country and city attractive to delegates? Does the city have a rich cultural, historical, or architectural heritage which delegates can discover outside of conference hours? Is the city’s nightlife something you can capitalise on for after-hour networking events? Is it a popular destination? In case your delegates have already visited the city, is it likely they would return? Is the weather good year-round? Evidently, the whole purpose of the travel is your event, but these little considerations may help convince some to dig into their pockets to attend your event.
Much can be said on conference planning, however in this section we’ll focus exclusively on how to plan an international conference. Here are some points you need to consider when planning your international event.
Select the right venue for your event. It goes without saying that you should compare a variety of venues in each of the cities that you’re considering for your international conference. Is your chosen venue easily accessible thanks to local transportation: bus routes, special shuttle services connecting the venue with main railway stations and airports, taxi services, etc.? Does the venue provide a team to run your registration desk and catering area? Will all your technical requirements be met? Find out more on this matter in our article on conference facilities.
Design a conference programme that is varied and likely to interest both national and international delegates. Try and predict numbers of international visitors and break them down into percentages of overall attendance based on their country of origin. Establish which topics are most likely to interest each of these groups and adapt your conference programme accordingly. Will attendees want to be exposed to a great number of case studies from around the world? Or is the current climate in your chosen field focused on one country in particular?
These points will also help you map out the timetable for your event. Take into consideration the fact that visitors travelling from afar will need to book overnight stays to attend early morning or late evening sessions. Is it in your interest to move key sessions to the middle of the day or are you ready to risk losing some attendees and keep sessions as they are in your programme? Networking opportunities are often one of the strongest selling points of any MICE event: are you making space for networking for international delegates in your conference programme?
Naturally you’ll want to invite a number of international speakers too to offer a wider scope on your chosen theme. This also has the double effect of helping with marketing purposes (see our point below). You might want to hire professional translators to help in one or more languages.
Last but not least, think of the impact of having international attendees on your finances and ticket prices. Budgets may vary from one country to another, and you need to find a price that’s right for most of your attendees.
Reaching international audiences is easier than ever in the digital age, and there are a number of ways that you can attract international participants to your conference. Here are some of them:
- List your event and announcements on conference directory websites that are influential on an international level. Sites such as Lanyrd and Conference Alerts are just two examples of many listings websites. You can also look for opportunities to publish calls for papers for your conference.
- Develop a multilingual website for your event and optimise it to reach top positions in Google’s rankings.
- Use social media to connect with potential delegates and broadcast your announcements to the world. We recommend using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube at the very least, but you may find that your target audience usually spends their time on other networks instead.
- Work with international partners such as sponsors, professional institutes, and trade associations.
- Leverage your speakers’ professional networks on LinkedIn to reach your target audience in an organic manner. You may want to develop a content strategy for your website’s blog and ask your speakers to contribute guest posts. Why not host a webinar with one of your speakers on your website? Every bit of content helps and this is a sure way to reach new audiences.
- Use the power of video to broadcast yourself on YouTube. Upload interviews, webinars, and other promotional videos to your YouTube channel. They’ll also help with regards to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for your website.
- Run geo-targeted advertising campaigns on Facebook and Google, using clear (translated) wording and great content: images from past editions, promotional videos, clips from your webinars, etc.
- Submit announcements and place adverts in influential magazines to reach new delegates.
- Build your email marketing list or use existing lists and send regular announcements to subscribers. Make sure content is exciting and include clear buttons and text calling for your readers to purchase tickets or visit your website. As with your website content and social media posts, consider whether or not to segment your audience and send translated contents or just stick to one language.
It’s difficult to design a standard blueprint for conference facilities, given that conferences come in all shapes and sizes. With smaller conferences you’ll need at the very least an auditorium or multiple meeting rooms, a reception area and cloakroom, and a catering area and team. However, international conferences tend to be lengthier and larger in size. As a result, you’ll most definitely need to ramp up the facilities for your event. Read our lengthier post on conference facilities for more information.