If you're planning a conference for the first time, you might not realise what a big job you've undertaken. Even if it's going to be a relatively manageable event in terms of numbers on the day, or over the period of the event, there's still an awful lot of preparation to be done in advance.

You want to make the best possible impression with everyone who attends, in order to build a strong reputation which will stand you and your organisation in good stead in the future. In order to achieve this, you've got to hire great facilities, organise high-quality events, book the right speakers and ensure everyone's needs are met.

There's plenty to do before your conference guests even arrive, or you've arrived on-site to set up. There's all the legal aspects to take care of, including bookings and risk assessments, and insurance to consider. Plus you've got to finalise a timetable of events and ensure this, along with all other relevant information, is circulated to attendees well in advance.

If people are given the impression that the conference is poorly organised and being hastily arranged at the last minute, they won't come. The chances are they will attend another conference at a different time, leaving an empty seat at your event. This isn't what you want - you need bums on seats, with everyone engaging with the subject matter and taking something positive away from the conference.

As the organiser, you need to compile a comprehensive list of tasks to be completed before, during and after the conference. This will include finance and budgeting, event planning, marketing and publicity, networking and catering. You simply can't do everything on your own.

This is why it's important to surround yourself with a team of good people who can share the load. They might be employees or even volunteers; all that matters is they understand the vision for the conference and what you are trying to achieve.

It makes sense to delegate certain roles and responsibilities to people on the events committee, allowing them to focus on one or two specific areas. This helps to ensure that all the 'i's are dotted and the 't's are crossed. You don't want people to start arriving and then find there has been a major oversight.

If everything runs to plan, people will go home happy and they may well come along to the conference again next year. But you've only got one chance to make a great first impression and you can't afford to blow it.