April 17, 2024
By Olivia Cal

Planning a large-scale conference is a big undertaking. It requires time, patience, energy, and thinking ahead. 

What you get out of these conferences also depends on the content, technology, and strategy you put into it. But do it right, and your large-scale conference will have tangible impacts on your organisation for years to come. 

So, let’s explore what it takes to successfully plan, promote, and host a large-scale conference.

What is a large-scale conference?

Let’s start simple: large-scale conferences are, as you may have guessed, conferences that are larger or more complicated compared to your standard conference. 

These events exist in a wide range of industries and are often held by mature, market-leading organisations, associations, or non-profits. They may also have a large customer or member base.

Key attributes of a large-scale conference

But what happens at a conference like this, and where does the complexity come from? They often involve discussions, presentations, and collaborations on multifaceted subjects. Here’s a quick overview of their attributes:

  • 1,200+ attendees

  • 10+ attendee types

  • 50+ sessions

  • Multi-day, multi-track

Large-scale conferences, also known as:

It might be that you know this type of conference by another name, including:

  • User conference

  • World tour

  • Advisor conference 

  • Dealer conference

  • Investor conference

  • Convention

  • Trade show

  • Congress

💡We’ve provided a snapshot here of what a large-scale conference looks like. But if you’d like an in-depth look, check out our recent webinar, your playbook for executing large-scale conferences:

Common objectives of a large-scale conference

You might plan and host a large-scale conference for a wide range of reasons. There’s one big draw of an event of this nature, though: they help establish you as a dominant force in your industry. And that’s not all! They:

  • Promote brand awareness: This sort of event amplifies your message and creates a tangible brand experience for your audience. It’s an experience that can be enjoyed in person or virtually.

  • Deliver thought leadership: Large-scale conferences are brimming with opportunities for knowledge exchange. It’s your chance to establish yourself as an authority in your industry. To do this, create panels, presentations, and round tables and invite industry experts to speak.

  • Drive revenue: These conferences support your goal of driving more revenue and accelerating your sales pipeline. With so many prospects and customers in attendance, how could they not? 

How to successfully plan a large-scale conference

Now you know what a large-scale conference is, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of planning one. You guessed right: it begins with goal-setting:

1. Align your goals for success

Setting clear and measurable goals has always been a foolproof way to ensure the success of an event. With a large-scale conference, this is all the more important due to the cost, time, and logistics involved. 

Before choosing your goals, consider your wider organisational objectives and align them. This ensures your event makes a discernible impact on your organisation’s growth and success. Here’s an example:

If your organisation is focused on lead generation and brand awareness, then your conference should work toward achieving these objectives. So, your event goals could be increasing attendance to generate more leads and garnering media coverage to achieve brand awareness. 

Follow these steps to make sure your conference’s and organisation’s goals are working together: 

  • Understand organisational objectives: First, clarify the broader goals, mission, and strategic priorities of your organisation. Think about how your conference will support or advance these objectives.

  • Identify relevant goals: Choose specific goals that align most closely with your organisation's overall objectives. Prioritise the goals that contribute directly to organisational growth, impact, or sustainability. Don’t forget to work with relevant stakeholders to get their opinions. 

  • Set SMART goals: It’s easier to track progress and evaluate your success when your goals are SMART! Ensure that the specific goals for the conference are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART).

2. Build the right team structure

The key to any great event is teamwork. But what makes teamwork great? Focus on effective communication and collaboration for smooth coordination and execution. 

Get to this level of teamwork by building the right team structure. So, what roles will you need to set in place to form a successful conference planning team? Start with the basics:

  • Event manager: This is the person in charge of the entire event. Their job is to plan and manage the event as well as oversee all aspects of the conference. 

  • Content coordinator: Planning and juggling the content of a large-scale conference isn’t an easy task. That’s why you need a coordinator to develop a program and agenda, identify and recruit speakers, and ensure the content is diverse and engaging. 

  • Marketing coordinator: The marketing coordinator is in charge of promoting the conference and increasing attendance. They’ll oversee the creation of marketing materials, manage advertising campaigns, and monitor marketing metrics. 

  • Logistics coordinator: It’s a big job, making sure a large-scale conference goes off without a hitch! The logistics coordinator manages venue selection, catering, audio-visual services, and signage. They also ensure compliance with health and safety regulations and oversee onsite logistics. 

There are many ways to organise your team, so here’s an example based on our own. Cvent’s Meeting and Event Team is organised into three key pillars: Event Design and Execution, Marketing and Analytics, and Event Technology and Execution.

Cvent’s Meeting and Event Team Overview

3. Programme your content

Well-curated content that caters to every audience segment is vital. Your goal is to get your audience members excited to attend your sessions. They’ll want to learn new things and be inspired. Think about your keynotes, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities, as well as how you’re scheduling them.

There are so many ways to programme your content, but here’s a big tip: Felicia Asiedu, Director of Europe Marketing at Cvent, says: 

“You'll know exactly what to build if you can figure out what your audience wants, rather than what you’re trying to sell.”

Here are a few tips to develop a diverse programme that caters to your audience’s needs and interests:

  • Understand your audience: You’ve likely already conducted thorough research on your audience’s demographics, preferences, and interests of your target audience. But if you haven’t, this is the perfect time. Dig up that information and think about how to cater your content to each segment. Do this by analysing registration data, sending out pre-event surveys, or by utilising past-event data.

  • Diversify: Offer diverse content formats and themes to keep things engaging for everyone. Incorporate keynote presentations, panel discussions, workshops, interactive sessions, case studies, and networking opportunities to provide a well-rounded experience. Try to also cater to different learning styles and preferences.  

  • Feature different perspectives: Invite speakers from diverse backgrounds, industries, and perspectives to provide a range of viewpoints and expertise.

4. Provide a good onsite registration and check-in experience

check-in cvent connect europe

Large-scale conferences require juggling many moving parts. Preparing a seamless onsite registration and check-in is your best bet to keep things running smoothly. 

Alyssia Peltier, Director of Market Insights at Cvent, says:

"The experience that we aim to create (always, no matter the event) is welcoming, informational, but most importantly, fast. That is the first impression [attendees] have of your brand and your conference.”

Here are a few tips:

  • Get techy: Use onsite event technology like Cvent OnArrival alongside your front-of-house staff to make this process snappy and reliable. Make sure your staff is trained well on the technology for maximum impact.

  • Designate separate check-in counters: Minimise wait times by having a check-in counter for different audience categories such as pre-registered, onsite registration, VIPs, etc.).

  • Provide clear signage and directions: Install obvious signage and directional cues throughout the registration area to guide attendees to the check-in counters and registration desks.

5. Engage your attendees

attendees cvent connect europe

It goes without saying, but putting on a good conference means keeping your attendees interested throughout. Part of this is the way you programme your content, but there’s so much more to it. 

Every facet of your event has the potential to engage and delight an attendee. The chirpy, chatty check-in staff; the wonderful, interactive content; and the well-planned networking sessions all have a role to play. 

Let’s look at some strategies and tips for creating such an experience:

  • Event apps and gamification: Technology is in everyone’s pockets nowadays. So why not utilise them? Encourage your attendees to download your event app. Using your app, create engagement challenges, contests, or scavenger hunts. These encourage attendees to explore different areas of the conference, interact with exhibitors, and complete specific tasks.

  • The importance of networking: A large-scale conference isn’t just about your attendees interacting with you. Getting them to interact with each other when your event truly sings. Include networking sessions, roundtable discussions, and social events to get everyone chatting and having a good time.

  • Get interactive: Encourage your speakers and keynotes to turn their sessions into truly collaborative and interactive experiences. Incorporate live polls, Q&A sessions, group discussions, and hands-on workshops into conference sessions. Getting your audience more involved will enrich your discussions. 

6. Use event surveys

Let’s imagine you’ve hosted your large-scale conference and are already thinking about next year’s. To make it even better than the one before, you need to know what your audience thought of the event, what they disliked; what went well and what could have been better. 

Collect plenty of feedback before, during, and after your conference through surveys. Here’s a bit of guidance on how to create surveys that lead to better and better events:

Pre-event surveys

Pre-event surveys help you understand attendees' expectations, preferences, and interests before the conference begins. 

This is where you’ll want to ask about your audience’s goals and objectives for attending the conference, as well as specific topics, sessions, or speakers they are most interested in. 

Send these a few weeks before the conference to give your audience enough time to respond.

Surveys during the event

Capture your attendees' real-time experiences, satisfaction levels, and suggestions for improvement with surveys during the event.

This is where you assess attendees' satisfaction with session content, speakers, venue, logistics, and overall experience and gather feedback. 

Schedule surveys to be available during breaks, lunchtime, or between sessions to maximise response rates. 

Post-event surveys

Post-event surveys capture comprehensive feedback on the entire conference experience and help you identify areas for improvement.

Use these to evaluate overall satisfaction with the conference, including content, organisation, logistics, and networking opportunities. 

Send post-event surveys within a week of the conference while the experience is still fresh in your attendees’ minds.

The success story of the Cvent CONNECT Conference

As a combined user and industry conference, Cvent CONNECT (and Cvent CONNECT Europe) is our largest marketing campaign. It takes place over three to four days and is fully hybrid, consisting of an in-person and virtual element, which enables us to widen our reach.

Here are just a few things you should know about Cvent CONNECT:

So, what did we do to turn this event into the success it is today?

  • Concrete objectives: We started Cvent CONNECT with carefully chosen business and attendee objectives. This included increasing our lead pipeline and conversion as well as training and education on the Cvent Platform. It’s important to us that these objectives are also reflected in the programming of our conferences.

  • Planning the event space: Collaborative event diagramming is critical to purposeful space design, and using technology to accomplish this is key. We’re able to ensure our teams are on the same page by sharing, collaborating, and making changes in our diagrams in real time.

  • Accessibility: Making our event accessible and easy to navigate is vital (and is made easier with collaborative event diagramming). It’s also about enabling those who cannot attend for whatever reason to experience the event virtually. 

  • Active attendance tracking: They’re at your event. Now what? We build our understanding of our attendees' complete experience of Cvent CONNECT with active and passive attendance tracking using NFC and RFID technology.

  • Planning for engagement: We get our attendees to engage with us and each other in a multitude of ways, including session chat with emoji and live reaction, topic-based chats, audience polling and Q&A, feedback surveys, and gamification.

Now it's your turn to execute a smashing large-scale conference

You know what a large-scale conference involves, and you know six key strategies to successfully plan one. Now, it’s time for you to put the things you’ve learned into action. Start by setting your objectives and getting a feel for what you truly want to accomplish with a large-scale event. 

Once you’ve got these details ironed out, it’s time to plan, promote, and host. Best of luck!

To learn more engagement strategies and best practices you can implement at your next event, download our Ultimate Guide to In-Person Events.

Olivia Cal Headshot

Olivia Cal

Olivia is a copywriter and content marketer specialising in hospitality, events, and retail. After five years of in-house experience, she now works independently, writing articles, eBooks, case studies, and more for a wide range of clients.

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