Organising a conference is not something you do lightly. It takes quite a bit of preparation. Observing the coronavirus safety rules poses a challenge in itself. And then there is the rise of 'hybrid' conferencing.
This blog post lists the key issues.
- Virtual, physical or hybrid conferencing?
- Scan your conference for coronavirus safety
- Make a plan and script
- Keep an eye on the budget
- Choose a date and location
- Communicate clearly
1. Virtual, physical or hybrid conferencing?
Are you familiar with the three conference formulas?
- Virtual conferencing: no physical meeting, all communication is done digitally
- Hybrid conferencing: limited physical meeting, supplemented with digital interventions
- Physical conferencing: all participants and speakers come together physically in the same venue
Would we like to meet again physically? Absolutely! Seeing and talking to each other live benefits any professional relationship. Moreover, the indispensable relaxation programme of any good conference often generates the energy and inspiration needed for top results. Needless to say, your live conference must be 100% coronavirus safe, because you obviously want your participants and speakers to be in perfect health.
Before making a choice, please answer the following questions:
- Focus on a national or international audience?
- One-day or multi-day conference?
- How many guests?
- The purpose of the conference?
Is it feasible to organise your conference in a coronavirus-safe way? Then don't hesitate and go for a live meeting.
Do you opt for a hybrid (partly live and partly virtual) conference? Here too, the conference city of Bruges offers sufficient scope. Contact the Visit Bruges Convention Bureau for advice.
2. Scan your conference for coronavirus safety
If you want to organise a conference in Bruges, you are obliged to carry out a risk analysis using the COVID Event Risk Model or CERM. This is an online tool to scan your conference for COVID-19 safety risks by means of a questionnaire. The risk is determined by a number of parameters that influence the spread of the virus, such as:
- the available space per visitor
- visitor flows
- seating arrangements
- the degree of interaction between the participants
- hygiene and disinfection
- mobility on arrival and departure
You will also need to consider aspects like crowd management, raising the participants' awareness or an enforcement plan. If you are working with a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) or a Destination Management Company (DMC), they will often take care of the CERM in close consultation with you.
The operator of your conference venue screens the risks of the venue according to the COVID Infrastructure Risk Model (CIRM). Your caterer works according to the COVID-19 hospitality industry protocol. As you can see, the health of your participants is paramount.
3. Make a plan and script
It is absolutely essential to be well prepared. Therefore, start several months ahead of time. Draw up a plan and factor in unexpected events or changing coronavirus rules. You may need to switch to a hybrid approach halfway through your preparation.
Have you ever worked with a script? A script is a written-out scenario of your planned activities. Thanks to a script, all parties involved know what to do before, during and after the conference. A proven recipe for a successful meeting.
Want to know more? Then read the article: 'How to make a script'
4. Keep an eye on the budget
If you want to avoid a financial hangover at all costs, it's important to have a budget in mind from the very beginning, with a neat breakdown of fixed and variable costs. Working out the costs for virtual sessions in your hybrid conference might require some creativity at first. And observing the coronavirus rules also comes at a price.
Call on Visit Bruges Convention Bureau to request quotes from different suppliers and compare.
Is your budget ready? To be on the safe side, add another 10 to 15% to cover unforeseen costs. As such, you will have sufficient margin to turn your conference into a success within budget.
5. Choose a date and location
Take into consideration statutory holidays, trade fairs and other events in the city.
Call on Visit Bruges Convention Bureau to find you the perfect location for your conference in historic Bruges. Important to know:
- How many guests are you aiming for?
- Are your participants arriving by plane, car, public transport or taxi?
- What room arrangement do you have in mind? Auditorium, banquet, cabaret, cocktail, U-shape, etc.
- Does the venue boast the necessary technical equipment for virtual interventions?
Want to know more? This article contains a handy checklist: 'How to find a good event location for your conference'.
6. Communicate clearly
Make sure the invitation to your participants contains sufficient information about:
- practicalities on site
- the way of working in virtual sessions
- the purpose and the programme
- the speakers and their topics
Don't forget the outside world. Visit Bruges Convention Bureau will be happy to help you draft a press release or social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
Send a thank you note and feedback form after the symposium. Good feedback is worth its weight in gold when you come to organise your next conference.