Here’s Exactly How to Plan a Profitable Black Social Work Conference

Here’s Exactly How to Plan a Profitable Black Social Work Conference

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Ultimate Planning a Conference Guide: Organizing a Successful Black Social Work Conference

Hey there! Welcome to your go-to guide for planning an amazing Black Social Work conference. Whether you’re new to organizing events or just super passionate about making a difference, This Ultimate Planning A Conference Guide will walk you through step by step how to plan, organize, and even profit from your next Black Social Work conference. This guide is designed to be your comprehensive roadmap for coordinating a profitable Black Social Work conference that not only meets its objectives but also leaves a lasting impression on attendees. Get ready to turn your vision into a reality because I’m here to help you every step of the way!

Why Plan a Black Social Work Conference?

Organizing a conference for Black Social Workers isn’t just about getting people together—it’s a chance to do something really important for the culture. It’s about bringing an idea to life that you believe is beneficial and helpful for specific communities. A conference extends your reach and impact far beyond the 4 walls of your office or cubicle. It positions you as  an expert in the the field and increases your ability to to provide learning dialogue and education around the issues that impact the community the most.

If you have a seed of an idea, I’ll help you figure out what you want to achieve and show you how to make it happen. In this guide, I’ll break down each part of my 3-part planning process, pre-planning, implementation and debriefing, giving you easy-to-follow steps and helpful resources and tools. From coming up with a compelling theme to making sure everything runs smoothly, I’ve got you covered!  You can download my free Planning a Conference Checklist, which breaks down all the tasks of the conference planning on two easy to follow sheets.. This will REALLY help you  stay on track.

Ultimate Planning a Conference Guide: Organizing a Successful Black Social Work Conference


Planning A Conference Timeline 

90% of the work that you do in planning a conference for Black Social Workers is preparation. The other 10% is successfully executing on all of your planning from this phase of the 3 step process. Creating a schedule that helps you keep track of what needs to happen and when, is a crucial first step in planning your Black Social Work conference. When planning your conference timeline keep these 8 tips in mind:

  1. Start with the Big Day:

First things first, mark down the date of your conference on a BIG calendar. This is the most important day, so everything else will revolve around it.

I love planning on a BIG Calendar where I can see all the dates and scheduled tasks. If you are a paper planner like me, here is a calendar that I highly recommend. You can take it anywhere with you, and it folds down smaller than a 8.5×11 size paper to easily fit in your bag. If you are the digital planning type, I recommend trying out Motion. The motion app helps you plan your days, schedule your committee meetings and can help you house your checklists.

Work Backwards and Reverse Engineer:

Now, imagine you’re walking backward from the big day. What needs to happen just before the conference? Maybe it’s setting up the venue, making sure speakers are confirmed, and finalizing the program. You want to determine which tasks need to be completed 2 months or two weeks in advance.

  1. Break It Down:

Take those big tasks and break them into smaller, manageable steps. For example, “Set up venue” might include finding tables and chairs, setting up booths, and making sure there’s enough space for everyone.

  1. Assign Dates:

Now, give each of those smaller tasks a specific date. Be realistic about how much time each task will take. Some things might need more time, like booking a venue, while others can be done closer to the event.

  1. Stay Flexible

Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned, and that’s okay! Having a timeline helps you see if you’re on track or if you need to adjust your plans.

  1. Review and Adjust:

Regularly check your timeline to make sure you’re hitting your deadlines. If something comes up or takes longer than expected, adjust your schedule accordingly.

  1. Include Buffer Time:

It’s always a good idea to have some extra time built in, just in case things take longer than you think. This way, you won’t feel rushed or stressed.

  1. The Debrief:

Don’t forget to plan for the post-event tasks and what needs to happen after the conference, like sending out thank-you notes, collecting feedback, and wrapping up any loose ends. We’ll get more into this in Part 3 of this 3 part process!



Keeping Great Records

What I do when planning for a conferences is to keep a binder that has all of my important meeting notes, documents and invoices. You can also use a Dropbox folder. But, I like to have a copy of everything on hand when I travel to different venues or meetings. Here’s what to keep in your binder:

  • Hotel reservations
  • Speaker confirmation, accommodations and hotel reservations
  • A copy of the marketing collateral
  • Table layout for the venue

Here are binders I recommend. I really love using binder pockets and these binders for Staples. They have the reinforced plastic binding to keep them from breaking or falling apart:







If you like pretty planning supplies, I love these Target binders 

Determining Ticket Cost and Attendee count

This is one of the most important parts of planning a profitable black social worker event. You want to price your ticket in a way that drives sales and also encourages as many members of your group to attend. The price should reflect the value of the information that attendees will receive along with your overall expenses for the event. The goal of the event is to make a profit, not simply to break even. Here are a few things to consider when determining the cost to attend:

  • Are you offering VIP access?
  • What is the cost of the venue?
  • How will your sponsorship contributions offset the total costs?
  • How notable and influential is your keynote speaker or panel guests?

Your attendee count will be determined by your venue size. Your attendee count directly impacts the planning logistics of your event such as seating arrangements, catering and the flow of activities. It’s important to strike the right balance between the capacity of your venue and attendee count so that your event is enjoyable and not overcrowded and stuffy.

You can determine multiple ways to sell tickets to the conference

  • You can sell group tickets to agencies and organizations at a discounted rate
  • Sell individual tickets to members
  • Create a discounted ticket price for students or members of your association
  • Create an early bird ticket price to reward registrants who register early

Event Registration for you Conference  

Because you are seeking to make a profit we have already determined that this is a paid event. You want to decide when the registration period will start and when it will close. You will need a platform to capture personal details for your attendees. Eventbrite or a personal landing page on a website could be a good option for registrations. You can share the registration link to your social media pages once you are ready to promote.

On Facebook you can create a link to the registration page in your post and you can also change your link in your IG or Tiktok bio for the promotional period of the conference and have attendees link directly to a webpage. On IG, I recommend building a conference landing page and then, creating a profile through Linktree or CampSite.Bio and having the link you add there, go straight to your registration page. I’m currently using CampSite.Bio for IG. What I like about CampSite.Bio is that when you sign up for the pro account, you and the person you refer both get a $10 credit applied to your account.

If you decide to brand the conference name and create a personalized landing page or website, it would be a good idea to purchase the conference domain name. You can get a domain name for cheap using Godaddy or Namecheap. For example, you could purchase the domain (I made up this domain and as of this post, the name is not taken by the way! You could snag it on Namecheap now, lol) and build a registration page for your conference attendees to register. With GoDaddy you can create the landing page within the platform.

Early bird registration

This is where you can give perks and incentives when attendees register early. This could be a discounted price for the conference that will increase after a designated date.

Collecting Payments

If you use Eventbrite to create your event, it will track your registrations and collect payments for you. This platform is super easy to use for event registration tracking. If you use the landing page option with Godaddy, you will need to connect a payment processor to your page such as Paypal or Stripe.

Booking Hotel Reservations for Attendees

If you have attendees coming from multiple states, you will need to book hotel reservations. You will want to contact the hotel of your choice and request to “book a block of rooms” for your conference. You will get a reservation code or confirmation code. When attendees make their reservations or arrive for the event, they will give the confirmation code to the hotel and know that those rooms are specifically booked for your event. You can have the reservation code be the specific name of your event.

Defining Your Conference Objectives and Theme

Now that you have planned through some logistics, you want to identify the purpose and goals of your Black Social Work conference. Defining your conference objectives is like setting the compass for your entire event. It provides a clear sense of purpose and helps align all aspects of planning, from selecting your speakers, to break out topics for conference presenters.  These objectives serve as a guiding star, ensuring that your attendees are getting exactly what they paid for.

How to to set conference objective

  • Begin by pinpointing a trending or hot button topic in your Social Work niche. What is controversial, what is everyone talking about? What are people asking questions about or wanting clarity around?
  • You could also use the conference to raise awareness around a topic, to foster collaboration, or share critical changes in the profession
  • Consider your target audience. Understanding the needs and interests of your intended audience is key. Think about how you can be at the forefront of providing insight, dialogue or information around a specific topic or change happening within the Social Work profession.

The overall goal is to tailor your objectives to address your future attendees specific interests or concerns so that the conference content resonates with them. This not only enhances attendee engagement, but also amplifies the impact of your event.

Picking a theme that everyone can get excited about

Once you have outlined your objectives you want to choose a theme that embodies the spirit and purpose of your Black Social Work conference. The theme should resonate with your attendee, setting the tone for the entire event. Keep in mind that the chosen theme should seamlessly align with the conference objectives you’ve, set reinforcing the conference’s overall purpose.

Getting Your Team Together

Establishing a Conference Planning Committee is another important decision you will need to make. It is important to choose a dedicated planning committee to help you out, because with all of the moving parts, you will not be able to pull off a professional and well organized conference on your own. The committee will be volunteers who will help you successfully execute the event. Make sure you are clear with your committee on the time commitment that is required. It is a good idea to select committee members who have some level of influence in the community or within the Social Work profession. This will help you when seeking sponsorships, as your committee members may have a connection or relationship with a sponsor to make the ask of support a lot easier.

Here are 4 best practices when setting up your committees:

  1. Set regular recurring meetings at the same date, time and place. You can always taper off these meetings the closer it gets to the event
  2. Establish clear deliverables so committee members know what is expected in their role
  3. Establish subcommittees to break up the work and keep from overloading a few dedicated volunteers. You will serve as the committee chair. Here are a few committees to consider:
    1. Registration Committee
    2. Selection Committee: Presenter and Keynote
    3. Food, Venue + Clean up Committee
    4. Sponsorship Committee
    5. Budget and Finance Committee
    6. Marketing and Media Committee
  4. Acknowledge and thank your committee members properly and regularly. This includes in the planning meetings and on the day of the conference.

Because you committee members will be doing the bulk of the work, you want to praise them regularly and show how much you appreciate their commitment. I love these gold ballpoint pens to give to committee members. To me, they help set the tone for a level of excellence and attention to detail that matches the effort you want them to put into organizing the conference. By providing each committee member with a REALLY NICE affordable pen, you’re not only expressing your gratitude for their hard work and dedication to the purpose, but also equipping them with a tool that reflects the high standards you are aiming to achieve.

Creating your Visual Brand

Before you do any marketing outreach or promotion, you want to create solid branding for the conference. This includes creating an on brand logo (this can be a text logo or an image), choosing a consistent color scheme and most importantly establishing key messaging that resonates with other Black Social Workers. A cohesive brand identity will not only make your conference more recognizable, but it conveys a sense of professionalism, organization and credibility that ultimately draws more interest and engagement from potential attendees.

You can either identify a graphic designer off of a platform like Fiverr,  or if you have good design skills you can create your conference marketing collateral in Canva. Fiverr is great because you can select from graphic designer from all skill levels, receive your order back with a fairly quick turn around and pay as much or as little as your budget allows.

Canva is a free drag and drop design platform that allows you to create flyers, save the date graphics, social media posts and sponsorship letters. If you decide to go the graphic designer route using Fiverr, they will be responsible for creating the overall visual look and feel for your event.

Selecting the Ideal Venue and Dates

Deciding when the conference will take place

An important factor to consider when planning a successful Black Social Work Conference is selecting a date and time. To prevent scheduling conflicts, it is essential to do extensive research on current events happening in the social work community. Avoiding dates that coincide with other conferences or highly anticipated events, guarantees that participants will fully engage in the conference workshops, professional growth and networking opportunities offered. Equally important is avoiding a close overlap to major holidays or special occasions, as this could significantly diminish the turn out to your conference due to conflicting commitments. Not unless a holiday theme is what you are going for. You want to intentionally select a date or dates that align with the availability and interest of your attendees.

Choosing a location for your conference

Once you have decided on the date and time for your event, you want to find a venue space that can accommodate your conference. Think about how many attendees you plan to have and how long the conference will last. Will your conference be held for one day or will it span over 3-5 days.

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a venue:

  • How many people can the space comfortably hold?
  • Do you want to intentionally support a Black owned business?
  • Do they have rooms to accommodate break out sessions?
  • Is the venue wheelchair accessible
  • Do they provide a podium?
  • What audiovisual support do they offer based on your needs?
  • Will this be indoor or outdoor. Do they provide tents?
  • Are linens included with the rental?
  • What is the expectation for food set up and catering?
  • What is the walkability of the space?
  • How many restrooms are there and where are they located?
  • Is there coat storage
  • What is the expectation for heating and cooling the space?
  • What is their policy on alcohol?
  • Do they offer Wifi?
  • Is there ample parking?
  • What does the rental fee include (chairs, tables, linen)?

Calculating the Rental fee

When calculating the rental fees, make sure you account for not only the actual time of the conference. But also the set up and break down. Breakdown is the time it will take to remove items from the space, to break down the tables and decorations, to sweep. Clean the kitchen and to have the venue back in the condition in which it was before your conference. So for example if you plan a one day conference from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, that is a 6 hour event. You want to add an additional hour for set up as well as an additional hour for breakdown.

Rental fee

This would mean that you would book the venue for 8 hours. Some venues may include the cost of setup and breakdown in the overall cost of the venue rental fee, where you don’t have to worry about doing this yourself. Make sure you check with the venue to determine if this is something that they offer. I recommend always having a separate calculator with you as you will need your phone available to field calls or questions related to the conference. Also when you are in the thick of planning, you will be surprised how easy it is to discover that your phone died and you need to recharge!

You want to determine the amount of time you need to coordinate a well planned conference where you are not rushing to get things done. If your budget can handle it, it’s better to give yourself more time and overestimate than to hope that you can get things done quickly and underestimate the time needed for preparation. If your timing is off on this, you may end up paying the venue for the extra time anyway, so make sure you allot enough time from the beginning.

Organizing the Banquet Layout 

After looking at different spaces and determining your needs, you want to consider how you will layout the space for your banquet or dinner.

  1. Tables and Linens

You want to get a copy of the seating layout from the venue so you can create a seating chart and determine if there will be VIP seating for your attendees and sponsors. You will also want to determine if there will be assigned seating or open seating. Depending on the size of the space, it may be best to have either rectangle or round tables. This will also determine the size linens you will need for the space. You want to determine if there will also be sponsored tables. If the tables are sponsored you want to get table placement cards to identify where each sponsor will sit at your event. You can organize tables to have committee members toward the front and open or assigned seating toward the back.

  1. Chairs

Depending on the venue it is not likely that you will need to rent tables, chairs, linens or tents. If you do need to rent chairs or linens you can check with your local party rental business for rates. When I worked in higher Ed, we did have to order linens for our events, because those item were not kept on-hand at the college.  Ideally you would want to have your conference at a venue that provides all of this so you don’t have to worry about set up or tearing down after the event. Here are a few online options if you do need to purchase chairs for your conference. 

Engaging Speakers and Presenters 

Requesting Conference Requests for Proposals (RFP)

Your speaker lineup is often the draw of the conference. Social Workers will pay money and book flights to be in connection with someone they admire, like or would love to meet. You want to make sure there’s a good mix of different perspectives and levels of expertise in your speaker line up.

RFPs serve as a formal invitation to potential presenters, inviting them to submit their proposal for workshops, presentations, and panel discussions. You want to clearly articulate the conference’s theme, objectives and desired topics in the RFP. This helps to attract quality submissions for your conference.

Your RFP should provide and request comprehensive information from your potential presenters. The 4 steps to the PFP process are invitation, submission, selection and notification. Once the RFP has been issued and submissions have been received, the selection committee should carefully review each proposal based on the predetermined evaluation criteria. After thorough consideration, chosen presenters should be notified of their acceptance. I plan to create a separate post on each step of the RFP process. 

After this point, further logistical details can be communicated to the presenter to ensure a seamless integration of their session into the conference program.

Booking your Keynote Speaker

You want to identify influential keynote speakers and panelists within the Black Social Work community. To ensure the availability of a sought-after speaker, it’s important to initiate the booking process 6 months to a year in advance. If you decide you don’t want to have one keynote speaker, you can also have a panel of speakers. This requires a lot more planning and coordination to ensure that all of the participants can be in attendance on the same date.

When booking your keynote speaker here are a few factors to consider:

  1. Speaker rates and fees
  2. Specific speaker accommodations
  3. Back of the room sales split
  4. Airfare and ground transportation. In addition to the speaker fees, airfare and hotel accommodations will be your biggest cost when booking your speaker.  If you are making flight reservations for your Keynote speaker, I recommend looking into Southwest. You can earn Rapid Reward points by flying or spending money with their partners. United Airlines also has a loyalty program for its members. It can save you a ton of money to use these types of programs.
  5. Hotel accommodations. Here are also a few hotels who offer points as well. You want to make sure you book a nice hotel for your keynote speaker.
    1. Hilton Honors Rewards 
    2. World of Hyatt 
    3. Marriott Bonvoy

Note: Make sure you place a bottle of water at the podium for the speaker. This is often missed by the planning committee and is a small detail that many speakers will notice.

Planning Your Conference Schedule

Now that you’ve identified your speakers and presenters, it’s time to start planning the conference schedule. You will provide this schedule to your attendees in the form of a Conference Program. The conference program will be a physical booklet or sheets of paper that outlines the timeline of events from the beginning to the end of your conference. You want to determine if you will have:

  • Break out sessions with times that overlap or
  • Mini workshops and training that will happen sequentially throughout the day

Black Social Work Conference

Budgeting and Financial Planning 

You want to create a realistic budget of how much everything will cost for your conference. Setting Your Conference Budget means taking into consideration all of your expenses. Think about the things that will rack up the most costs and how those things can potentially be underwritten by a conference sponsor or donations.

Here are a few things that your budget should include:

  • Cost of the venue
  • Catering and food
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Graphic Design and printing 
  • Keynote speaker fees
  • Entertainment and Emcee
  • Swag bags and merch
  • Photographer and videographer
  • Audiovisual needs
  • Event decor

Here are a few items that I would recommend for your event.

Neon Sign Decor 

Rotating photo booth

Backdrop or step and repeat 

Exploring potential sponsorship opportunities 

Sponsorship Solicitation

You want to identify Conference Sponsorship opportunities very early on in the planning process. Think about the agencies, organizations, companies, schools or small businesses that will be a good fit for your conference theme. This would need to be a company who believes in the purpose of your conference and also provides a product or service that your attendees will benefit from. Think of products and services that are adjacent to your industry or would be of value to your attendees. From this, you want to create a list of potential sponsors who you will contact first. Before reaching out, you want to check in with your planning committee members to see if they have ties, connections or relationships with potential sponsors. This can be an easy ask if you rely on your Sponsorship committee to leverage their relationships.

A few sponsors to consider are:

  • Banks and credit unions
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Law offices
  • Insurance companies
  • Healthcare companies
  • Colleges and universities

Marketing Before the Conference 

Creating an effective strategy to inform Social Workers about the conference.

To effectively reach social workers about the conference, consider leveraging social media platforms and online media channels like Facebook groups, Podcasts, Blogs, Instagram and Tiktok. You want to have enough promotional lead time until the conference. During that time you will share engaging posts with compelling graphics and calls to action. You can also create reels or videos highlighting the conference’s unique offerings and benefits for attendees. Additionally, you can collaborate with professional Black Social Work Conference organizations, both local and national, to spread the word. If the conference is in person, you can consider offering a virtual all access pass, so that black Social Workers around the world can participate.

Related article: Comprehensive list of 22 black social work associations 

Using social media,  emails and partnerships to maximize reach

Utilizing Black Social Worker newsletters, email lists or events to promote the conference, ensures it reaches a broader audience within the black social work community. Lastly, consider hosting informational webinars or IG LIVES leading up to the conference. Providing an online platform to discuss the significance of the conference not only helps potential attendees ask questions to get to know you better, but this also generates excitement because the attendees get to directly interact with you in a more personable way. Don’t be offended if another Social Work group does not want to promote your event. Keep reaching out until you connect with Social Workers who are excited to support your work.

Working with Press

Depending on the size of your event and the popularity of your keynote speaker, you want to make sure you leave time for press.  This will be an opportunity for reporters and journalists to interview you or someone from the planning committee about the purpose of the event. The local media may also want to run a story and interview your keynote speaker. This is something you want to inform your keynote speaker about beforehand because press interviews often take place an hour to 30 minutes before the event. It is normal for the press to want to take pictures, so make sure you have gotten any prior consent that is needed.


Making Your Conference Run Smoothly

With all the moving parts I highly recommend downloading my detailed planning a conference checklist to cover all aspects of planning, from registration to on-site logistics.

Outlining your Conference Agenda

We talked before about creating your conference program. In addition to having your program, you want to create a separate conference agenda for your planning committee to have at the day of the event. Your conference agenda will be different from your conference program. Your conference program defines the conference schedule of the day or over multiple days which will include, workshop sessions, dinner and the time of the keynote. The conference agenda is more of the “behind the scene schedule” that the committee will follow to ensure that the day runs smoothly and on time. This will include the time for press, when the vendors are scheduled to arrive, the places where things need to be set up, and when certain tasks need to happen on the back end. This is the schedule that your attendees do not see.

Marketing During the Conference

Determine what items you will have at the event to keep your attendees engaged and excited. You will want to have custom signage, decals and props that attendees can use for photos.

Final walk through of the venue 

Two days before the event you want to do a final walk through of the venue with your event planning checklist. You will have been in communication with your committee before this point, a least a week or two in advance. This is your time to check on all the final details of the event, making sure that the microphones and audio visuals are working, that the room is set up properly, and that the podium and signage are where you want them. You want to go through with your checklist thoroughly to ensure that nothing is missed. I have included a few options on this posts.

Day of the event

Your videographer should be ready, gathering behind the scenes shots as well as short testimonials from attendees. They should be given a short prompt asking about their overall experience and how the conference enhanced their lives.

Arrive early enough to make sure that things are set up properly, the vendor spaces are clearly marked and that things are running smoothly. This could be 2-4 hours before your event, depending on your set up needs. Make sure to bring your conference survival kit, with all of the essential products you definitely want to have on hand!

Maximizing Profits while Making a Difference:

Here are a few ways to maximize profits at the Black Social Worker conference

  • Charge a premium rate for vendor booth set up for small businesses
  • Generate more sales with conference merch
  • Offer VIP access to you, the keynote speaker or access to exclusive meet ups
  • Create bundles that can include tickets and merch
  • Offer ad placements in the conference program
  • Split back of room sales with the keynote speaker
  • Have your own digital products for sale with qr codes and links to download

Debrief and Follow Up

You did it! You successfully planned your black social work conference! Give yourself time to reflect on what you just pulled off!

One way to ensure success of your conference year after year, is to schedule a debrief meeting with your committee. This will help you gain feedback on what things went well and the things that did not go as planned. It could be that you decided not to work with a specific company or to make sure you book a company well in advance for next year’s conference or an upcoming event. This is also the time to review conference attendee evaluations and discuss ways that you can foster ongoing relationships with your sponsors. Use this time to plan out the type of communication that needs to happen after the event to strengthen the relationship. You want to discuss what happened that you didn’t anticipate or determine what went really well that you want to replicate for the next conference.

Send thank you letter

You want to take time to send thank you letters to your sponsors and to send emails to all of your attendees thanking them for coming. In your email you may want to include a save the date for next year’s conference if you have planned that far in advance. In your communication, I would recommend sharing the videos and images that were taken by your videographer and photographer.

Tie up any loose ends

I also recommend following up on any services that are unpaid or anyone who may owe money. You want to work with the budget committee to finalize any invoices and to make sure that all of the expenses have been paid.


This post featured the Ultimate Planning a Conference Guide: Organizing a Successful Black Social Work Conference. Implement these planning strategies to ensure your conference continues to have a memorable impact year after year.

Meet Manicka

I created The Social Work Success Path blog and podcast, during the pandemic of 2021 to provide online education and mentorship for Social Workers. I felt very isolated and disconnected being only in the second year of running my private practice. I strongly considered going back to work when everything shut down. The resources and tools that I share helped me to maintain my practice through the pandemic and plan a successful transition as a Social Work content creator, doing work that I love and connecting with Social Workers all around the world. I did this in the span of 1 year, but using the resources, trainings and tools that I have pulled together, and all my all lessons learned, you can make your career transition much sooner than I did!

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