Our Battle-Tested Guide on How to Organize a Symposium
Symposiums offer opportunities for meaningful discussions, learning from experts, and building networks. The discussions can lead to changes in policies, practices, and perspectives. So how do you host a symposium that will leave a lasting impression on the participants?
But after years of helping organizers plan and execute symposiums, we’ve realized that there are a few steps that can make organizing the event simpler and more successful.
So, in this Superevent guide, we’ll walk you through the process we recommend to organizers for planning and executing a successful symposium—from planning to execution.
Let’s get started.
What Is a Symposium?
Symposiums are events where experts in a particular field or topic come together to discuss an idea, debate a point, or make collective decisions. It’s a forum for learning and dialogue that can lead to real-world change.
If you’re organizing a symposium, there’s a lot to consider, including:
- Venue and format
- Marketing and outreach
- Budget and sponsorships
- Follow-up activities
You need to start the planning process with a clear idea of what needs to be done and the right tools to execute the event.
At Superevent, we offer organizers an all-in-one tool for doing just that. From content management to attendee engagement, Superevent offers you the features you need to make your symposium a success.
Just ask event organizers at leading foundations, like:
- The European Association for Cancer Research
- The International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG)
- The Diabetes Federation
Examples of Symposiums
San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium
SABCS is a prestigious international scientific symposium that brings together basic scientists and clinicians to exchange knowledge and advancements in breast cancer research.
It is the largest event of its kind, attracting around 10,000 participants from all over the world. The symposium aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer while promoting equitable access to quality healthcare services for all patients.
Adobe Summit 2024
The event is scheduled for 15-16 May 2024 in London and virtually. The event will feature prominent industry speakers sharing their insights on digital experiences.
Participants can choose from over 100 in-person sessions across ten tracks to expand their knowledge and network with peers.
International Symposium on Food Safety and Control
This event addresses various food safety and quality challenges, including pandemics, food-borne diseases, conflicts, and climate change.
It emphasizes integrating nuclear techniques into food control systems to enhance food safety and control. The symposium brings together experts and stakeholders to discuss cutting-edge research, future directions, and collaboration opportunities for improving the resilience of the food supply chain.
Why Organize a Symposium?
Feedback and Knowledge Dissemination
Organizing a symposium provides an excellent platform for knowledge dissemination and receiving feedback.
For instance, a climate change research group might organize a symposium to present their latest findings. This allows them to share their work with a broader audience, including other researchers, policymakers, and the public.
Symposiums offer numerous networking opportunities. They bring together professionals from various fields, fostering collaboration and partnerships.
For example, an architect might meet a city planner or an environmental scientist at a symposium on sustainable urban development. These connections could lead to collaborative projects in the future, benefiting all parties involved.
Improve Your Presentation and Communication Skills
Organizing and participating in a symposium can significantly improve your presentation and communication skills.
For example, a Ph.D. student presenting their research at a symposium will have the opportunity to practice explaining complex ideas clearly and engagingly. This experience can be invaluable for their future career, whether in academia or industry.
How to Organize a Symposium
Step 1: Choose a Topic
The first step in organizing a symposium is to choose a topic.
The topic sets the tone for the event and is crucial in attracting the right audience. It should be something that the organizers are knowledgeable about, passionate about, and that the audience is interested in.
We can’t offer much specific guidance here—but we recommend starting with high-level trends and developments that will likely be influential going forward.
Step 2: Choose a Name
The name of your symposium should be catchy and reflect the discussion topic. It should attract the right audience and give them an idea of what to expect. Selecting the right name for your symposium is a crucial step in planning. The name you choose serves as the initial point of contact with potential attendees and sets the tone for the entire event.
Here’s why the choice of a symposium name is so important and how to make it effective:
- Catchy and easy to remember
- Reflects the core theme or topic
- Attracts the right audience
- Sets clear expectations
- Avoids ambiguity
Most organizers take a literal approach (e.g., “San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium”)—while it might not be the most creative, it limits miscommunications and focuses on what’s important.
Step 3: Draw up a Budget
A detailed budget is essential for the successful organization of a symposium. This should include all potential costs, such as:
- Speaker fees
Symposium costs will vary based on size, and very few guidelines exist.
That said, Human Made has provided a helpful breakdown of their costs for a 300-person in-person developer conference. They spent $85,505 to cover everything from venue hire to swag. Don’t let that high price tag scare you, though—hosting virtual events is usually much cheaper.
Step 4: Decide on Symposium Speakers
Identify and invite speakers who are experts in the topic of your symposium. They will be the main attraction of your event, so choose wisely.
You can take a few routes here—each with pros and cons.
One common approach is to spring for a well-known headliner. This individual will drum up interest as the star of the show and will likely charge more than other speakers, leaving you with fewer resources for the remaining speakers.
On the other hand, you could also opt to invite multiple smaller-scale speakers without a single headliner. This approach allows for a greater variety of topics and perspectives discussed during your symposium and can help keep costs down.
Step 5: Pick a Date
Choose a date that’s convenient for your target audience and works for all (or at least most) of the speakers who have responded saying they’d be interested. Consider public holidays and other events that might clash with your symposium, too.
Step 6: Choose Your Tools
Modern events require modern solutions. Consider using an event platform to manage the entire symposium to give attendees the seamless, rewarding experience they’re after.
uperevent is an all-in-one event management platform that lets symposium organizers create intuitive web and mobile apps for their events. The apps you create are fully customizable thanks to simple settings and an intuitive content management system.
Plus, there are tons of event-enhancing features to leverage, including:
- Q&As, polls, and voting
- Breakout rooms
- Attendee information (floor plans, personal agendas, and more)
- Live streaming options
- Sponsor pages
Step 7: Search for Sponsors
Sponsors can help cover the costs of your symposium. They provide funds in exchange for something of value, often through increased brand exposure, access to attendee data, speaking opportunities at the event, or discounted event tickets. Identify potential sponsors interested in your event and approach them with a proposal.
Superevent makes it easy to thank your sponsors with a dedicated page on your event app. Attendees can click on a sponsor to learn more about them, get to their website, and see what content they’ve shared.
Step 8: Delegate Duties To Organizers & Volunteers
Delegating duties among your organizers or volunteers is crucial as it helps to plan, track, and control tasks, ensuring that the event remains organized and efficient. It also helps to identify potential cost savings and prioritize tasks based on their importance to the event’s success.
Step 9: Promote the Symposium
Promotion is key to attracting attendees and ensuring the success of the event. Use various channels such as social media, email newsletters, and press releases to promote your symposium. The more people know about your event, the better.
Step 10: Design a Program Agenda
Finally, design a program agenda that outlines the schedule of events during the symposium. This will help attendees plan their time effectively. A well-crafted conference agenda can enhance attendee engagement, ensure efficient time management, and provide a streamlined conference experience.
With Superevent, attendees can create their own personal agendas based on the speakers and topics you’ve scheduled. They’ll get notifications and reminders for the events they’ve added to their personal agenda so that nothing is forgotten.
Best Practices for Organizing a Symposium
Assemble Your A-team
Assembling a team for your symposium is vital. Your team is the backbone of your symposium. Assemble a team of dedicated individuals passionate about your symposium’s purpose. Divide responsibilities clearly among team members to ensure smooth execution.
Your core team will likely include:
- Planning team: Conference venue, accommodation, activities, catering. Administration team: Budgeting, attendee registration, ticket sales. This team/person will also be the main point of contact for questions related to the conference.
- Marketing team: Contacting the media, creating promotional material, managing your website, blog, and social media activities.
- Sponsorship team: Securing sponsors, applying for grants, and fundraising.
- Volunteers: Helping with all on-site activities on the day of the conference: door management, ticket scanning, keeping track of the guest list, manning the wardrobe, guiding people, etc.
Find Ways to Engage Your Audience
Finding ways to engage your audience is key to a successful symposium. Use interactive sessions, Q&A sessions, and networking opportunities to keep your audience engaged. You could also use gamification techniques to make the experience fun and engaging.
Leverage Data to Determine the Symposium’s Success
Leveraging data to determine the success of your symposium is essential. This could include participant feedback, number of attendees, engagement levels, etc. Use this data to identify areas of improvement for future events.
Whether virtual or in-person, organizing a symposium demands careful planning and adherence to best practices. Choosing the right software, setting a clear purpose, and defining a compelling theme are the building blocks of a successful event.
At Superevent, we arm event organizers with all the tools they need to plan events, engage with attendees, and create a successful symposium. Create cross-platform apps that delight attendees and treat yourself to time-saving event management features.
Create a free account and start planning your event.