An agenda, really? Can’t we just wing it and have a good time?

Not a chance. The success of your conference, whether you’re measuring it by guest experience, ticket sales, or deals made on the floor, depends on the development of a detailed road map. The more comprehensive your agenda gets, the better your event is for everyone.

Here are the five steps we use when building a client’s agenda.

Knowing your goals is half the battle

You know at a high level what you want your event to achieve. But you may not know how important it is to drive every planning decision, from Keynote to cocktails, back to those goals. Telling us what you want your guests to experience is a good start. Did the lectures inspire and inform them? Were the networking sessions a gold mine? Will they feel closer to coworkers after your team-building exercises?

Next, think about your key stakeholders and sponsors. Figure out what’s important to them and what they hope to achieve by participating in your conference. In short, your goals will be tied to your guests’ and sponsors’ goals. You are going to want what they want. And once you figure out what they want, well, good news, you’re ready to start outlining your agenda.

Allow enough time between events 

With your goals outlined, you can block out sessions, but remember to give your attendees plenty of time between events. This is especially critical if you have off-site venues that require traveling. Think about it in terms of making a connecting flight. Your guests may be anxious about attending the next session before the current one is over. If that happens, they won’t get the most out of the opportunities you provided. And with no time to catch their breath, use the restroom, check emails, make a call, or chat with fellow guests, the hustle and bustle of your event will be too overwhelming to enjoy. Buffer room is essential.

Downtime is a must-have

In addition to providing buffer room between events, consider which events are truly necessary. Overpacking a schedule burns everyone out — guests, staff, sponsors, and you too. Consider scrapping a few events and filling those spaces with creative downtime. Examples include casual networking mixers, wellness events, trivia games, and even taking a tour bus ride so guests can connect with your host city. Just remember to tie your creative downtime events back to the goals that you established before outlining this part of the agenda.

Leave them wanting more

After you decide an event or speaker is too important to drop, you still want to think about how long each segment should last. We always recommend limiting sessions because people’s attention spans are shorter these days and the last thing you want to hear is someone muttering under their breath, “I wasn’t sure if that would ever end.” Instead, you want to see them hungry for more, lining up to connect with the speaker and comparing notes with fellow attendees. You want to have to kick people out of the room so it can be prepped for the next speaker.

Be ready for last-minute hiccups

Being flexible isn’t just for that yoga downtime session you’re scheduling. Last-minute switcheroos are common, and odds are you’ll have to shuffle a few events around shortly before the doors open to your conference. It happens. It’s fine. One of the best parts about building in downtime and buffer time is the added flexibility you have. So don’t be afraid when you need to make a few changes. There are, however, two important exceptions to this rule. It’s going to confuse your guests if signage is already made, so try to make those changes before signage goes up. Also, be careful about shifting major events. Many of your guests might have booked their travel schedule around that one speaker or ceremony.

Don’t do it by yourself

If you feel overwhelmed with scheduling or you’re still unsure how to determine and interpret your goals, reach out to the Coterie Spark team. Believe it or not, we love creating agendas. And we love seeing you and your guests enjoy the fruit of our labor.