Planning the perfect show

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 April, 2010, 12:00am

Rosalind Wade is the general manager of Hong Kong-based conference organiser Beacon Events, which puts together events such as Mines & Money Asia, designed to link mining companies with investors, and the iGaming Asia Congress, about electronic gambling. Wade explains what it takes to produce a conference.

Six months out The first thing we do is find out what the issues are. So we speak to people who have been to the event before, and past speakers. For a new show, we ask people we think might come to the event. People will only pay if they can get information that they can't get elsewhere. They want to know, 'how do businesses in industries like ours do this'?

Five months out After two to three weeks of research, we'll come up with a draft programme. We send that out to past participants and potential sponsors, and ask what they think. When they come back with ideas, we refine it. While we're putting together the programme, we'll get quite a few of the speakers confirmed. Most want to highlight their expertise, so they pay their own way.

Four months out Once we have got the programme and the speakers, we'll start putting together a brochure, creating websites for the event. Each show has its own mini-site, such as Then you start doing your marketing. Before the brochure goes to print, you need to line up your sponsors. Our marketing department selects people to invite, and media partners.

A big thing is updating our database [of people in the industry]. Each event has a highly targeted audience, and they have already paid upwards of US$2,000 to attend. So sponsors know they are the right people to talk to.

Three months out We produce the final brochure, and promote the website. We have an operations team making sure we have venues for the events, getting biographies from speakers, photos for the website and all their papers and presentation materials in. We like to put together a CD-Rom of all the PowerPoint presentations to give to people at the event. Most people don't send it to us at the right time. If that happens, we send people a link to a website after the event, and they can download them later.

Two months out We order all the food and decide what to provide. If you have reserved a whole ballroom, there is a minimum fee you have to pay, and sometimes a per-delegate fee. Sometimes there's a room hire fee and sometimes they give you the room for free, but you have to guarantee to pay for 60 people. We rarely cancel. It generally makes sense financially to run the event even if you have got only a few people.

Two weeks before the event We send out final confirmations to all the speakers, and make sure they know where they're speaking and when. We also start preparing material for the delegates. We do 35 events a year, and we've got six producers. So you're doing on average six events a year. You are researching one, preparing the marketing materials for another, and there's another about to happen. Two days before the event Although there's normally a two-day programme, some events are three or four days. They have pre-conference workshops that are optional. People choose to add on one of the workshops for a fee.

The night before The exhibitions are normally set up overnight. We'll be at the conference from 6am, making sure the room is set up correctly, making sure the computers and screens are working.

The main event The producers introduce the speakers to the conference chairperson, normally an industry guru or someone well-known. There's a welcome, and we deal with all the programmes and activities. Our job is to make sure everything runs smoothly.

The day after We do a post-event report. What companies came, what industries, what job titles, what countries? That's for future events. We take pictures of the speakers and the conference, and the exhibition if there is one, so we update the website. Networking online after the event is important. We find out what people think when they return evaluation forms at the event.