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How To Plan An Artist Conference

One of the best ways to network and connect with your peers is by holding a conference or workshop where you can invite leading experts to speak on topics they are passionate about. Every industry has such events because it's a powerful way of gathering all the key people in one room to share ideas and form a common goal.

Organizations such as Art Educators and Americans for the Arts do a great job of aggregating such events. However, with the art industry being so vast, very often creatives can find it difficult to find the type of event that truly serves their needs. If you have experienced difficulty identifying an event that meets your needs, then maybe this could be an opportunity for you to plan your own.

Planning an artists conference can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also a lot of hard work. A good team is imperative. A keen sense for organization will also prove invaluable. Each conference will have its own particular circumstances, but some basic components are always present. Many of the steps in planning a conference must be done simultaneously.

Determine the Conference’s Purpose
The conference should fulfill a need for the writing community. The more focused a conference’s goals are, the easier it is to determine the potential audience as well as the best publicity for it. The conference goals could include teaching art theory, providing insight into the publishing industry, and introducing artists to contacts in the in Art community among other things. The conference’s purpose will influence the choice of speakers, the types of activities planned, the venue(s), and the budget. Determining the conference’s goals will guide the rest of the planning.

Create a Budget
Once a purpose is determined, a budget is essential to determine the conference’s financial feasibility. The budget helps keep everyone on track and focused. It determines the overall expenses and the amount the registration fee must be to cover those expenses and leave enough seed money to start planning the next conference provided the conference will continue. If it’s a onetime event, then covering expenses will be adequate. A cushion must be built into the budget to account for unexpected expenses such as a change in the price of airplane tickets. The budget affects every aspect of the planning and the planning always affects the budget.

Secure a Venue
Picking the right venue could be quite challenging, but it can also make or break the success of your event. The conference could take place in hotel conference rooms, a convention center, or some other venue with the appropriate sized rooms for rent. Touring the venue provides a feel of the space and the ease of working with the person. The contact person should be able to answer any questions related to the specific details of what the conference requires from the venue. Notes should be taken, so that promises don’t get forgotten. As part of securing venues, arrangements need to be made with a bookseller to sell speakers’ books during the conference. Once the best venue for the event has been found, secure it with a contract that is fair to both sides.

Acquire Speakers
Speakers who can provide information that fits the goal of the conference make the best speakers. That may mean turning away speakers you’d love to have. If handled properly, the speaker will be willing to participate when their presentation better fits the conference. Potential speakers may be asked “by invitation only”, to submit a proposal for consideration. Or, you can contact a speakers bureau who can help you find the best person who fits your objective.

Most artists’ conferences like to have agents in attendance, and that requires an invitation even if artists who are speaking are required to submit a proposal. If you are looking to hire some business speakers for your event, keep in mind that they often plan speaking engagements months in advance, so allow ample time to acquire speakers.

Create the Program Schedule
The initial scheduling decision will be how many tracks to offer. Each panel and workshop will require its own room. The venue needs to offer enough rooms to hold the event and the budget needs to support the cost for the necessary number of rooms. The day needs to be divided into equal time slots to offer the workshops and/or panels. Meal times and breaks need to be determined during the process of creating the program. The schedule affects the number of speakers who can participate and the number of speakers in turn can affect the day’s schedule.

Publicize the Conference
A conference is only effective if it has both speakers and attendees, so publicity is ongoing. Publicize to find presenters who will provide the information to meet the conference’s goals. Publicize to let potential attendees know what to expect from the conference in order to entice them to register.

A website with details about the conference, a description of what to expect, information about the speakers, and a way to register is a must. Press releases need to be sent to local and regional media as well as to online distributors. Brochures and other publicity materials are important to pass out to potential attendees. Publicity begins from the moment a conference enters planning and continues through the conference.

These are the broad strokes for planning a conference. There are a lot of details involved in the process. Many will be unique to the particular conference. Even in an ongoing conference, variables will appear each year. It’s important to remain professional and organized throughout the planning as well as to know when to stand firm and when to be flexible. Planning a conference provides terrific opportunities for those involved.

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