How do I make an action plan for a conference?

For months, you have been looking forward to the big day itself. Fantastic speakers, a superb location (for example, conference venues in London) and hundreds of enthusiastic visitors. You want to be sure you’ve thought of everything? Then make sure you draw up a good conference action plan.

You should draw up an action plan preferably as early as possible. Keep a draft version, so you can change or enter details later.

In any case, here’s what you need to consider:

Who is responsible for what? (General)

‘Where are the gifts for the speakers?’
‘Is our keynote speaker already here, where are they?’
‘Can we have the finger food come a half an hour later?’
‘Is the lunch suitable for someone with a nut allergy?’
‘Who can open the door to the terrace?’
‘Are the slides also available on the website?

There are always questions on the day of the conference, regardless of how good you plan things, which is why on the first page of your action plan you should put who is responsible for what and their contact details.

Ideally, you delegate roles so that not everything lands on the plate of one or two people. Matters such as:

  • Being in charge of visitors (greeting/cloakroom/goodie bags).
  • Being in charge of catering (contact suppliers).
  • Being in charge of technical matters and attendants (contact with location).
  • Being in charge of speakers and chairpersons.
  • Being in charge of social media, marketing and press.

The bigger the conference, the more important the action plan. Also, consider creating a number of WhatsApp groups beforehand or use a conference application.

The programme as a guideline

Drawing up an action plan is not something you can do at the last minute. Start with a location or first speaker.

Describe in any case per programme section:

  • What will happen.
  • Who will speak (contact details!).
  • Where it takes place.
  • How long it lasts.
  • Who is responsible (contact details!).

An action plan on paper is traditionally used, but an online copy is a good idea for anyone who loses the paper version. Make sure there’s a simple search function and that it’s legible on the smartphone.

Also make sure there’s enough space in the programme. In five minutes from one room the next is quite short (imagine, for example, someone want to talk to your speaker with a long story or question).

Describe every action point in detail

After months of preparation you can dream about the event.

You are already eyeing venues in London, know which speakers are coming and how you want to greet visitors. Just yesterday, an attendant, speakers’ assistant, cloakroom employee or technical person was still taking care of completely different things.

Therefore, describe every action point as specifically as possible:

  • Place a bottle of water for speaker X.
  • Tell visitors when they come in about the free food at [time].
  • At [time] pick up bottles of wine at [place].
  • Check at [time] whether the hall is ready.

The action plan of your conference can also be very extensive, which is why you can also decide to make a separate checklist per role or a separate action plan for build-up and teardown.

Information for suppliers

The same goes for your suppliers: on the day, they might have to supply four different congresses, and will appreciate a concise version of the action plan.

In any case, be sure to mention where (do not only give the address of the event space in London, but also describe the entrance very specifically) and when they need to do what, and who the contact person is within your organisation (with their contact details).

Send the action plan on time

It is tempting to wait until the last moment to send the perfect action plan, as details can always change.

However, it is better to send (a less perfect) action plan already in advance. A good rule to follow is five workdays.

This gives others the chance to prepare and clear up anything unclear in the conference planning.

On the day, you can provide the latest updates in the briefing. Hand out the latest version of the action plan if need be at that moment.

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