Organising a Conference

Spectacular Events LogoI’m often asked what ‘PCO’ means when I hand out my business cards, as I guess it’s not something you see every day. Well, it stands for ‘Professional Conference Organiser’ and has been a position I’ve held with a number of organisers (as well as being their Travel Manager) for the past fifteen years.

So what does a PCO do exactly?

For those of you who attend conferences, or even have a hand in planning for staff/organisations, you would know that they are usually fantastic events – a program that runs over a few days and incorporate plenary sessions, workshops, speakers and evening social functions, sometimes team-building and trade shows/expos are involved too.

Some of the more complex conferences hold a number of off-site events and functions as part of their program, and also offer different programs for partners and/or their families and children to participate in too.

When organising the actual conference there are many things to arrange and pull together. The venue and location needs to be selected, negotiated upon and then contracted. The meeting space needs to be organised and set up correctly for each day and the same room can often change throughout the day – eg. a morning plenary session, afternoon workshops in breakout rooms, followed by a formal Gala Dinner all in the same meeting space, making timing imperative.

Speakers, bands, entertainers and presenters need to be coordinated, as well as audio visual requirements. Food and beverage, theming, gifts, merchandise, trade show booths, exhibits, registrations, name tags, brochures, agendas – the list is endless. Teambuilding exercises, golf days and day tour options are also often part of an extended conference event and all need to organised and put together to ensure everything flows and runs smoothly, with transfers to/from each venue.

On the finance side there are the budgets to plan , prepare and adhere to, processing of delegate fees, invoicing, taxes invoice/receipts, supplier payments etc. And then there is the marketing and promotion, coordination and securing of sponsors, risk analysis and coordination of the appropriate insurances and sometimes licensing.

For months leading up to and throughout the event numerous manifests are created and worked upon, a constant ‘work in progress’. People often have special needs and special dietary requests which all need to be noted and managed throughout. Registrations need to be processed, documentation sent out and name tags put together.

And usually a PCO is on call 24 hours a day throughout the event, assisting with the running of the program and also still responding to all requests and queries, which are constant. It can be quite a full on production!

As a qualified travel expert as well as conference manager, most of my events also include the associated travel arrangements for all whom are participating – flights, accommodation (often with choices depending on location, budget and suitability), transfers and other add-ons such as day tours, additional touring and travel insurance so that delegates can enjoy pre or post conference activities and options.

My company, Spectacular Events Pty Ltd, has been putting together conferences and other events since 1997, and caters for groups of up to 2000 delegates and we run events throughout Australia and also overseas. In recent years we have run events in Hawaii, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Fiji, Phuket and next month we head to Las Vegas (can’t wait!). In Australia, we put together and run events in all capital cities, regional Queensland and also regularly on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts.

It is an exciting job and one I love and have always found to be extremely rewarding. I have been lucky enough to have met a long list of fantastic people, public speakers, MCs and celebrities, as well as assisting a number of well known bands and musicians and I wouldn’t change my job for anything!

So if you/your company needs assistance with planning your next conference or event, feel free to give me a call, as we’d love to assist and offer a quote.

And if I ever give you one of my business cards, you now know exactly what I do as a PCO, and I love every minute!


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