Essential Guide to Planning and Executing a Conference

Essential Guide to Planning and Executing a Conference

Key Tips for Preparing and Carrying Out a Successful Conference

Are you considering organizing a conference or event? Worried about whether you've thought of everything? Will everything be perfect? You're not alone! After five years of organizing meet.js Gdańsk meetings, which attract over 150 people each time, and after two editions of meet.js Summit Gdańsk, with a total of nearly 1000 participants, as well as attending countless conferences worldwide, I want to share my experiences. Here's the essential guide to planning and executing a conference.

Organizing Conferences

Organizing meetings and conferences is no easy task. There are countless details to remember! Even if you do everything 100% right, a lot depends on others – suppliers, service providers, sponsors…

In this post, I have gathered a summary of my experiences from the past 5 years. The entry is as practical as possible – it serves as a simple checklist for conference organizers. What should you keep in mind and consider when organizing events?


  • You need at least six months to organize any event of this size.

  • Consider the purpose of your conference. Are you focusing on networking or knowledge?

  • Make sure that every participant at the conference feels comfortable.

  • Implement and enforce a Code of Conduct. It's more important than you might think.

  • The Code of Conduct must include specific steps you will take in case of violations, as well as a clear and straightforward way to report issues.

  • At times, it can be difficult to identify all the issues, and groupthink may prove to be quite detrimental. Choose co-organizers who are different from you, and who will sometimes disagree with you. This way, you'll identify problems that you might not have noticed otherwise.


  • Operate with net amounts only – everywhere and always. Some services have different VAT rates, so if you work with gross amounts, you might end up at a loss.

  • It's ideal to issue all invoices for sponsors within the same accounting period (month or quarter) as the conference. By doing so, you won't pay huge income tax, as you'll spend the money before the next accounting period, simplifying your financial management.

  • To confirm agreements, send sponsors pro forma invoices. These resemble invoices but are not actual invoices :)

  • Begin collecting contacts and quotes from various companies early: print houses, videographers, photographers — so you won't be caught off guard by prices later on.

  • Avoid promising things you don't have the funds for yet. For instance, only announce a second night's accommodation for speakers, breakfast, or complimentary alcohol at the after-party when you're certain you can afford it.

  • A website is crucial – the sooner it's up and running, the better – even without highly detailed information.

  • You can attract sponsors even before taking any other steps, based on the strength of your brand (in my case – meet.js or Type of Web).

  • You can sell the first batch of tickets even before the agenda is made available.

  • Always gather at least one counteroffer before making a purchase. Frequently, you'll discover that another company offers a lower price, and you'll also generate great ideas and learn what you truly want during discussions with different providers.

  • Keep in mind - it never hurts to ask for a discount. Negotiate as much as possible.

  • If you have specific expectations, make sure to clearly communicate them. Rather than relying on verbal communication, put your expectations in writing, such as in an email, or ideally, in a contract.

  • Avoid making arrangements over the phone, as words can be fleeting and easily forgotten or misinterpreted. After each conversation, send an email summarizing the agreements.


  • Badges

    • Order personalized badges with participants' names.

    • Ask about the printing deadline. Typically, you should provide the print house with a list of participants at least a week before the conference.

    • Don't forget about badges for speakers, assistants, and organizers.

    • Print some blank badges for last-minute guests to write their names on.

    • The agenda on the back side should be upside down to make it easier to read.

    • Verify whether the badges will be pre-inserted into their holders. This is a lot of work, so plan accordingly.

  • Lanyards

    • Order extra lanyards to ensure you can freely distribute them to attendees without any stress.
  • Bags and T-shirts

    • Bags are fantastic because they can hold flyers and sponsor gadgets.

    • Although conference T-shirts may not be widely worn, they are a pleasant and affordable addition – worth considering.

    • If you decide to order T-shirts, remember to provide a selection of different sizes and cuts.


  • Verify the availability of equipment (screen, sound, etc.)

  • Will there be someone to manage audio/video, or are you only provided with a projector and speaker?

  • Verify if presentations can be played using HDMI.

  • Determine the format and resolution — 4:3/16:9, 800x600, or perhaps HD, etc. Inform the speakers about this!

  • Verify the actual capacity (for instance, a room may have 417 seats on paper, but 2 are for disabled individuals and 24 for technical staff, leaving only 391 available).

  • Ensure there is space for coffee and lunch; identify the specific location; accommodating 400 people is no small task.

  • Determine EXACTLY how much space will be available for sponsors. Today you have 10 sponsors, but will there be room for 11? 12? 13? Plan to ensure they all fit.

  • Prepare a display board to be shown on the projector during breaks between presentations. Include sponsor logos.

  • Create a map of the venue for sponsors, including dimensions and booth locations.

  • Carefully consider how many people are needed to help manage everything. At least:

    • 3 for registration

    • 2 for the room

    • 1 to assist speakers

    • 1 to assist sponsors


  • Prepare a variety of sponsorship packages; suggested:

    • main

    • afterparty

    • just a booth

    • without a booth (an affordable option)

  • Describe in detail what is included in each package.

  • Accurately measure, count, draw, and describe the space and dimensions of their booths to prevent misunderstandings.

  • Following each phone call, send an email summarizing the conversation.

  • Never respond to the question "Will the booth fit?" without knowing its dimensions. It may seem obvious, but in practice, a casual "it will definitely fit" mentioned over the phone can lead to numerous issues later on.

  • Create and expand a contact list of sponsors that can be used in the future.

  • Ask speakers if the companies they work for would like to sponsor the event.

  • Remember to provide parking spaces (free of charge!) for sponsors.

  • Print (or order from a print house) signs with directions: auditorium, cloakroom, lunch, restroom, etc…


  • If you plan to provide catering for participants, be aware that a specific venue often has one company holding exclusive rights to such services. To avoid surprises, inquire about the situation before signing a contract.

  • If you don't want to use on-site catering services, you can organize lunch, for example, in the form of food trucks outside the venue or at a restaurant across the street.

  • If possible, provide a coffee break or breakfast before the first presentation.

  • Even if you don't offer free coffee breaks or meals to participants, make sure there is a store, cafe, or restaurant on-site or close by.

  • When negotiating prices, inquire about various options – for example, coffee is often priced for continuous availability throughout the entire event. If you request a quote for coffee only during breaks between presentations, you might be pleasantly surprised.

After party

  • Determine your budget.

  • Free food and drinks are nice, but they're not required :)

  • Try to estimate as accurately as possible how many people will attend. Based on my experience, typically ¼ to ⅓ of conference attendees join the party.

  • The location should be close to the conference venue. Ideally, it should be within walking distance.

  • Is there music?

  • Are there other attractions?

  • Will the place be exclusive for your event?

  • How much food is needed?

  • Can a drink limit be set, after which attendees pay for their own drinks?

  • Request at least two proposals – a "luxurious" option and a "budget-friendly" one.


  • Call For Papers? If so, plan it well in advance.

  • Ensure a maximally objective selection process. Those who choose presentations from CFP should not have access to the presenter's name or photo.

  • Encourage participation from individuals with no prior experience. They often create the most engaging presentations!

  • If you're hosting a Call For Papers, refrain from inviting "stars," as it may discourage beginners.

  • Consider allocating time for lightning talks and encourage beginners to participate. This is often the most interesting content at conferences.

  • Request that speakers submit their slides a few days prior to the conference to ensure everyone is well-prepared.

  • Ensure that the slides do not contain hate speech. I wish I was joking. I attended a conference where a speaker displayed a swastika on a slide, and another one where the entire presentation revolved around poking fun at stereotypes about male and female programmers. You'll want to avoid such situations.

  • Are you planning a dinner for the speakers? If so, where, when, and at what expense?

Ticket Sales

  • I won't recommend any specific ticketing system. Explore various options and choose one that helps you minimize any legal formalities.

  • Consider your target audience and prevalent payment systems in their countries. For instance, over 40% of Polish participants pay using Blik.

  • Activating an account with third-party payment providers can take quite a long time. You'll need to prepare contracts, terms and conditions, privacy policies, and who knows what else. It requires a great deal of patience.

  • Keep in mind that, ultimately, your account will receive the ticket price minus 5% for various commissions.


  • Purchase extension cords, adhesive tape, markers, and pens. Don't forget to bring some paper.

  • Arrive at the conference venue early and ensure everything is in order :).

Conference Organizer's Guide

The primary objective of this post is to assist those who wish to organize a large event. However, as evident, organizing a conference is certainly no easy task. I hope that this post has provided insight into what you're getting into and demonstrated how time-consuming and complex organizing something on a larger scale can be.

Organizing a top-notch conference is undeniably a massive challenge, and even the smallest mistake can affect your reputation. However, it also provides an incredible adrenaline rush and a sense of satisfaction when everything goes according to plan.

While the list above is comprehensive, it is by no means exhaustive. I have entirely left out the subject of event marketing.

I encourage you to comment! If you have any thoughts to share or additional insights, please feel free to write about them in the comments.

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