First of all, you should understand the difference between a regular conference, a business meeting or a leadership summit. At conferences, the attendees are regular people who listen to what speakers have to say after a specific topic has been selected for discussion. At business meetings, the people in one or multiple companies gather together to exchange ideas and make decisions regarding an important fact. At a summit, the people who meet are either heads of companies, top executives or heads of state, thus making the even more formal than other similar ones. A summit is an exclusive event, reserved for leaders and people of major influence within an organization. It is an event of big business, of large formality.
Do you want to organize a memorable one yourself? The reasons behind this decision may vary, but the process of organizing it is the very same. You need to follow a series of strict steps in order to host a summit that’s well planned beforehand. Depending on your prearranged agenda, the reason why you organize the summit and how many people you plan to invite, the efforts and resources involved differ. This short guide should help you organize the summit efficiently.
The theme of the event
Before making any step further, you need to choose a theme for the summit. The theme has to respect the current interests and issues of the summit attendees you considered to invite. Summits must cover topics of high interest in order to have the attendees come to the event. The most popular themes for summits involve national initiatives, new state programs, modified policies, controversial cases, new legislative modifications that lead to significant differences in the way businesses are handled, cultural topics of extreme importance and so on.
One thing is certain – the theme of the event has to be related to the mutual interests of the people who are supposed to attend. Summits are only organized when the reason behind them is strong enough to stir interest among the attendees. The theme has to be sustained by strong influence people. Otherwise, it might not be interesting enough to provide the attendees the reasons to come to the summit. Moreover, the theme of the event needs to align with the state’s standards of organizing summits. Remember that the press is going to be there too.
Booking a location
You have to pick a location that’s big enough to host all the potential attendees and that’s professionally equipped and decorated. More than that, the location is required to match theme. As most people will like to spend some quality time between summit discussions, during breaks, you may want to choose a location that’s located near significant historic places and cultural heritages. At the same time, you can’t afford choosing a location that doesn’t allow using various means of transportation to get there, unless you are ensuring transportation for the participants as well. The location has to be carefully selected and eventually booked. Booking the venue should be done with at least 6 months prior the event.
Putting together the summit schedule
You should decide whether the summit is a short-issued one or a multi-day one. Depending on your choice, planning will differ. The average summit lasts around two days. To address an issue completely, four days might be required. For a short summit, day one should be dedicated to meet and set goals and presentations, while the second one is going to be focused on community interaction and conclusions. Longer summits involve cultural programs as well, many official dinners, presentations, issue-oriented programs or visits, service-learning, recommendations and many other. Depending on your available resources and the size of the summit you are organizing, the draft schedule has to contain a general image of what the summit will address during the program.
Calendar and plans
Developing a timeline for the summit is paramount. Such a grandiose event requires a lot of staff members that have to deal with different duties, deadlines for all tasks that have to be completed, respecting the laws and regulations related to organizing a summit and so on. Thus, you need to plan the available time at least one year until the event should take place. 12 months prior the event, you need to start putting together the agenda, identify people who are willing to donate for the summit, prepare grants if you’re planning to give any, select the theme and the focus of the summit and other details that have to do with the structure of the event. The number of potential attendees has to be calculated considering the purpose of the summit, the budget available, the location selected and – of course – the availability of the target audience.
Time will go by, and you’ll need to close contracts with consultants, check the cashflow and your budget to see if everything can be afforded, set up fundraisers to cover other costs, outreaching the targeted community through marketing materials, determining any other details that may influence the summit. Three months prior the event you need to focus on details such as lodging and transportation, coffee breaks or meals that are included in the program, finalizing the agenda, sending invitations, confirming the staff, the keynote speakers, any detail related to press. This is the moment when you should find a ticketing system, so that the potential attendees can confirm their place at the event.
Logistics details should be finalized one month before, as well as anything related to budgeting, sponsors or grants. The liability forms and the legal details must be in order. Media releases must be checked before publishing to see if all details are correct. Press releases should be sent to influencers both before and after the event. Once the summit took place, follow-up emails should be sent to all the participants. Receiving feedback for the summit participants should help for future reference, in case the summit went just fine and you plan to bring the same people in the same room quite soon.