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How to organise a conference or a symposium ?

From defining the programme to hosting the event, there are several stages involved in organising a conference or a symposium. How do you choose a venue? What catering and accommodation options do you choose? Here is an overview of the main steps to be considered by a conference / symposium organiser.

Our advice for organising a successful conference or symposium



  • Choosing the type of conference or symposium
  • Choosing the room
  • Organising the extras around the event
  • Communicating about your event

Choosing the type of conference or symposium

Topic of your conference or symposium


Whether you want to promote a product or service, discuss a current event, exert influence thanks to contributions from distinguished personalities or present a solution to the press, it is important for you to think carefully about your main goal.

The term "symposium" usually refers to a meeting of specialists who intend to share and challenge each other’s opinions on a particular topic or area. It is used particularly in scientific, political and economic sectors.
The term "conference" covers broader interventions on a particular subject. 


You must decide whether your conference or symposium needs to last for a few hours, half a day, a full day or more.
A conference usually lasts for a few hours or even a day, while a symposium can take place across several days.
The size of the budget will obviously vary depending on the duration of the event.

Choosing the room

You need to consider a variety of criteria when deciding on the ideal venue for your conference or symposium: its location and accessibility, its hosting capacity, the layout and adaptability of spaces, the facilities available, etc.

The Convention Bureau team is on hand to help you choose.



Whether your conference or symposium has a few dozen or several thousand participants, you have to find a venue with suitable capacity. In Nantes and Saint-Nazaire, you’ll find ideally-sized venues for hosting all kinds of events, for up to 4,500 attendees.

Location and accessibility


It is important that the venue for your conference or symposium is well served by public transport and within easy reach of a train station and airport. Its location near to or within easy reach of the city centre would be an advantage. For a fully inclusive event, make sure your venue can be accessed by people with disabilities.

Organisation and the space


Amphitheatres for large-capacity events or more intimate rooms for events with smaller gatherings... The venue for your conference or symposium should be adaptable to your event’s various content.

Facilities and activities


Depending on your event’s agenda and profile, the on-site facilities matter : stage furniture, screens, lighting, sound system, projection equipment, translation booths ... The technical teams at your conference or symposium venue will be able to advise you.

A new event format has emerged in recent years: the hybrid event. A hybrid event takes place physically and virtually at the same time. This type of event makes it possible for your conference or symposium to go ahead irrespective of geographical constraints, time differences and travel restrictions. And once your event has finished, it can be broadcast again on replay. More and more venues are equipped to host this type of event: the Nantes and Saint-Nazaire Convention Bureau can recommend partners.

The digital running of your event has to be planned if you want to have interaction between your audience and speakers (live surveys, feedback questions, etc.).

Conférence FC Nantes

Organising the extras around the event

Holding a conference or a symposium also entails planning logistical and organisational aspects related to the event : where and what will participants eat? Where will they stay if the event runs for more than a day?

All of these extras will contribute to the success of your event.



Providing accommodation for your delegates is one of the key considerations when organising your conference or symposium. The host city must have enough hotels and guest rooms to be able to accommodate all of your delegates throughout the event. The hotels should ideally be located near the venue or have good public transport connections.



Will your event last for a few hours? For half a day? A full day? Catering is a crucial factor in the organisation of your conference or symposium.

If the conference is taking place in the morning, providing breakfast for your participants will be appreciated. For a half-day conference it is a good idea to plan a coffee break to allow your participants to breathe and ensure their concentration remains high for the second part of the conference. That also gives them a chance to have informal discussions between the scheduled talks.

If your conference or symposium runs for a whole day, several options are available to you: a sit-down meal provided by a caterer, freshly prepared meals to go, food truck, nearby restaurants, etc.

Managing your guests’ admission

Entry to your conference or symposium may be free or paid. In either case, and depending on the scale of the event, it is worth considering how to make admission easy by getting a supplier to set up an online ticket office. This also enables you to separate attendees into categories (participants, VIP, etc.).

If there are only a few dozen guests, a hardcopy list may suffice.

Communicate about your event

Whether before, during or after your conference or symposium, you’ll need to communicate about your event: sending out a save-the-date invitation to your delegates, engaging extensively with your community, announcing the conference or symposium’s hosting in the city or, after the event, going back over the highlights and key takeaways. Although you know better than anyone about the subjects relating to your event, our team will be able to lend you invaluable assistance in terms of communicating about the destination.  

Staging a sustainable event

Do you want to make sure your conference or symposium is in line with a sustainable approach?
Check out our advice for staging a sustainable event

photo sylvie mazin

Your contact

Sylvie Mazin
Business Development Manager

Organising a conference or a symposium,


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