Andres Raudjalg

Organizing conferences

A great conference requires careful consideration of each component!

Conferences are organized so that people have the opportunity to acquire new and useful knowledge. It is also a great opportunity to meet new people and cooperation partners. This is part of development and broadening of horizons.

Human nature is actually very simple – their attention needs to be constantly captivated and encouraged. Therefore, it is important to put together the conference program thoughtfully and carefully and to ensure all added values. Delicious food and drinks, if possible an exciting entertainment program, an environment that supports it, and technical solutions.

In order for the conference to be successful and memorable, it is not enough to just rent a seminar room and arrange the speakers’ program. You have to be smart and turn this so-called “boring” conference day into an anticipated event instead.

The General Assembly of the Estonian Bar Association in the Film Museum. Picture: Raul Mee

A conference room doesn’t have to be boring and minimalist, which doesn’t stand out!

More and more people are looking for ways to make the conference special. Therefore, this has led the organization of conferences to completely different environments than the usual conference room.

One-day conferences are preferably held in the city where the organization/company is located. Mostly in Tallinn, Tartu or Pärnu. For multi-day conferences, other locations are also considered. If possible, conferences are also organized on the Estonian islands and even abroad.

We organized a two-day conference in the summer of 2023 at the Tallinn Cruise Terminal. There were around 250 participants, and the hall of the Cruise Terminal was able to accommodate the guests nicely, so that there was enough space for the dining area and other activities.

Sviatoslav Otchenash permanent makeup international conference. Picture: Andres Raudjalg

There are quite a few rooms in Estonia designed for holding conferences. Their advantage is the immediate suitability of the room for conducting study days. In general, the necessary equipment is already available in large or full quantities, as well as many other elements important for a regular conference. It is also possible to make these rooms more unique and more participant-friendly according to the wishes of the company/organization.

Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel, where we organized the Esri days this year, is definitely a very suitable conference venue. You can read about the conference and see pictures here!

In addition, the Estonian Film Museum also offers good opportunities for conferences, the advantage is certainly the comfortable cinema chairs. The general meeting of the Estonian Bar Association took place in the Film Museum. Even in rooms where the arrangement of the furniture cannot be changed in particular, there are always solutions to create a different and more special atmosphere.

In addition, there are many other interesting places to hold conferences in Tallinn. For example, Lauluväljak, KUMU, Mustpeade maja, Energy Discovery Centre, Teacher’s House, Club of Different Rooms, Noblessner Foundry, PROTO discovery factory, Kai Art Center, Tallinn hotels (e.g. Hilton conference rooms and Radisson Blu/Park Inn conference center), Vabamu, Kultuurikatel, T1, Alexela concert hall , Botanical Garden, Flower Pavilion and the list goes on.

Opportunity for networking!

When organizing a conference, it is important to leave room in the program for networking. Often, many participants go to conferences with the aim of making new contacts, promoting their activities and creating opportunities for development through collaborations.

Networking is one of the main elements of corporate events, as it offers opportunities for exchanging knowledge and experience, for companies and organizations to introduce their brand and create a positive impression of their products and services. In addition, through networking, you will meet other motivating and ambitious people, which can create inspiration and motivation to achieve your goals.

However, successful networking requires a suitable environment, program and people’s interest in the whole event. One possibility is to create a separate area for networking. Direct people there and new collaborations and discussions will be born there by itself. It is also possible, for example, to organize lunch breaks in such a way that there is an opportunity for a longer conversation.

Popular post-conference celebration!

More and more people want to organize conferences that end with an evening event. It can even be called a reward – “Thank you for enduring the conference well, and this is a gift from us!”

Therefore, it is important that the evening event is the icing on the cake for the conference and is a coherent end to the study day(s). Often, the evening program is planned instead for networking and a great opportunity to communicate with people with whom the conversation was half-finished or not reached at all during the conference.

A change of environment has a good effect on the participants, and therefore it is customary, especially for multi-day conferences, to have an afterparty/celebration in a different environment. There are hundreds of different solutions, one of which, for example, is a powerful gala-style follow-up event or a pleasant afternoon with dinner.

Esri Days post-conference event. Picture: Taago Heinmaa

International conferences provide an opportunity to make our small Estonia more visible and attractive in the world. Therefore, in addition to raising the profile of an organization or company, larger conferences are also a good opportunity to promote our home country. Multi-day conferences might become one coherent story and a major event of a year or several years.

Even conferences held only among Estonians are often one of the biggest events, as they are combined with a larger celebration. Either way, afterparty or not, it’s important to make conferences an event to look forward to.

Post-conference gala at Tallinn Seaplane Harbor. Picture: Andres Raudjalg

Steps to take to organize a successful conference!

You have to think outside the box. Think about what makes ‘my’ conference unique. If possible, add an entertainment aspect and think about whether I would like to participate in this conference.

All previous work is very diverse. The theme of the conference, the number of participants, the length of the conference, the program, the speakers, the location; if necessary, accommodation, transport, budget… and when all this has been done, make the entire program, i.e. the content of the event, attention-grabbing.

 Activities important to organize a conference graphically represented

The process also includes making a risk analysis. When organizing events, a large number of risks and problems must be taken into account, most of which can be prevented. It is good to think through the financial risks associated with the organization, a comprehensive budget plan should be prepared and various financing options should be considered. Consider logistical concerns, weather, and safety and health issues. Develop security and evacuation plans and comply with local safety rules and regulations.

Listening to the speakers for hours often creates a situation where the participants lose part of the information and may lose the connection with themselves and the topics being discussed. A good way to engage people and keep their attention is through interactive activities. For example, workshops, panel discussions, group exercises or surveys. They give participants the opportunity to actively participate and communicate with other participants.

“Good work environment, good thoughts” also applies to conferences. When sitting in one environment for a long time and doing continuous mental work, it is important to ensure that the environment is conducive to all this – the necessary equipment, decorations, chairs, good accessibility.

In order for the conference to reach the right people and target groups, It’s important to pay attention to good marketing. Preparatory activities that include the promotion of the conference in various channels such as social media, emails, websites and advertisements. Another important step to think about is the sale of tickets. Find a suitable platform that would be reasonable for the customer and convenient for the guests.

One great way to start a conference is with an opening show. It does not have to be an expensive undertaking, but many exciting solutions can be found according to the budget. For example, we used Siim’s drum show as an opening show at one of the conferences. A great way to involve the audience and make a so-called icebreaker.

Siim Jõgioja’s drum show as the opening show of the conference. Picture: Taago Heinmaa

An event is only as successful as its program and everything else that goes along with it is well thought out, and every component is important and worthy of attention.

Conferences allow different fields and interest groups to come together and share their knowledge and experience. They offer a great opportunity to network and make new contacts both with professionals in your field and with potential partners.

In addition, they encourage the generation of new ideas. Meetings with different people, workshops and panel discussions encourage participants to think outside the usual boundaries and find new solutions. People remember surprises and the unexpected, so it is useful to add something to the program that creates strong positive emotions and a moment of surprise.

For many years now, one of the important elements for conferences has been hybrid solutions. This creates an opportunity for people who cannot physically participate on site to do so through a video bridge. It is not always necessary to do a live broadcast, but it is good if the discussed topics are recorded and those interested have the opportunity to review and remember what was covered at the conference.

Conferences create an opportunity for companies and organizations to promote their products, services or ideas and increase brand awareness. Therefore, it is important to do it well, in a memorable and special way!

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