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Event experience | 12 March 2018

12 Tips for Building a Conference Agenda

Stephen Kim

As an event organizer, how do you build the perfect agenda? Read these tips on how to build a conference agenda that aligns with your event goals while keeping attendees engaged.  

Where is the next session being held? Who’s leading this workshop? Which sessions will be most helpful to me? These are just a handful of the questions that are racing through an attendee’s mind during an event. The key to creating an enjoyable event experience without overwhelming attendees is to organize event content in an intuitive and digestible way. For this reason, creating a quality conference agenda is essential.

The conference agenda is the backbone of the event content. Making sure all event information is discoverable, consumable, and relevant is what makes an event agenda stand out from the rest. Keep in mind that a strong conference agenda is just as important for organizers as it is for attendees. An agenda provides a way for organizers to accurately measure event engagement, seek attendee feedback, and offer sponsorship opportunities.

The following tips are meant to assist in creating a conference agenda from beginning to end.  These best practices can be applied in various use cases to ensure a quality event agenda.

1) Conduct pre-event surveys

Before diving into the structure of the agenda, organizers must know what type of content attendees want to learn. Once the overarching theme have been finalized, the topic must then be divided into pieces of digestible content. A good way to gauge the type of sessions that will be most popular is to directly ask for attendees’ opinions. This can be done by including survey questions within the event registration form such as:

  • What do you hope to takeaway from this conference?
  • What types of sessions will be most valuable to you?
  • How do you hope to increase your knowledge regarding this topic?

Questions like these will help in crafting the event content as well as knowing the types of speakers that will be most helpful to attendees. These questions can also be asked through email marketing campaigns prior to the event or through the event app. Polling in general is always a good way to understand the attendee perspective to help inform big decisions. 

2) Sync the agenda with the event app

Once the content within the conference agenda has been established, figuring out how to make this information accessible to attendees is the next important step. Before the digital age, agendas were mostly distributed in paper form. Now with the rise of the event app, organizers are able to upload all event sessions and content in the app for attendees to access before, during, and after the event.

Hosting the conference agenda within the event app makes for a smoother experience as the app will also include other aspects of the event that are related to the agenda such as networking with other attendees, viewing a list of speakers, and accessing a list of sponsors. The smoother the sync between your app and agenda, the better the overall event experience will be.

3) Organize sessions by tracks

A common challenge that arises when trying to organize event content is figuring out a way for all information to be easily searchable. If your event has over a hundred sessions, navigating the entire schedule can be overwhelming.

To avoid this, organize sessions by tracks. A track is an umbrella topic under which multiple sessions can be found. For example, if you are hosting a social media conference, one track you may want is video marketing. This track will include all sessions focused on video and attendees could search accordingly. This makes for a much more intuitive agenda experience.

Conference Agenda showing video marketing as a trackSource: Social Media Marketing World 2018

4) Create multiple agenda views

Just as people differ in the ways that they learn new information, people also differ in how they prefer to view information. An agenda should have multiple viewing options for this reason, especially if there are many different sessions to choose from. Examples of how to organize agenda viewing options is by room number, speaker, time, and track. The types of view you choose should align with the overall conference structure as well as the venue. 

5) Give attendees the ability to add sessions directly to calendar

In some instances, attendees will prefer to have the conference agenda be directly embedded to their personal calendars. This allows attendees to see each session within the context of their own schedules, making the event experience more personally relevant. A seamless attendee experience is always a key factor for event success and being able to quickly add sessions to a personal calendar makes for an intuitive experience.

6) Facilitate attendee engagement within the agenda

A conference agenda provides minimal value to the attendee if it simply serves as a digital version of the day’s schedule. To maximize its value, the agenda should be as interactive as possible. Make sure that each session can be liked and rated which allows the organizer to collect valuable information to draw actionable insights. Making an interactive event agenda allows attendees to be more engaged throughout the conference while also offering important data that organizers can then use to inform future decisions.

Rating a session within the conference agendaAn example of a session rating within the event agenda

7) Allow attendees to take polls within the agenda

Staying in line with the previous point, a specific way to encourage engagement is by serving live polls within the agenda. This helps you as the organizer capture valuable feedback in real time and allows you to share it directly with your speakers. Polls within the agenda can help to improve not only future events but the event that is currently being held. Real time analysis of sessions is an important way to check the pulse of your event and will help you to make certain changes to the schedule if deemed necessary.

8) Offer exposure to sponsors

Event organizers are always thinking of creative ways to provide value to their sponsors. Because the event agenda is constantly being viewed and engaged with throughout the conference, it serves as ideal real estate for sponsors to showcase their brands and offerings. Solutions such as sponsored sessions and sponsored polls are great ways for companies to get directly in front of the attendees. Having an agenda that is able to provide proper exposure on behalf of your partners is a key leveraging point when securing event sponsorship.

An example of a sponsored session within the conference agendaSponsored session within the Bizzabo event app

Interested in learning more about event sponsorship? Click below the grab the Event Sponsorship Guide:

9) Make the agenda social media-friendly

In order to increase interest in the event, make the agenda shareable on social media prior to the event date. In addition to your other marketing strategies, making the agenda viewable and shareable on social media will allow the event content to speak for itself and possibly persuade more people to register for the event. In most cases, an agenda doesn’t need to be a secret. The more social media friendly the agenda is, the more likely it will serve as additional marketing collateral for your event.

10) Capture agenda analytics to share with relevant stakeholders

While providing opportunities for attendees to engage with the agenda is important, those actions mean very little if they are unable to be measured. Be sure to build a conference agenda in which all engagement is able to be captured and reviewed after the event. For instance, Bizzabo’s analytics dashboard will provide an accurate overview of event agenda performance.

These metrics will be of interest to key stakeholders such as sponsors and senior leadership because stats like these shed light on the overall event ROI. Being able to prove event ROI is necessary to attract more sponsors for future events as well as to persuade managers with decision-making power to continue to invest in live events.

11) Maintain an on-brand aesthetic

The conference agenda is not solely a means of transferring information; it is an extension of the event brand. When attendees view the agenda, they should be able to immediately associate it with your particular conference. Having a customizable editor that offers a wide range of fonts, colors, and other design details will be necessary to create an agenda that is as on-brand as possible. Treating the conference agenda as an extension of your event brand will further solidify the uniqueness of your event due to the consistent aesthetic across all attendee-facing touch-points.

12) Build the agenda within an all-in-one platform

Many of the tips mentioned on this list, such as agenda analytics and syncing with the event app, require that the agenda builder be housed within an all-in-one event management software. Most event platforms will have a native agenda builder but it is important to be fully aware of its capabilities and to discern whether these functionalities align with your goals for the conference agenda.

For example, if post-event analytics is a priority, make sure that engagement is able to be measured from the backend. Stand-alone agenda builders could not provide as much value as those housed within an all-in-one platform so doing your due diligence when researching event software is crucial in ensuring a strong conference agenda.

For more on purchasing the right event management software, click below to gain access to the Event Software Buyer’s Guide.

Wrapping Up

A successful onsite event experience is dependent on how attendees are able to search, navigate, and consume the event content. That is why putting in the extra time and effort into creating an agenda that accurately reflects the event brand, content, and vision will pay off not only during the event but well after it is over. Utilize these tips to build the perfect agenda for your event!