Get to work on your calendar!
Choosing the right dates for your conference or meeting is one of the first and most important steps when planning a high-quality event, as it can determine your success or failure. This is why it’s so important to take into account factors such as the focus and purpose of the conference, the time of year to hold it, how long it runs for, and the cultural context in which you’re operating. However hard it may be, try to avoid taking inspiration from superstitions, trusting in luck, or referring to planetary alignment or what the horoscopes say…
So, how do you go about choosing the ideal date for your event or conference?
1. Consider the time of year
If you’re organising a computer and technology conference, it’s fairly obvious that you should avoid holding it during the Christmas and New Year break – which is when everyone puts their work obligations on hold to enjoy time with the family. Equally, it makes little sense to organise a conference on a New York skyscraper rooftop in the middle of January (unless you want to experiment with a new type of ‘extreme’). Joking aside, there are many other seasonal factors that may affect attendance to your event and which you need to bear in mind. Here are some clues:
· Major events
· Work calendar
· Different times of year for hobbies
Depending on the conference you’re organising, these points can help you narrow down the ideal dates or, equally, eliminate potential dates from your list. Let’s use the work calendar as an example.
If you’re organising a four-day conference about educational innovation, you’ll need to choose a date when teachers (the main people involved in the topic and your primary target audience) have finished their teaching work and are able to attend without having to leave their pupils in the middle of the school term.
2. Avoid dates where there is a lot of competition
Researching events in the same industry can help you avoid dates when your competitors may be capturing the attention of your target audience, and make the most of other dates when there is less pressure. Find out what events are planned in the city’s calendar and make a note of those that share the same target audience as yours. Next, evaluate how much weight you should give to each of these competing events when selecting your own date. Factors to consider might include:
· Size of the event
· Location of the conference
· Overlap of target audiences
· Attendance at past conferences
If your client is a public institution that is planning a conference on the environment and local area on one side of the city, at the same time as free conferences on sustainable tourism are being held on the other side of the city, it’s very likely that there will be a considerable clash between the target audiences. The target audience would therefore be forced to choose between the two options, leading to a decrease in the general number of attendees for both events.
3. Public holidays and events
Unless your event is related to the public festival itself, religious and national holidays are usually bad choices for scheduling your conference, unless there is a compelling reason. Labour Day is an example of this – a time when many people like to enjoy the long weekend. Therefore putting on a talk about “Emotional Health in Companies” might not be the best choice for that day. On the other hand, a “Convention on Children’s Rights”, with educational activities and children’s games that whole families can enjoy together, could be exactly the type of family event that your target audience would love to attend during their free time over the holiday weekend.
You also need to take into account public events and festivals that might not only cause a drop in the number of attendees who instead wish to focus on those other events, but might also increase difficulties in competing for media attention.
4. Pay attention to important dates
It can be beneficial for your convention or conference if it’s aligned with dates that are significant for attendees. For example, international celebration days, awareness-raising months and anniversaries can be huge opportunities for organising an event. It’s often easier to get media coverage and official public support if your conference is part of a broader topic of interest – such as a series of talks by leading women writers or an international film convention during Cannes Festival month.
PRO TIP: Having a solid communicative strategy doesn’t mean you have to stick to the pre-established script the whole time. Being aware of changing circumstances and reacting with agility is as strategic an approach as planning everything down to the tiniest detail and trying to anticipate everything that can be foreseen.
5. Think about the potential days of the week
When selecting the day of the week for holding your event, consider the “days with the most points” when your target audience can attend. For congresses and conventions, it’s usually best to hold them during the week (Wednesday, Thursday or Friday evenings) because at the weekend people tend to be with their family and friends and prefer not to attend work-related events. However, there are exceptions, in which case you can also consider some afternoons and weekends.
As we’ve been saying, choosing the ideal date to hold an event of this type entails analysing several factors.
Another consideration when choosing the date of an event is your target audience’s typical routine. If you’re organising a conference on entrepreneurship and creativity in business, it makes little sense to choose Monday to Friday mornings when your main target audience is in the office working. Instead, you can focus on offering an open day of mornings and afternoons where attendees have alternative options throughout the day.
6. Next step: Publicise your date
Once you’ve done your homework and applied our tips for choosing the ideal date for your event, don’t forget the most important step: advertise it to potential attendees. Add it to the calendar of events on your website, share the date via mailshots, and start promoting it among potential attendees.
So, as you can see… there are many factors that will determine the best date for an event. Remember to plan ahead and, above all, know your target audience. They are the ones who will make your event a reality.
Do you have any other tips that you’d like to share? Share them with us in the comments section!
The choice of date and venue go hand in hand, since one decision affects the other. Take a look at this post about the best venues in Barcelona to make your next event go with a bang: The best venues in Barcelona for a technology event.