Stop wasting time planning conferences without having a clear vision of what your expenses are and what you want to achieve (ROI). No matter what kind of event you’re planning, you must set clear goals and build an actionable strategy that will help you avoid having to cancel the event because of financial-related issues (among other reasons). In other words, a conference business plan is necessary.
According to event professional Geoff Beers, "Unless your conference is being funded by a grant or organization, you are going to need to map out where your money is coming from and what it is being used for. The first part of this equation, the revenue, should be calculated early in the planning process." Beers continues, pinpointing, “to put a price on a conference, you need to have an idea of what you plan to offer attendees.”
On the other hand, as Joe Goldblatt highlights in his book Special Events: Creating and Sustaining a New World for Celebration, “Remember that the sponsor will be making an important business decision and will prefer a serious business plan rather than one that demonstrates cleverness.”
Apart from controlling the expenses and hunting for sponsors, setting up a conference business plan will help you gain a better perspective on how to attract new attendees and sell more tickets.
In other words, there’s no other way around envisioning your conference as a business opportunity that can potentially increase your revenue.
Considering this, here’s a list of must-include steps (apart from the traditional structure of the document) to take into account when creating your conference business plan:
Step 1. Profile and segment your target group
We can’t reiterate enough just how important is to understand who your “buyer personas” are. For whom are you planning the event? Who is your ideal attendee? What are his or her demographic and professional characteristics? Do you have one or more type of guest?
What’s the difference between buyer personas? Do you segment them and define the communication strategies for each group? What are their needs? Are you taking into account their specific problems and questions when planning your conference?
A good conference business plan involves the profile of your target group. Moreover, it implies segmenting your attendees into categories and establishing different communication and marketing strategies.
Step 2. Define your value proposition and decide how to communicate it
Considering the first step and the idea of setting up different marketing and communication strategies per group segment, the next obvious step is to articulate your conference’s value proposition. Subsequently, you need to decide how to communicate your conference’s value to attract attendees (thus, increasing your revenues).
For example, let’s say your leading speaker has a practical answer to a “How to“-type of question that will interest your attendees. Or maybe you’re preparing an elevator pitch during your conference for the guests to share their startup ideas in front of potential investors. A powerful conference business plan should reflect all of your event’s value propositions, plus all potential communication and marketing strategies (from crafting attractive social messages to impossible to neglect invitation-emailing campaigns).
Step 3. Make a list of expenses and revenue streams
You can’t create a concrete conference business plan without including some numbers. Be sure to insert all foreseen expenses (from event management software to venue fees). Don’t forget to include numbers for unexpected expenses and how much you are willing to extend your budget. Also, write down all the ways you’re expecting to profit from the event and their revenue streams (from event tickets to selling your products or services).
Step 4. Prepare a plan B (and a plan C and D) in case you don’t have enough attendees
This may happen, and you don’t want to end up having to send a conference cancellation email to those who have already registered for the event. That’s why you need to include a backup plan (ideally, more than one) in your conference business plan in case the registration rate is lower than expected. To avoid this from happening, prepare different marketing strategies, in case you see that the initial one doesn’t work.
Step 5. Decide how and when you’ll measure the ROI of your conference
How will you monitor your event’s success? When do you intend to do that (before, during, or after the event)? What metrics will you use (surveys, social listening, gamification, live polls, the number of new leads, the number of sold tickets, etc.)? By defining how and when you’ll measure the ROI and numbers that will confirm the success of your conference, you’ll build a truly professional framework for your event and learn how to optimize it next time.
From attracting sponsors to controlling the expenses, there are multiple reasons why you should create a conference business plan before beginning to organize your event. But the most important reason is the need to have a clear vision.
This includes knowing who your target group is, what your value proposition is and how you’ll highlight it through your marketing campaign, your expenses, and any projected earnings from the event.
Finally, include backup plans in the event of a low registration rate and determine how will you measure the conference ROI. Drafting a conference business plan will answer all of these questions, saving you lots of headaches, time, and money. So wait no more—do it now.