Planning4 Min Read

How to Build a Conference Agenda Attendees Will Love

As event planners know all too well, the conference agenda can make or break any event. A lousy agenda leaves attendees with buyer’s remorse, and you can be sure they won’t come back. But when the agenda shines—amazing speakers, excellent programming, and seamless execution—it turns your event into an experience where attendees feel inspired and excited to return.

You want to create that experience.

Conference Agenda Design: Tips for Event Planners

Think of your agenda as the playbook for your event. It sets the schedule, showcases the speakers, and previews the programming. Regardless if you’re a seasoned event planner or just getting started, consider the following tips as you design your conference agenda.

Designing event Agenda Programming

When planning a conference agenda, the programming should match the topic, look, and feel of your event, but also offer some surprises. An agenda for a health-focused event will vary widely from a leadership conference for CEOs, just make sure you have your audience in mind as you craft the agenda.

event agenda with tracks

You’ll want to segment your agenda by tracks (especially if you’re planning a large event) so attendees can curate their individual agendas. Your agenda—whether digital or print—should display those tracks in a way that’s easily digestible. Color coding by track is a common solution.

If you’re planning a marketing conference, tracks could include:

  • Social media marketing
  • Viral marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Video marketing

Also, regardless of your event topic, don’t forget to make your agenda fun. Have you noticed how many events feature comedians and celebrities? That’s no accident. Sure, a comedian may not be appropriate for a keynote address, but it could work for the emcee.

Choosing Event Speakers 

conference speaker

Having an exciting speaker panel is key for building pre-event buzz, and it’s also a main driver in boosting event registration. Choosing which speakers to include in your conference agenda shouldn’t be taken lightly, so make sure to budget plenty of time—the more the better.

Your conference will likely draw a diverse mix of race, gender, and nationalities, so make sure the speakers you choose reflect that diversity. There’s nothing worse than appearing tone-deaf because a speaker or moderator isn’t a good fit for an event.

 If you’re just getting started, study the industry and determine who are the:

  • Rockstars
  • Thought leaders
  • Disruptors
  • Underdogs

Your attendees want to be wowed, and leave your event feeling enlightened and inspired, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

For recurring events, take advantage of post-event surveys to ask attendees who’d they like to see at future events. You can also ask what they thought about previous speakers to gauge how you’ve done in the past.

Of course, your event budget will ultimately influence your decision. Celebrities and well-established thought leaders will command a higher price tag. These are all things to consider as you plan your event agenda.

Consider Logistics When Planning Your Conference Agenda

Event logistics should be top of mind while you’re planning a conference agenda. Attendees need ample time to move between sessions, use the restroom, or grab a quick coffee. Make sure to bake in time for those activities.

You’ll want to consider things like room size, the availability and location of restrooms, handicap accessibility and whether the venue is multi-level. Once you’ve selected your event space, walk the grounds and time how long it takes to move between key locations. That should help you accurately budget how much time to reserve for transitions.

You also want to think about IT needs, too. If your agenda is packed full of multimedia presentations, it’s important that the venue can support them. Confirm there’s an adequate number of video screens, projectors, and other IT equipment to support your programming. 

If you’ll be using video screens to promote upcoming sessions and conference news, consider event technology like Live Display, which allows you to sync and publish content across all screens at once.

Mix Up the Conference Agenda Flow

Like most events, you’ll have keynotes, break-out sessions, and Q&As, but you should also think strategically how you can change up the rest of the event. Sitting for hours on end gets boring, and so will your event without out some variety.

group yoga as part of conference agenda

Include activities that get attendees on their feet and promote exercise, such as:

  • A scavenger hunt to drive attendees to sponsor booths
  • Group meditation
  • Exercise classes
  • Food demos
  • Live music

Remember: you want your event to be an immersive experience, so think of ways to entice all the senses.

Make Life Easier: Invest in an Event App

Now that you’ve learned tips for designing a conference agenda, you should consider how an event app can take your agenda to the next level. When you consider that more than 80% of event planners utilize event apps, and a majority of attendees use event apps primarily for session information, it’s a solution that offers wide utility.

An app compiles all of your event info into a single location, making it easy to access on the go. You can upload your agenda using Excel, and attendees can build their own itineraries based on conference tracks, or topics they find interesting. Remember, attendees have different expectations for your event, so allowing them to choose their own adventure makes the experience highly personable.

socio event app

Using an event app also means you can ditch the paper agenda and potentially save thousands on printing costs. Ever had a speaker cancel or a room change after you’ve printed your agenda? Those days are long gone when you use an event app. If your agenda changes or you need to send a last-minute reminder, you can notify attendees directly from the app via a push notification.

When choosing an app, it’s important to understand the difference between a basic conference agenda app (for agendas only) and a fully customizable event app. An event app offers several additional features beyond agenda building, including full brand customization, meaning you can upload brand colors, logos, and images. Attendees can use the app to connect with others, view venue maps and city guides, respond to surveys, and participate in challenges—all from the palm of their hand.

Mike LaFollette
Mike LaFollette
Event Evangelist. Master Gardener. Dad to an enormous Alaskan Malamute! Connect with Mike on Twitter or LinkedIn.