Hosting a tech event is a great way to offer an incredible experience for your local community and connect with other professionals and enthusiasts. No one has ever called running an event easy, though. After all, hosting anything is a substantial undertaking. However, there are a few ways you can make sure your gathering goes as smoothly as possible. Follow these tips for success.
1. Start Planning Early
Most people don’t give themselves enough time to plan. Avoid cutting it too close by giving yourself some extra room.
Begin by figuring out what the heart and spirit of your event will be. What elements or aspects of the tech industry are you most interested in? What kind of conference do you wish was being run?
Know the common types of tech events. Do you plan on having a speaker or panel discussions? If so, will you focus on one track or multiple? Will your gathering be attendee-focused? More than 5,000 hackathons were hosted in 2018 — if you want to host another, you’re in good company.
Begin by planning what the even floor would look like, and what sort of space and resources you’ll need. Will you need rooms for panels or a stage for speakers? Will there be enough power strips and energy to keep the Wi-Fi running and hundreds of laptops functional?
You can also start thinking about scale. You don’t need to commit to anything yet, but you should be realistic about the size of event you want to run — in terms of the time, resources and energy you have available to commit.
The first draft of your plan doesn’t need to be an especially formal document. However, you do want a guide to refer to as you begin planning and bringing others aboard.
2. Know Your Audience
Most major elements of your tech event — like speakers, location, amenities and your publicity strategy — will flow from knowing your audience. Before you begin nailing down major components, perform some market research. Brush up on the latest trends and developments. You can also look at similar events that have been hosted in the past and reach out to other organizers to learn about problems you may run into.
Remember that not just one kind of audience attends tech events. Speakers, vendors, enthusiasts and professionals all have different but overlapping reasons for attending such a conference. Remember to cater to all groups that are coming, instead of just focusing on one.
3. Announce in Advance
If you want to have speakers at your event, your call for proposals should be announced six to eight months in advance — and that’s at the least. People may not have the time if you don’t put out your call for proposals far enough in advance. While six months may seem like a long time, it’s not unusual for tech professionals to be booked that far ahead.
The median number of speakers at a tech event is 19 — so if you want to be at or near that average, you’ll need to recruit a decent amount of people. Giving yourself more time can help you attract them.
Announcing your event in advance will also give you time to benefit from word-of-mouth publicity.
4. Build Your Team
A team is necessary to run even small events — there’s too much work for the most competent organizer. If you haven’t already, reach out to friends and colleagues who might be interested in working with you.
Build a team that rounds out your skillset. If possible, recruit team members who have experience running events — this could be inviting speakers, running logistics, catering or booking convention space. No one person has all the various skills needed to run a conference. This means building your team is a great opportunity to know what you can do and be realistic about what you’ll need help with.
5. Choose Your Location Wisely
Consider costs, event size and local amenities. If you plan on having speakers who need to travel, being close to a transportation hub — an airport, train line or bus station — can help them get to and from the event.
Other features to consider when choosing a location include dining, lodging and stores that can supply travel essentials.
6. Know When Not to DIY
If you plan on having speakers, panels or demonstrations, you’ll likely need some kind of audiovisual setup. This will ensure everyone in attendance can hear the presentation and that your presenter can use visual aids.
In this case, hiring an AV or equipment expert to rig your event is a good idea. Setting up A/V equipment or rigging a stage yourself may seem like a way to save money, but it’s a better idea not to DIY — especially when complicated and potentially dangerous equipment is involved. OSHA regulates that protective measures need to be in place to protect workers from a fall of six feet or more. Some companies have their own, even more stringent regulations.
These requirements are in place for a reason — the work can easily become dangerous. If you need help installing and running A/V tech or stage rigging, contact a professional, and focus on planning the rest of the show.
7. Source Food and Drink
Choosing an event or conference space that is close to dining is a great start, but there’s no substitute for providing food and drink on-site. Hiring a catering service will prevent attendees and speakers from having to find their own food. This means you can avoid major issues with foot traffic as the entire event tries to leave or re-enter the conference around lunch and dinner.
If possible, hire a catering service that provides a full range of options. Gluten-free and vegetarian meals can be a big plus for attendees whose diets and nutritional needs aren’t usually accommodated.
8. Recruit Volunteers
You already have a team, and just about everything else you need for the conference is either ready or scheduled. However, you still might need to fill in the gaps. You’ll need security, extra help for the A/V team, time-keepers and assistants of all stripes. If it seems you don’t have enough labor to keep your event running smoothly, you can always solicit the help of volunteers.
9. Take Notes
You’re going to be busy facilitating team communication and keeping everything running. Some things might slip your mind if you don’t take a moment to commit them to memory. During the event, take some time to make notes about what’s working, what isn’t and what you wish you’d known before you started the whole process.
Then, use these notes to regroup and plan your next great tech event.
Attaining Event Success
Hosting a tech event can be a great way to connect with other members of the community and create an unforgettable experience. Running the conference, however, will take both work and forethought. Good planning can save you a headache and keep your gathering running as smoothly as possible.