There are a lot of conference planning guides and event planning checklists. One of the best, most concise, most effective I’ve seen is Open Gov Hub’s Guide To Great Events. Open Gov Hub is is a co-working community here in Washington, DC and a network of organizations promoting transparency, accountability, and civic engagement around the world. The organization’s mission is to:
- to provide a physical home to open government (opengov) organizations, sharing resources and helping them be more efficient, and
- to be the center for collaboration, learning, and innovation on opengov issues that helps members be more effective and have greater impact together.
As such, the communal space organizes and hosts a number of events meant to connect organizations and people and to foster learning and sharing within its community.
Knowing how central events are to its mission and membership, Open Gov Hub created its own events and conference planning guide. It’s rare for an organization to talk about engagement, interactivity, and connectivity in its events – but then to do more than pay those ideas lip service. The event planning guide-checklist provides a way for event organizers to understand what a good event looks like – and then how to actually implement that in a practical way. As a kind of conference planning checklist, it has a variety of activities and considerations for building an event that is useful, effective, and purposeful.
Conference Planning Checklist of Principles
One of the things I really admire about Open Gov Hub’s Guide to Great Events is its 15-Principle Pledge For Great Events. I think a lot of conference planning and event checklists skip this important step. The conference planning checklist obviously covers these essential items:
- Understand your purpose
- Have real conversations
- Tap the wisdom of the room
- Use innovative meeting formats
- Plan for interactive meetings
- Make sure moderators actually moderate
- Seek diversity
- Resist the temptation to overload the stage
- Manage and respect time; cut people off
- Be true to the description of your meeting, conference or event
- Dare to debate
- Lay the ground rules
- Use visuals often and wisely
- End with takeaways
- Solicit feedback
There may be other objectives but these points serve as a pretty good conference planning checklist. Follow them from the start, and it will put your meeting or event in a good place.
Conference Ideas Planning – event types
When planning conference ideas, it’s easy to get stuck in the same old rut. Over and over conference planning revolves around the same, tired formats. Typically, these are a standard presentation and panels. Attendees are rarely inspired and invigorated by these types – and they usually fall short of the conference planning checklist of principles above. So when planning conference ideas, it’s helpful to have a broader perspective on what’s even possible. Therefore the Guide To Great Events provides a larger menu of possible choices to choose from, combine, and tweak.
- Knowledge Café
- Innovation Sprint
- Brown Bag Lecture
- Lightning Talks
- Open Space Technology
The Guide To Great Events then provides a quick overview of each event type, including a goal, size, Do’s, and Don’ts.
Conference Planning Guide – workshops and panels
Knowing how common and popular workshops and panels are, the conference planning guide also outlines a number of simple best practices to follow to improve these formats. The checklist provides tons of easy, practical advice for those putting on events and using standard formats – but in a better, more effective way. If you must use a workshop or panel, then use this conference planning guide to improve them.
Finally, while the conference planning guide provides a great planning checklist, it also speaks volumes about the organization that created it. It’s one thing to tell your people to create events that are engaging, worthwhile, build in diversity, etc. However, in most of those cases, that’s as much as organizations do: it’s empty, aspirational advice. Open Gov Hub’s conference planning guide is actionable and understandable. Their conference planning guide speaks to an organization that wants to truly put on great events – but with authentic purpose – and help others do the same. It’s a great resource.