Beginner’s Guide to Conference Planning

Has your company always wanted to host a conference or some other big event? Do you never seem to get past the “we should do it, that would be so great!” stage because when you sit down to actually plan it everything is just too overwhelming? We feel you! Planning a conference has been an idea in the works for us here at ReadMe for quite some time now, but it kept remaining just that: an idea. So how did we go from maybe someday to a real, live, moving, breathing conference? Don’t worry, we love sharing what we know--even if we are still learning as we go!

Step One: Get Real

Get some estimates. Venues, AV, food, and drinks are a good place to start. If you can get a general concept of how much each of these cost in your city for the type of event you want to put on, you can see more clearly whether your dream is currently feasible. Are you going to charge for tickets? Have sponsors? How many attendees are you planning on? Each of these things can increase your available $$$ and make your event happen. And it’s different for everyone! We decided that we didn’t want to have sponsors for our conference, and decided to charge a reasonable price for tickets that we wouldn’t mind paying ourselves.

Step Two: Get Inquisitive

Do you know anyone who has planned a conference before? Or do you know anyone who knows anyone who has planned a conference? Reach out. Ask the friend of the friend to introduce you. Invite your newly-found wealth of knowledge to grab coffee (Side note: this is the perfect time to check out a new coffeeshop! We went to Sextant Coffee Roasters to chat with a conference planning veteran and it was SO GOOD). Make sure to bring your laptop or a notebook with you and take notes on everything they have to say! We made sure to ask if there was anything they would do differently next time (to take advantage of that 20/20 vision only hindsight seems to bring). I have yet to find a better teacher than experience, so when you don’t have your own it’s best to get some secondhand!

Step Three: Get Moving!

Commit to something that makes your event tangible--get your website ready, book your venue, confirm speakers (or even one speaker). The truth is that you likely aren’t ever going to feel like you have it all together, so you can’t wait on everything to be perfectly in place before moving forward. What we decided was important to us was getting the website ready as we were confirming our venue. We wanted to have at least three speakers on the site before we made it live so people would know whether it was the type of the event they wanted to go to, but also decided we wouldn’t wait until we had every last detail confirmed to get it out into the world.

Step Four: Get Purposeful

This should actually be first on the list as it is really the most important aspect of putting on a conference, but for the sake of readability, we’re going to let this be the note we leave you with.

As you forge ahead in the planning of your event, it can be easy to get consumed by the details involved (and there are lots of details involved!) and forget what your reasoning was for putting on the event in the first place. So, ask yourselves these questions, write down your answers, and reference them often:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What do we want this to be?
  • What are we hoping this will accomplish?

To put on an event of substance that has real value for the people that attend, we feel it’s essential to have reasons that go beyond “getting our name out there” or “we feel like we should put on a conference so we’re putting on a conference.” Dig deep and figure out what the why of it is for you and your team. For us, we felt like most of the conferences we’d been to in the past were focused on API vendors. While that’s great and all, we knew that we personally would love to go to a conference that has the API maker as its core focus. We want to meet other API developers and strengthen the developer community in SF and beyond. We were tired of waiting for someone else to put on a conference that has the focus we crave, so we are doing it ourselves!

Did someone say API conference? Oh wait, that was us. Want to come?

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