When is the Best Time of Year to Plan a Conference?

I’m seeing a BIG trend in conference planning of finally deciding to host a conference 5-7 months from the current date. While this is possible, it’s not strategic and will pretty much guarantee profit loss. If you want to produce a successful and financially profitable conference, it’s best to start your planning far enough in advance to hit your goals. So when is the best time of year to plan a conference? I’m glad you asked!

If part of your job responsibilities includes attending conferences, you probably also feel the increase in conferences that happen in Q3 each year. We are asked all the time why this is…and I’m going to give you some insider event producer info.

http://reinventingevents.com/2017/09/when-is-the-best-time-of-year-to-plan-a-conference/ If you want to produce a successful & financially profitable conference, plan far enough in advance to hit goals. Get insider info on when the best time of year to plan a conference is.

Lead time

  • There has to be ample time to plan a conference. Some people think they can pull off a conference in just a few months, and often they can, but it’s usually not the best it can be.
  • The right venue sets the tone for your event, which means it needs to be booked first. In San Francisco, depending on the size of your event, spaces are very limited which then means you’re competing for prime venue locations.
  • Speakers usually are scheduled far in advance due to other speaking engagements and travel so you want to lock them in early.
  • You have to make sure you have plenty of time for marketing and promotion to sell tickets.
  • Producing conferences with very little lead time can mean you’re running into rush fees and increased delivery fees for things like printing, signage, and swag. It can also mean any rentals you need, like AV and furniture, may not be available because they are already booked.

Schedules

  • Fall is the time of year when everyone is getting back into full swing after a few months of summer vacation. Kids are going back to school, which means strategically, conference production makes sense, so that child care becomes a little less of an issue (though sometimes can still be tough for some to navigate). It also means not having to compete with summer travel plans.
  • Because most conferences try to avoid pushing into November, which is when venues start to increase prices for the holiday season, conference season gets stacked in September and October.

Budget Planning

  • Conferences are a big cost and can increase based on the number of people you are expecting. You usually spend the bulk of your budget on the venue, then food and beverage, and AV.
  • Some clients are floored at how much we budget for Wi-Fi increases at venue spaces. It can be costly! Because we work with a lot of tech companies, this is a huge priority for us as we work to ensure that the Wi-Fi does not go down during events. At a recent event, an attendee was so impressed with the speeds of the Wi-Fi that he shared it on Twitter. Yeah–that’s why the Wi-Fi costs so much. 😉
  • So why is this listed as a factor for Q3 conferences? Because most companies replenish budgets on January 1 of each year which means annual budget planning and contracts usually get signed in January.
  • You also have to consider your sponsors and attendees annual budget planning too. If you want to get sponsorship dollars, it’s a good idea to have something in front of your potential sponsors sometime in October so they can have your event earmarked in their budget for spending for the next year.
  • It’s best to announce your event as close to the beginning of the year as possible so your attendees can budget their spending accordingly. There are SOOO many conferences in the space that you need to make sure your attendees are well aware of your dates and ticket prices before they commit to other events and spend their budgets.

We usually suggest 10-12 months lead time for a multi-day conference. When you take into account schedules and budgets, the prime time for hosting a conference is that sweet spot of August through October. And that’s the insider info on why we think Q3 is the best time of year to plan a conference and is the busiest season for conferences.

Thinking of planning a conference in 2018? We’d love to talk to you and help you navigate the planning and budgeting for your event. Hit us up and let’s chat!

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About the author

Karen Hartline Karen’s passion is creating experiences that are engaging and unique, always thinking of what attendees will find interesting. For her, events are about the ultimate experience, starting with attendee registration through the post-event wrap-up email and everything in between. She prides herself on event design and strategy to make an unforgettable event.

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