The agenda needs to be completely set before booking the venue. This helps determine the size and amount of space needed for your event. Sometimes there are advantages to hosting a conference at the main hotel where attendees are staying, as it can provide discounts on venue rentals and is convenient for the attendees. If the committee chooses to have the conference at a hotel, contact Anthony Travel at 480-739-9145 or via email at [email protected]. They are the ASU contract negotiators for hotel bookings.
If the plan is to host the conference on any of the ASU campuses, book the space as soon as possible because space is a premium and large spaces book up quickly. Classrooms cannot be used for conferences unless it is during an academic break and can only be booked after all classes have been scheduled for the semester. Email [email protected] to get a better idea of how and when ASU classrooms can be booked. Food and drinks are not allowed in classrooms so keep this in mind when considering using classrooms for your event.
Consider the needs of the attendees for each session — how far do they have to travel? Is the venue ADA compliant? And can the caterer accommodate special dietary needs? For high-tech conferences, you will need to make sure the location can accommodate the Wi-Fi needs of presenters and attendees.
The room setup will affect the number of people that can be in each room. Think of the setup needs for each room, such as stage, table and chair setup, background, how long it will take to turn the room around and if the room is used for more than one session per day. Know what is included in the cost, if the space comes with tables, chairs, audiovisual, free Wi-Fi or other items.
The committee will also need a work room and storage for the duration of the conference, sometimes this can be the same room, but it is recommended to have two separate rooms if there are several items to store.
Sometimes venues have internal services or a preferred vendor list you will be required to use. Before finalizing the venue space, make sure to know what caterer and AV companies can be used and research if their services and prices will fit within your budget. Get a proposal for meals and AV before finalizing the venue, as this can greatly affect the final cost.
Use diagrams of the event space to create a map to help attendees find their sessions.
Contact Anthony Travel at 480-739-9145 or via email at [email protected] before researching hotels for the attendees, as they are the ASU contract negotiators for hotel bookings. Consider attrition rates and make sure the committee is not responsible for multiple rooms that will not be booked if something affects the conference such as recession, weather or a pandemic. Because students tend to have less money to spend than other attendees, offer at least two different hotels for the conference, ensuring one offers more economical rates for students. Students may share a room to save money, so keep that in mind when determining how many rooms are needed for your event. Final consideration should be made for local attendees who will likely opt to go to their own homes at the end of each day’s activities and will not need hotel rooms.
Keep track of deadlines in hotel contracts for cancellations of rooms as well as other contracts to avoid paying for items not needed.
Audiovisual and availability of tech support can make or break any conference. Have clear communications with all presenters on their AV needs or present them with a list of what will be provided in the room they are presenting in, such as:
- If Presenters must use the computer in the room and bring their presentation on a USB drive (thumb drive).
- Or if Presenters are welcome to bring their own computers (not recommended).
- Audio equipment can support Windows laptops and MacBooks (make sure to have correct connections available).
- Sound is provided.
- Stationary, handheld wireless or lavalier microphones are provided.
- Livestreaming or video recording — keep in mind that permission is needed for any music that is played online.
Order additional wireless microphones for questions from the audience. Keep in mind that not all computers can be connected to sound. Have adequate connectors, for example MacBooks have various connectors and may not all be able to connect with projectors without additional connectors such as a dongle. For multiple breakout sessions consider having a backup projector in case one breaks down.
Create an audiovisual plan for each room. Shop around and get three proposals before finalizing the AV contract. Make sure that the AV provider knows the room size and setup so they can provide the correct size screen for the room. Audiovisual can be very costly. Keep in mind that UTO has limited AV equipment available, so contact Seth Levine at UTO at [email protected] to get information on their inventory and availability. Keep in mind, even if you bring in all your own AV equipment, the venue could still charge for labor if they end up helping or fixing things. Your school might have an IT manager who can assist by providing actual equipment or consult with equipment needs. Make sure the venue contract does not have a limit on what equipment can be brought into the location.
Always check that equipment is working before each session starts and make sure the room monitors have the cell phone number for on-site AV staff in case any problems occur. A list of audiovisual companies can be found on Sunmart.
Correct placement of signage is imperative for any conference. Think about how best to utilize signage. Work with the venue before printing signs as some of them have digital screens that can be used as directional signs for the conference. Go through the agenda to determine where signs are needed and what they should state. Define travel patterns between sessions in order to place the signs in the areas where attendees are most likely to walk past. Do not forget to place signage in the parking lot.
Keep in mind most venues will not allow signs to be hung on walls. Consider how signs should be displayed. A-frame sign holders may be available to borrow from the Engineering Events Team through Events Inventory or easels may be available to rent from rental companies or the venue. Reuse signage as much as possible for multi-day conferences to be sustainable.
Some venues will provide tables, chairs and linens in the rental agreement, and others will require equipment rentals. Before ordering equipment, check with the caterer and other suppliers to see if they need additional podiums, tables, linens or other equipment.
Be aware that most rental companies will charge extra for setup, take down, delivery and pickup. Make sure the company includes full service in their quote to you.
Find a list of tent and event rental companies on Sunmart.
Consider brightening up some parts of the conference talk or meals with decor. The Engineering Events Office has a selection of event equipment, decor and linens that can be borrowed by others in the Fulton Schools. We ask that items are returned clean and in the same condition they were when they were borrowed. A list of items available can be found at Events Inventory.
Other on-site details
Below is a list of items to consider when finalizing details for the conference. Not all the items may be appropriate for all functions.
- Confirm all permits needed are in order and all the vendors utilized have insurance.
- Book any off-site dinners or functions.
- Hire entertainment if needed for receptions, dinner or other functions.
- Plan the spousal program or off-site tours and book the transportation and guides.
- Book or assign someone to be the photographer to record sessions, assign them to also take pictures of the setup and attendance for each event for future planning purposes.
- Finalize the layout of each room, the registration area and the distribution of food and beverage and complete diagrams for each room. Aventri or the venue should be able to help with the diagram creation.
- Determine if you will use regular name tags or on-demand badges. An on-demand badge offers RFID tags to check in the attendees to each function, which helps eliminate ticketing for meals or drinks. Order lanyards if needed.
- Create name badges and tent cards.
- Design meal tickets and place cards, if necessary.
- Prepare on-site “binders” for event planners in printed or digital format for easy access to all contracts, BEOs, AV requests, special needs from attendees and contact information.
- Make a reference guide with all information volunteers/staff could possibly need that always stays at the registration/information desk.
- Prepare a post-event survey that will be emailed to conference attendees after the conference. This can be done through Aventri.
- Come up with emergency procedures and exit plans. Make sure to include these in volunteer training, staff briefing and the pre-conference meeting.
- Schedule a pre-conference meeting with everyone involved including AV, hotel, tour operators’ key staff, volunteers and others. Get contact information for all these key venues and supplier staff members. This is where all details of the conference are talked through to make sure each person is aware of the plan and what to expect. Discuss emergency procedures at this meeting. This is a great way to catch any mistakes before the actual event starts.
- Create a cheat sheet with cell phone numbers for key staff, volunteers, vendors and suppliers and give it to all volunteers so they can get help quickly and easily if needed.
- Keep track of all deadlines for changes and guarantees for all contracts and make sure to update these on time to avoid additional costs.
- Close registration and provide the final number of attendees to the venue and caterer before the guaranteed deadline.
- Collect all presentations on USB drives (thumb drives), create a backup of all speaker presentations on a USB drive and have two copies: one for the conference organizer and one to be in the room. This way if a speaker forgets their presentation, or their computer crashed, there is a backup and the event can continue without much delay.
- Print out cards for each session such as 10 minutes, 2 minutes, time for Q&A and “reserved” cards on two or three seats near the entrance of the conference room so latecomers can slip in easy without disturbing the session.
- Purchase supplies for the conference including pens, pads, sticky notes, items to hang up posters, etc.
- Put together a working draft of the event’s schedule with all the to-do items for each volunteer and staff member. Include a link to the incident report in case it is needed.
- Create a packing list for each room including storage and registration from the event schedule.
Moving to the conference site
It is a great idea to start creating a packing list for the conference early in the planning process and add items to the list as they come up. Create one package for each session and room for each day from the packing list mentioned above. Pack and mark boxes/envelopes for each session or event with everything needed for that room and mark it with the session name, date, time and location in bold letters. Include a diagram for the room in each package. This makes it much easier to set up each room for each day. Some ideas on packing lists may include:
- Pads and pens.
- Conference bags.
- Promotional items.
- Workshop material.
- Name badges and lanyards.
- Map of the premises that includes each of the event/meeting locations.
- Tent cards.
- Conference program (if not digital).
- One or two registration lists printed out in case Wi-Fi connection is lost.
- Printers and laptops to reproduce badges or notes for speakers if needed.
- Paper and ink for printers.
- Signs, easels or sign holders.
- Map of ASU campus.
- Sponsor information available at registration desk.
- Box with office supplies that may be needed for registration and work room.
- Box with duct tape, twine, hammers, cleaning supplies, trash bags, zip-ties, etc. for work room.
- Charging station for multiple phones/laptops and various charging cords for phones.
- Plenty of extension cords and power strips.