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Madison ShepherdApr 23, 2024 2:32:59 PM12 min read

Best Practices for Planning Your International Conference

Planning your next conference abroad?

You’re not alone. Nearly half of respondents to the Northstar/Cvent PULSE Survey (46%), intend to produce cross-border events in 2024. Of those, 55% have plans for Europe, 43% for the Caribbean, and 37% each for Mexico and Canada.

We’ve helped plan several international conferences in exciting locations such as Cabo, Bali, and Barcelona. Through years of experience, our team has gathered valuable insights to share as you begin your conference planning journey. 

Short Summary

Here are the key steps and best practices to consider when planning your international conference:

  • Step 1: Understand Your Objectives
  • Step 2: Decide Your Budget
  • Step 3: Select Your Location 
  • Step 4: Choose Venues, Accommodation, and Suppliers
  • Step 5: Coordinate Logistics and Risk Management
  • Step 6: Develop a Program Agenda
  • Step 7: Invite Speakers and Presenters
  • Step 8: Leverage Marketing and Promotion

group of attendees celebrating at an international conference

Step 1: Understand Your Objectives

First, it's crucial to establish your goals and objectives for your conference. 

Are you aiming to educate, create networking opportunities, or showcase new products/services? Understanding these goals will help shape your entire planning process.

Additionally, think about the reasons behind hosting your conference internationally. 

Are you seeking to enter international markets, cater to the location of your target audience, or leverage existing industry events? For example, aligning your international conference with a significant industry event could be beneficial.

We have helped our clients strategically align their international conferences with large industry events such as the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona. By leveraging the presence of attendees at these gatherings, you can increase engagement and enhance your own conference.

Hosting your conference internationally offers many advantages, but it's important to clarify your objectives first to maximize your event's impact with these questions: 

  • What do you want your attendees to remember from your conference?
  • What are the overarching goals and objectives of the conference?
  • What unique value does your conference offer compared to existing events?
  • What target audience is the conference designed to serve?
  • Does your event add value to attendees?

event manager planning a conference budget with two other executives

Step 2: Decide Your Budget

Next, you need to decide your budget cap and outline your conference parameters (how many people, how many days, how many sessions). 

For a successful event, it’s important to maintain an organized budget. We recommend utilizing a conference budget template to help get you started. 

Evaluate the overall cost of hosting your event internationally, including venue rental fees, accommodation rates, transportation costs, and other expenses, to ensure every piece fits into your budget.

How Much Should You Budget For an International Conference?

The cost of hosting a conference internationally can vary greatly based on factors such as size and location. Generally, facilities might be cheaper than in the U.S., but you will need to factor in the cost to get your attendees to those locations, the extra fees you might pay, and any third parties you might be required to work with.

We recommend building out an allocation for your budget that considers all factors of the event so you can compare different locations and make the most informed decision.

We typically advise our clients to allocate between $750 and $2,500 per person for their international conference, depending on its scale and complexity. 

To learn more about how to allocate your conference budget, check out our conference budgeting article here. 

view of the iconic conference hotel in singapore

Step 3: Select Your Conference Location

When choosing the location for your international conference, there are several key factors to consider. We suggest carefully evaluating attendee preferences, travel, exchange rates, safety, and the overall appeal of your destination. It's also important to be mindful of cultural nuances that may impact the success of your conference.

Here are some additional considerations to weigh as you select your conference location: 

1. Attendee Preferences

Consider the demographics and preferences of your attendees. Choose a location that aligns with their interests, cultural backgrounds, and travel preferences. 

2. Accessibility and Travel Restrictions

Evaluate the accessibility of the destination in terms of transportation options, such as direct flights, ease of visa processes, and proximity to major airports or transportation hubs. Where are your customers, partners, and employees currently located? How easy is it for them to get to the conference destination?

3. Exchange Rates

Take into account the impact of exchange rates and currency fluctuations when choosing your event location. Do you have purchasing power in the destination you are considering? 

Keep in mind that if you are budgeting in dollars while your contracts are in euros or other foreign currencies, this introduces another budgeting variable.

4. Destination Appeal

Select a destination that offers unique attractions, experiences, and amenities to captivate your attendees. Have they visited this location before? Are they eager to explore it?

Consider the allure of the location, as attendees may be less inclined to attend an optional event if it’s in a city that doesn’t appeal to them. 

5. Cultural Considerations

It's important to be mindful of the unique challenges that come with organizing an event in a different country. Whether it's time zone differences or language barriers, are you prepared to overcome these hurdles? 

For example, in August, some countries like Spain and France observe extended vacation periods, resulting in the temporary closure of restaurants and shops throughout the month.

Additionally, be aware of international holidays, as certain countries have limited operating hours on Sundays or during major festivities.

Consider the optimal travel days for your attendees as well. Some regions discourage travel on Sundays or during peak holiday times, so it's wise to plan accordingly.

6. Safety and Security

Prioritize the safety and security of your attendees by considering the political stability, crime rates, and healthcare facilities of the destination. Avoid destinations that are deemed Level 4 (do not travel) and even Level 3 (reconsider travel) by the U.S. Department of State

decorated table at an international conference venue

Step 4: Choose Venues, Accommodation, and Suppliers

Now that you’ve outlined your goals, determined your budget, and picked a location, it’s time to choose your conference venue, accommodations, and suppliers. 


Your venue is one of the most important decisions you’ll make and helps set the tone for your entire conference. Consider the impression you want to make on your attendees as they enter the venue on the first day of the conference.

When selecting a venue for your international conference, it's important to consider the differences in hotel ratings between Europe and the U.S., as well as the variations in event space sizes and layouts. European venues often offer smaller spaces with unique layouts compared to their American counterparts.

This is why conducting a venue site visit is especially important, even if your conference may be international. This step ensures that the selected venue aligns with your event’s goals and fulfills all your requirements in terms of space and scope (and because photos on a website don’t always tell the whole story).

Here are 10 strategies for optimizing venue sourcing for your next corporate event. 


What types of hotels and accommodations are offered in your destination? How do these hotels measure up in terms of quality?

Is there a contingency plan in place for situations like overflow? When the number of attendees exceeds the capacity of the venue, the situation can quickly escalate into logistical challenges if you’re not prepared.

If one hotel gets fully booked, are there other accommodations for attendees nearby? It’s always a good idea to have backups and assess the availability of other hotels in the area. 

Supplier Availability

Next, assess the availability of suppliers in your international event location. Make sure you have easy access to reputable and experienced vendors who can meet your event needs.

For example, if you're hosting a conference in Tokyo, Japan, make sure you have reliable contacts for A/V rental, catering services, and transportation arrangements in the country. This is a great way to leverage your U.S.-based event management company, as they will likely have a network of international contacts that can provide recommendations or assistance.

Additionally, consider time zone differences and establish clear communication channels with your vendors to address any urgent needs that may come up outside of regular working hours.

group of attendees watching a presentation outside during an international conference

Step 5: Coordinate Logistics and Risk Management

Planning conferences involves lots of logistics and moving parts, especially on an international scale. Factors such as travel, time zones, and language barriers must be carefully considered.

Here are some key examples of logistics that require thorough planning abroad:

Attendee Registration Management 

Are language barriers present? If so, consider offering your registration website or platform in multiple languages to accommodate all your attendees. 

Additionally, when attendees register, it's common for them to provide their names in various formats, such as first name, last name, or middle name. Ensure to ask for specific information, especially when booking travel.

Also, ask attendees to provide their preferred name for their badge display, considering cultural nuances where individuals may go by their middle name or a variation of their name.

Ground Transportation

What is ground transportation like in the location of your conference?

When organizing an international event, it’s important to evaluate the transportation options and overall infrastructure in the area. Attendees will likely not have access to a car, so it’s important they feel safe and confident navigating the city throughout the conference.

Consider how close (or far) the airport or the train station is from your venue. You don’t want your attendees struggling to find taxis or rideshare services, or in a place without decent public transportation. If transportation is a concern, we recommend organizing transportation services for your guests. This will help ease any concerns about traveling to and from their designated locations.

Risk Mitigation

Do you have a risk mitigation plan in place?

When organizing an event with travel involved, it's important to know if your company has any travel restrictions. An ACTE survey found that 40% of companies limit the number of executives on the same flight to three or four (SHRM). 

Some companies set restrictions for safety reasons, while others focus on spreading out passengers to reduce the risks of flight incidents. This approach guarantees ongoing leadership and operations, drawing lessons learned from unfortunate cases like In-N-Out Burger where two executives died in the same plane crash.

group of attendees watching a presentation at an international conference

Step 6: Develop a Program Agenda

When crafting the agenda for your international event, many factors come into play, including time adjustments, cultural sensitivities, language barriers, and the diverse preferences of attendees.

Time Adjustment

When planning your international event program, it's important to consider the time it takes for attendees to reach the destination and adjust to the new time zone. 

Attendees might need an extra day or two to recover from jet lag, as extended travel can impact their energy levels and engagement. For example, if attendees are flying from the U.S. to your conference in London, expecting them to be fully alert and ready to participate the next day may not be realistic. 

Incorporating breaks into your agenda gives attendees the chance to acclimate to the new time zone and make the most of their participation. 

Consider Cultural Implications

When putting together your program agenda, take into account the cultural nuances and work habits of your attendees. 

For instance, in Spain, eating dinner before 10 pm is unusual, as lunch is their main meal of the day. Spaniards typically have a 'split shift', working from 9 am to 7:30 pm, with a long lunch break in between. Attendees from diverse backgrounds have varying expectations, routines, and preferences, which all contribute to the attendee experience.

Also, assess your attendees' expectations; are they willing to spend three or four days away from their office and families? Maybe condensing the agenda into two days is better for your participants. 

When planning your agenda, the goal is to deliver course content effectively while keeping attendees engaged and focused.

Infuse Cultural Elements Throughout the Event

Try incorporating the local culture into your conference experience through things like F&B offerings, entertainment, or event speakers. 

Embracing the cultural traditions of the host country while being mindful of the varying preferences of attendees is key. For instance, some guests may enjoy beans and rice for breakfast, while others may prefer pastries and juices. Recognizing and accommodating these diverse preferences will create a more inclusive event atmosphere.

Discover 6 conference agenda templates to improve engagement and event success. 

group of attendees watching a panel interview at an international conference

Step 7: Invite Speakers and Presenters

Are there any speakers or experts you're considering who are local to the conference area?

If not, when bringing in speakers from the U.S. or other distant locations, it's important to budget for business-class travel and any additional VIP requirements.

Additionally, it's important to consider potential language barriers, especially if attendees and speakers come from various linguistic backgrounds.

Think about incorporating simultaneous translation services into your conference if multiple languages are spoken among attendees. Utilizing AI technology for language translation can create an inclusive conference experience and enhance communication among attendees from different regions. 

Learn how to find the best conference keynote speaker for your event. 

traditional spanish dance in mallorca

Step 8: Leverage Marketing and Promotion

Marketing plays a significant role in drawing the right audience to your conference. An effective marketing strategy can help you reach attendees who are passionate about your event’s content and networking opportunities. 

When organizing an international conference, it's important to ensure that your promotions connect with your target audience. You may need to translate your marketing communications into different languages, depending on what specific regions you are targeting for conference promotions. 

Make the most of the rich cultural history of the conference location by incorporating it into your marketing strategy. For instance, offering activities that allow attendees to experience the local culture, like hosting your reception in the Gaudi halls in Barcelona, can help attract participants. 

For more ways to learn how to make your marketing and event efforts count, check out our Event Branding 101 article. 

Plan Your Next International Conference with GoGather

When you choose our full-service conference management, not only do you gain access to our team of event planning experts, but you also receive:

  • Long-term partnership no matter what country you host your event
  • A deep understanding of your business and your conference that can help you grow year-over-year
  • Access to the best vendors worldwide
  • Greater visibility into every line item on your budget
  • No sneaking in hidden fees via a cost-plus model

Learn more about our conference event planning services and how we can partner with you to create an unforgettable event experience.

plan your next conference with GoGather


Madison Shepherd

Madison Shepherd is a Marketing Specialist at GoGather. When she's not writing blogs or sending out social media posts, she enjoys hiking, traveling, or reading at one of the many beautiful beaches in San Diego.