Understanding the events industry: What is a conference?

4 mins

Conferences can be cornerstone events for both entire industries, associations or organizations.

They provide an annual, bi-yearly or quarterly opportunity to gather, learn and network.

In this article, we explore:

  • How attendees benefit from conferences including networking and education
  • How to plan a conference, including venue selection and choosing the right speakers

Conferences usually take place over several days and offer a place for like-minded people or industry professionals to learn, connect and grow. Keynotes, workshops, panels and product showcases can all play a vital role in creating a successful conference.

What are the benefits of attending a conference? 

From education to networking, here are three reasons why people attend a conference:

1. Conference attendees can enhance their knowledge and understanding

Conferences are the best way for attendees to level up their knowledge and learn more about their sector, job role, etc. Conference attendees can upskill and immerse themselves in new concepts and trends.

Participants can gain a wealth of new knowledge at conferences such as:

  • Emerging trends
  • Best practices
  • Innovative strategies
  • New ways of working

If you're planning a conference or an event with a learning component, these different education formats can transform your conference and deliver something for everyone :

  • Workshops
  • Panel discussions
  • Keynote sessions
Large audience at a conference

2. Conferences allow your attendees network like pros

Conferences offer one of the best opportunities to gather changemakers and industry peers all under one roof, giving your attendees the best chance to connect with peers, mentors, and potential partners. Networking at conferences provides the opportunity for engaging and transformative conversations—opening doors and expanding horizons. Your attendees can discover novel approaches and new ways of working.

Having regular breaks in the program can prompt natural and unstructured networking, while structured networking sessions programmed into the conference can facilitate meaningful interactions.

3. At a conference you can explore new products, services and cutting-edge solutions

Showcases at conferences puts cutting-edge technologies and services in front of your attendees. They can unveil solutions that streamline processes and enhance efficiency leaving your attendees with more than just knowledge and contacts.

Planning a conference… How do you do it?

Now you know the why of attending a conference, how do you plan a conference?

Here’s what you need to consider:

  • The purpose of the event must be clear

When planning a conference make sure you first define the event’s purpose. Is it educational, networking-focused, or a blend? What do you want your attendees to gain from your conference? Once the purpose is clear, you can align content, speakers, and activities accordingly.

Roundtable education session
  • Understand your attendee’s needs

Understanding your target audience is paramount—are they marketers or working in logistics? Are they junior or senior management? What industry are they in? They’ll all have different priorities and reasons to attend. Your program should be tailored to diverse interests and expertise levels. By curating your education program you'll ensure your attendees get the most out of the conference.

  • Choose your conference venue carefully

Make sure you consider the venue's size, accessibility needs, capacity and technological infrastructure. This will ensure your attendees feel safe, comfortable and considered.

  • Curate your education thoughtfully

Having a range of session topics as well as formats can help your attendees learn in the ways they want to. Make sure to craft a balanced agenda with keynotes, panels and workshops. Always ask yourself if the education is relevant, engaging and offers practical advice.

  • Plan your conference meticulously

Logistics matter. Create a detailed timeline for your event. Make sure you’ve considered every angle and any potential issue to ensure your conference runs smoothly. Have you considered accommodation, transportation and catering for your attendees? These important details will make sure your conference runs smoothly.

  • Make space for sustainability and inclusivity at your conference

Creating sustainable events is paramount to securing the future of the events industry. Embrace eco-friendly practices. Encourage your attendees to bring reusable water bottles or provide low-carbon catering. You can also help to minimize waste and choose sustainable suppliers by working closely with your venue. Always ask your venue what practices they already have in place. 

Discover how IMEX is creating sustainable events.

Audience of rasied hands at an education session

It’s important that your attendees feel like they belong at your events. Consider a diverse range of speakers as well as accessibility needs. This will foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity at your conference.

As an event planner, it’s important to remember conferences aren’t just events. They can be catalysts for growth, innovation, and community building. Conferences can create a sense of belonging and inspire your attendees. They can discover new solutions to their pain points, meet their peers and grow their careers.

If you want to level up your events knowledge, join us at IMEX and choose from over 150 education sessions!

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About the author

Charley Murfitt is IMEX's Content Producer. She is a proud advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and the circular economy.

Charley Murfitt

Content Producer