ABPCO’s association director Heather Lishman looks at the challenges faced by in-house conference organisers, and the importance of understanding these.
The life of an in-house Professional Conference Organiser can be tough, but it’s a role relished by many within the ABPCO family. We’ve been taking a look at some of the key challenges that they face.
Perception and the purse strings
The majority of ABPCO members arrange conferences for not-for-profit and charity organisations, and as such need to constantly balance producing a professional and engaging conference whilst under pressure to justify every pound being spent. It can be challenging for them to justify some expenditure, but important for them to make the ‘powers that be’ aware that the conference increases exposure and income for the organisation and as such is often the ‘shop window’ for the world to see the work that is undertaken.
Back to the future
Professional conference organisers need to plan well in advance to secure venues for the dates and numbers that they need. We all know of association conferences that are booked into 2020 and beyond, however; business planning and budgeting within organisations is often only for the current year, which makes the signing of advance contracts difficult.
Some delegates expect association and charity conferences to be charged at lower rates than commercial conferences; however, this is usually not possible. The costs are the same as for commercial counter-parts, so discounted delegate charges would potentially lead to a loss for the event and could jeopardise the sustainability of the organisation long-term.
Trust in your PCO
It is important that conference organisers are recognised as professionals in their own right, and that they are not simply perceived as administrators or logistics personnel. ABPCO is working hard to ensure that conference organisers are recognised for the role that their members play in ensuring engagement and knowledge sharing across the organisations that they are associated with.
Timely knowledge gathering
Getting sufficient information in a timely fashion from the relevant people to shape how a conference may look and work is one of the biggest challenges facing an in-house conference planner. Working with external committees and stakeholders can be a tough balancing act. It’s important to remember that an in-house PCO’s main goal is to create a successful event, even if that does mean that they can’t make everyone happy all the time.
Understanding the challenges that an in-house conference organiser faces daily will help you to realise the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, however, one thing is for sure, they are passionate about their roles no matter the challenges they face.