In your own business, you’re likely used to coming across a variety of titles and knowing what they mean. Whether that’s a CEO vs. CFO, or a supervisor vs. manager – your industry has its own variations of terms and definitions. It’s the same over here! At Auaha, we notice that people tend to stumble a bit over how to differentiate between an event manager vs. conference organiser.

That makes sense, as the two roles have a lot of commonalities.

Who do you need to hire?

During your day-to-day operations, not knowing how to distinguish between the two probably doesn’t impact you much! When it comes time to hire, however, it’s really nice to know what you need and who you want to work with.

Having this understanding ensures that you’re able to make the decision that’s best for your bottom line. (And allows you to explain the decision of event manager vs. conference organiser to your own supervisor or planning committee as well!)

Before we dive into the specific titles, let’s quickly get ourselves clear on how to distinguish between events and conferences in the first place.

Event or conference? 

“Event” is an umbrella term that encompasses any sort of organised gathering of people. This includes weddings, concerts, sports, conferences, and more. If you can picture an organised gathering of people, you can label it an “event” and be spot on.

“Conference”, on the other hand, is a very specific type of event, usually targeted towards people with shared interests in business, politics, or academics. Conferences typically have keynote speakers and may include workshops, and attract a like-minded crowd interested in learning and networking.

With that in mind … how many of you would feel that an event manager and a conference organiser are essentially the same thing?

Even if they both complete many of the same duties during the course of their time working with you, they actually have different job descriptions and responsibilities. Read on to find out who you need to hire for your next event or conference!

Event Manager

  • Mapping an event from start to finish (may create an event blueprint)
  • Create completion timeline
  • Assign roles and manage staff
  • Generally oversee the entire event process and execution 
  • Book the event location
  • Coordinate vendors 
  • Establish a plan for event parking
  • Provide emergency plans 
  • Design contingency plans
  • Ensure health and safety standards are met
  • Overall event monitor
  • Moderating event issues throughout the planning and implementation

Event Manager Summary

An event manager is quite skilled at seeing the big picture. They’re able to help you consider the logistics of a large, organised gathering, and they’ll oversee the event’s overall execution. They’ve seen a lot, so they’re usually quite good at troubleshooting and resolving issues.

Because the term “event” encompasses such a wide array of possibilities, you may want to ask a potential event manager to share about the sorts of events they’ve managed in the past. You may find they’ve specialised towards a certain industry or type of event that is very different than anything you’d be putting together.

Conference Organiser

  • Master plan for entire conference
  • Conference objectives and general logistics
  • Coordinate regarding overall plan and connect with planning committee
  • Establish timeline for all event related tasks
  • Coordinate with speakers and other entertainment
  • Implement registration type, method, price, details
  • Arrange for vendors and other suppliers
  • Coordinate with hotels, flight/vehicle transportation needs
  • Handle other logistical concerns
  • Implement up-to-date conference management software and other auto-mation tools
  • Assist with building a website or utilising an app for the conference
  • Craft invitations
  • Update delegates, speakers, and vendors with relevant details
  • Assist with printed materials (booklets, programs, worksheets, etc)

Conference Organiser Summary

As you can see, conference organisers are still looking big picture, but they’re also dialed in to the nitty gritty details. Because conference organisers work specifically with professional conferences, they’re most suitable for someone planning an actual business event.

Whether you’re an old pro at professional events, or if you’re just getting started, a conference organiser can help you understand industry norms. They’ll assist you in creating a professional conference that impresses your delegates, speakers, and even vendors.

So…who do you need to hire?

To me, it’s simple. An event manager and conference organiser can do a lot of the same things in terms of event conception and implementation. A conference organiser, however, focuses their time and skills specifically on business events, such as conventions and conferences of a corporate or academic nature. An event manager tends to tackle other gathering types, like sporting events, cultural festivals, and community concerts.

Planning an annual employee appreciation event for your staff? An event manager will likely have great ideas!

Preparing for a keynote speaker who will address up-to-the-minute business trends? You’ll find a conference organiser will know just what to do.

Essential traits for either an event manager or conference organiser

No matter which type of professional is a better fit for your needs, we’d like to suggest that they should all share some basic traits in common.

These include having:

  • A great attitude & exceptional communication skills
  • Strong decision making abilities
  • Attention to details & highly organised
  • Solid time management skills
  • Tech savvy skill & up-to-date knowledge on current trends

What’s your event manager vs. conference organiser take away?

Do you need an event manager or a conference organiser? Now that you know the difference, we’d love to know how we can we help you plan your next event or conference! (We have amazing staff skilled in all kinds of events AND conferences!)

We’ve recently had the honor of working on the Wellington and Auckland Women in Public Sector Summits. These professional conferences provided as an opportunity to flex all of our conference organiser skills and implement the latest industry trends and standards.

In addition, August’s Public Sector Conference in Wellington was also a phenomenal event (if we do say so ourselves). It built on its success from previous conferences while continuing to expand and grow.

No matter what you have going on, together we’ll create an event that connects, empowers & influences.