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Planning an SME conference

19 Mar 18 By: Lene McGuinness

Venue and logistics

The most important decision to make when planning a conference, at any scale, is where you are going to hold it. As well as thinking about the capacity and the location, your choice of venue will often also determine your catering, audio/visual and furniture hire costs. This is because many venues will require you to use their in-house services for any on-site events, which may affect the cost considerably.

If your venue does allow outside services, you need to start thinking about sourcing big equipment such as hiring conference furniture and sound systems, but you also need to think about the smaller details that can make or break your event, such as internet access, access to plug sockets and food and drink facilities.

Supplies and special equipment

Once you’ve booked your venue you can start setting up a concise event schedule, including talks, workshops and networking opportunities. Though it can be tempting to cram your event full of helpful sessions, pacing is crucial when organising a conference – so make sure that you allow plenty of time for toilet and coffee breaks, and give networking opportunities so your attendees can discuss what they have learned with each other.

Once you have your schedule in place, you will need to contact any speakers to find out what equipment they will need. It might be worth sourcing a technician to be on-hand on the day for the inevitable computer and projector glitches – and don’t forget to budget for expenses such as travel costs for speakers, gifts for volunteers, notepads, and pens.

Conference furniture and food

The final element to organising a conference is to establish exactly how your attendees will navigate the event and coordinate all of the details to ensure that the day runs as smoothly as possible. Firstly, you need to think about the general layout of each room and what will be needed.

Making sure there is enough room for everyone to sit down, for example, is crucial for keeping your attendees comfortable and happy, so you may need to hire conference chairs to accommodate your guest list. Our Samsonite range of conference chairs, for example, are perfect for pop up functions or events that require a collapsible seating solution.

Next, you need to think about whether your speakers will require tables to hold their laptops, notes or any other equipment. Will you need to hire tables for your vendors if they’re planning to bring any branded gifts for guests? What facilities are available to make hot drinks and, if necessary, food – and will you need to hire glasses, cutlery or china?

If you are planning a drinks reception or serving food, will your guests require a lounge area with more comfortable furniture to relax and network around? And if you’re hoping for guests to network in a more relaxed environment, is it worth creating a bar area, with LED tables and bar units? In order to answer all of these questions and give yourself a better idea of what you will need, walk through the event itinerary as if you were a guest, from registration until the moment they leave.

 For more information about any of our conference equipment for hire, or if you need advice on quantities for your event, give us a call on 020 8574 9600 (London) or 023 8065 2316 (South Coast), or alternatively you can email us on