When your business gets big and important enough that you can consider hosting
a conference in your field, it is cause for celebration. Hosting a business conference
isn't just a chance to show off the fancy Motorola leather cases you were
able to afford for your employee's PDAs, but also your town and your hosting
skills, which means that it's also cause for panic to a lot of business
owners. But never fear: this series of articles should help you plan a successful
small-town business conference and get you through any rough patches you encounter
along the way.
The first thing you need to do when you're planning on hosting a business
conference is to decide who you're going to invite. Will you limit the
invitations to other businesses in your field in the county? The province? In
all of Canada? Or do you invite select companies regardless of location? The
answer depends on which companies you think would enhance the themes and purpose
you have in mind. Do you invite attendees to bring their families or significant
others? There are several issues here, the main one being that if you intend
to include children your town must be able to support the child care that will
be required, because they'll need a nanny. Canada as a country might not
have enough if it's a large conference.
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Make sure to set an advance date in order to give your invitees enough time
to plan for their attendance. Take care to investigate what other events or
conferences in your field may be going on at the same time. Setting everything
up on the same date as a bigger conference that was announced earlier is going
to dump a big pile of effluent treatment chemical over your plans. Also keep
in mind what time of year most becomes your town, when leaves turn color, when
flowers bloom, when the ski hills are freshly powdered, etc so as to present
your home in the best possible light.
There is no need for relocating to Toronto to find decent venues at which to
hold your events. All towns, regardless of size, have some form of accommodation
for visitors, whether it be bed and breakfasts, hotels, or boarding houses and
most of them will offer deals to groups. Fire halls, church halls, and gyms
can be great places to hold lectures if there are going to be a lot of people.
Alternatively, school classrooms or community centers can be set up for more
Decide early on what topics your conference will cover and stick to them, but
don't forget to drop in a little fun to make things memorable. Your planned
agenda for a plumbing conference might includes lectures on the benefits of
metal vs PVC pipes and demonstrations on how to perform valve repair, which
will be useful but not exciting. Then spice things up by lining up a group sleigh
ride or a trip to the beach.