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Conference coordinators, or meeting planners, usually are involved in every aspect of a conference, from getting the initial contracts signed to cleaning up on the final day of the event. In between there are a wide range of duties that you can expect to encounter. Since 2014, there have been considerable opportunities in the field that are expected to last at least through 2024, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a rise in employment for conference coordinators at about 10 percent.
As the coordinator, it’s your responsibility to make sure all the details needed by your clients are in writing in a contract before you begin preparing for the conference. You’ll meet with the organization’s lead for the conference to find out details such as how many are expected to attend, what meals and snacks are needed, who the target audience consists of, what the purpose of the conference is and what kind of budget restraints the client is under. Additionally, you’ll need to negotiate with vendors, facilities and other service providers and write down the total costs for the event. You’ll usually have a budget that you must work within.
Organize the Event
Once you’ve finalized all the details of where the event will take place and who will provide the services, you’ll then be responsible for organizing those details into a smooth flowing operation. You’ll have to figure out which rooms various speakers will use depending on how popular the workshop is predicted to be and how many guests are projected to purchase banquet tickets. With your client, you’ll be responsible for choosing the menu, table arrangements and entertainment and making arrangements for microphones and audiovisual needs of speakers. If attendees are staying at hotels other than where you are holding the conference, you may have to arrange transportation for them. By the time of the event, you should have created a detailed schedule and list of contacts for every service.
During the conference, you will be expected to be on call to take care of last-minute requests and ensure that vendors are where they’re supposed to be. Early on the first day, you’ll make a tour of the facility to make sure exhibit booths are set up appropriately, that the hotel is ready for the guests to arrive and that signage is adequate. You may carry a walkie-talkie or be ready on your cell phone to react instantly to client requests. In addition to watching the progress of the conference while it’s going on, your responsibility primarily will be to troubleshoot and solve problems as they arise.
An effective conference coordinator provides follow-up with the clients to find out if the event was considered successful. You’ll also need to collect payment immediately following the event and pay your vendors. Create a survey for participants to fill out before leaving the event and share the results with your client. Meet with the lead organizers from the company that held the conference for feedback. Since many conference coordinators also are involved in selling their services, it may behoove you to ask for the job of coordinating the next meeting or conference when you do this follow-up.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."