To ensure that your event runs smoothly, you need to make sure you invite the right people and that they have all the information and support they need.

This section offers guidance on what you will need to do for each group of participants before the event and on the day.


Choosing speakers

Choose speakers carefully to ensure the programme flows well. In many cases, you will want to consider the mix and balance of speakers, by gender and topic of discussion.

If an event is being designed around a key speaker or the availability of a Minister, agree the date with them from the outset. Where a Minister has been invited to speak, always have a back-up speaker ready in case they need to pull out at the last minute.

Select speakers for their experience in the chosen area and also for their ability to give a professional performance. They should be familiar with audio visual equipment, including PowerPoint, Prezi or other presentation packages, and should be told what other speakers will be talking about.

Booking speakers

Contact potential speakers by telephone, and send follow-up information outlining the topic you would like them to speak on by email or in writing.

Once speakers have confirmed, you should send them a speaker's requirements form to fill in.

Keynote speakers may need to be handled sensitively, with a personal approach by the programme/centre director.

On the day

In general, key speakers should be given no more than 45 minutes to speak, with a 10-15 minute question and answer session built in at the end.

Alternatively, two or three speakers talking on a similar topic could be invited to give shorter 25-30 minute presentations one after each other, with a longer question and answer panel taking place at the end. This format is popular when questions are likely to be directed at more than one speaker or where it is believed that one speaker may not generate enough questions on their own.

Also consider whether you want speakers to use their own PowerPoint template or whether you would like them to use one specifically created for the event. If you want them to use your template, the slides should include the programme's branding and ESRC logo.

Keep in regular contact with your speakers and the chair. Make sure you run through the final programme with them and give them a copy of the guest list for the day.


A good chair is vital to ensure the event flows well on the day and that the programme keeps to time. The chair will often ask the first question after each presentation.

You should provide the chair with a written brief about the event including:

  • Time and place of the event
  • Purpose of the event – what it is aiming to achieve
  • Biographical details about each of the speakers and bullet point information about their talk
  • List of the delegates attending so that they know how to 'pitch' their remarks
  • A copy of the event timetable
  • Potential questions for the chair to ask after each presentation
  • General housekeeping information to remind the audience about: turning off mobile phones, explaining where the fire exits and toilets are, reminding speakers to keep to time and asking delegates to fill in the evaluation form at the end of the day
  • Contact information – including mobile numbers for the conference organiser in case of emergencies on the day.


  • Provide delegates with key information in advance of the event. You will also need to supply them with delegate packs and name badges when they arrive at the event.
  • Delegates may have forgotten which workshop sessions they have booked themselves on to, so pin up an alphabetical list to notice boards on the day and provide one within delegate packs.
  • A large print sign on the registration desk should make it clear that large print delegate packs are available on request.
  • A member of staff should remain on the registration desk throughout the day to accommodate any late arrivals, while another member of staff should show them to their seat.


Consider which media you want to attract to the event (if any). Does it warrant national TV, press and radio coverage or are you aiming for publicity in the specialist or regional press?

Once you have decided, you should inform special correspondents or journalists you have a relationship with or, if the story is particularly newsworthy, alert the forward planning desks of the national media. If you think the story may work better as a feature, rather than a news item, you should also try newspaper features editors or specialist TV and radio programmes.

If you require publicity for your event, details should be sent to the key media well in advance including:

  • A copy of the programme
  • Speakers' biographies
  • An explanation of what the key speakers will be talking about (including what makes this newsworthy)
  • A copy of the delegates' pack
  • Contact details for more information.

Guest list

However small your event, you will need to keep proper records of the guest list.

Develop a database in Excel, Access or Word format so that your list can be easily manipulated and used for name badges and mail merged documents. You should:

  • Develop a list containing 'groups' of people you wish to invite (for example grouped by their subject area or by their profession)
  • Send out around 2,000 invitations if you want 250 people to attend. Rather than sending them all at once, prioritise who you want to involve by sending out invitations in waves. Those lower on the list need only be asked if the priority delegates cannot attend.
  • Monitor replies that come in and chase up people who don’t respond. This is very time-consuming and you should ensure you have enough staff available to handle this.
  • Use your database to create a final list of delegates for the delegates' packs and the name badges.