Thinking about running your own academic conference? Tips and Questions to ask yourself.

Posted on Posted in Adding Value

Whether you are putting together your plans for a full scale residential conference, or a half day training event, it takes a lot more time and energy to plan it all than just the time taken for it to run. It is not unusual for planning and organising a big conference to take up to several months of several people’s time. Nor is it unusual for them to be busy people with all sorts of other things to attend to all through this time. That said, hosting a conference can be exhilarating and can create opportunities for colleagues, provide fantastic insight into your field, inspire research and style invaluable working relationships.

However, before taking the plunge, read our list below to help you stay on track with organising your own conference:


Ask yourself these important questions…

What are my intended conference outcomes?

Who will benefit from this conference?

How will this add value to the institution and more specifically, my field?

How will I personally benefit?

Having an answer for each of these questions can help identify if now is the right time for you to commit to running a conference. The initial thoughts of running a corporate event can be quite daunting, but there is a magnitude of support out there, particularly within our home University and its subsidiaries.


Form your objectives for the event

It is important to know what messages you hope to convey at the conference and the ultimate goal in mind. Is it all about sharing research, an annual general meeting, or a grand unveiling? Is your event a celebration or does it coincide with an important date in your field? Having clear objectives, as with anything, can lead the direction for the rest of the event.

Test out your ideas on typical intended participants. Ask colleagues, form focus groups or even just general feedback will be able to provide some insights.

“What three things would you like to get out of the conference?”

“Are there any key issues at the moment that you believe need discussing, national or international developments in the field?”

Is there already a conference in the year that addresses these issues or with similar themes? Ensuring the goal of your conference fills a niche will help you avoid competition and increase the appeal of your event.


The Content

Following on from your discussions and focus groups, is there something topical that can form the theme for your conference? Will the content of your conference be specific or broad? The length of your event can be determined by the amount of content that a successful conference will need to cover. If your content is specific it may be best to keep your conference short and sweet, likewise if you have a vast amount of material, several days may be more suitable.

Just because you may have a lot of content, it doesn’t mean that every delegate will find all of the information relevant and require the same experience as their colleagues. The advantage of parallel sessions is that you can create strands of content with sessions leading onto similar sessions within the same timeframe. A well-structured conference programme will maximise the value for all delegates while ensuring they are engaged throughout. There are a variety of templates available through ConferenceHertfordshire which can help you begin to plan your schedule.


There’s no getting round it, developing a conference requires a lot of attention, but there is support available at the University and there are ways of minimising the risk through tried and tested methods. ConferenceHertfordshire have years of experience managing events across all of the UH sites and they now offer a variety of support methods including self-registration for delegates and optional accommodation options.  If you are thinking of running your own conference here, then do get in touch as we are always available to support you through the process to help make your event become a reality.


Inspired by Essential Tips for Organizing Conferences & Events, 2003, Sally Brown, Fiona Campbell, Phil Race, Alison Robinson

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