4 Common Mistakes Made in Conference Management (And How To Avoid Those Mistakes)

mistakes business conference management

Conferences can be dogged by customer dissatisfaction, poor scheduling, cost overruns and much more. This comes down to planning, communication, and to the allocation of resources. Or, rather, to the lack thereof. 

Here we consider (arguably) what are the four most common conference management mistakes. Plus, we look at how those providing conference management services avoid them. 

Mistake #1: Failing To Allocate Resources Appropriately 

The Scenario:  Obviously the right conference staffing is a critical element to overall success. And yet, improper resource allocation is at the top of the list in terms of it being the number 1 conference management mistake. 

If you don’t have the right people to manage a conference - or if you don’t have enough of the right people - you’re looking at a potential disaster coming your way. 

So, the key here is to get good people - people that have the right skills. Fact is that regardless of how much planning goes into your conference if there’s an insufficiency in terms of the right talent mistakes will be made. 

The Solution:  Conference managers must be fully aware of who’s who in terms of their people resources: the vendors, the contractors, and also the outsourcers. These key people are frequently left out of the equation when it comes to skills assessments. And that’s even though they are often called upon to do a very large slice of the work. 

If at the planning process outset a thorough assessment is made of all available resources it will provide far more visibility into each individual’s skills and abilities. 

After a conference manager becomes familiar with their team’s capabilities and fully aware of who is actually going to do what, it’s then much easier to effectively allocate resources on a day-to-day basis. 

Mistake #2: Failing To Track Scope Of Event Changes 

The Scenario:  For the most part, the majority of conference events will experience alterations to plans and to scope as the conference date approaches. Even when the smallest change is not tracked it can lead to a spiraling budget or to an unobtainable timeline. 

The Solution:  Sticking to a formalised process in terms of tracking changes is a relatively simple but definitely practical way to document changes whenever they occur. 

For anyone that requests a change (for example, changes to the foodservice or more seating capacity) they must be clear about the specifics. It’s then up to the conference manager to assess how such requests will impact timeline and budget. After assessment, the manager should communicate this to the relevant stakeholders. 

Mistake #3: Overlooking Murphy's Law 

The Scenario:  If something can go wrong it’s likely to go wrong. 
At the last minute stuff happens. And because ‘stuff happens’ it surprises everyone. 

This can lead to the event taking a plunge while the conference manager attempts to clean up the mess - a mess that was not anticipated. 

The Solution:  During the early part of the conference planning process carry out a conference risk assessment. 

As the manager, you should work with your conference team and brainstorm ideas as to what may cause havoc - or near havoc. Then, take measures so that any risks can be mitigated. 

This is an exercise that doesn’t take much time. It can prove to be extremely helpful in highlighting any weak links prior to the planning phase getting underway. 

Mistake #4: Operational Mistakes Caused By Not Adhering To Standardised, Repeatable Conference Management Processes 

The Scenario:  Most conference managers aren’t aware of just how commonplace this problem actually is. 

If there’s no agreed-upon plan of action it tends to mean that conference-related tasks are not completed. It also can mean that the conference will suffer from issues at the last minute, and/ or that the event will be short of budget. 

The Solution:  An event plan for a business conference that is well designed and previously agreed upon will help everyone involved in the planning phase to efficiently tackle each task. It also will help to raise awareness of individual activities that are part and parcel of successfully executing a conference

When standardised, repeatable management processes are in place for scoping, for scheduling, for allocation of resources, and for effective communication with stakeholders, much of the guesswork is removed. And as any experienced conference manager is fully aware, guesswork should be avoided as much as possible.

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