There are several crucial aspects of organising a conference that need to come together to guarantee success. Here are the top challenges and how to overcome them.
Conferences consolidate corporate reputation, bring in new business and generate income. They can be a core part of business operations and are crucial to a company’s continuing success and competitiveness on the market. Engaging, inspiring and sharing knowledge with delegates is at the core of any good conference – but ensuring this is done well requires attention to detail and careful planning.
Here are the five most common challenges of organising a conference and how to address them to guarantee success:
1. Finding the Right Venue
The venue and location is everything when it comes to successful conference planning. The venue provides the backdrop to inspiring your audience and taking care of their creature comforts. When planning a conference, make sure you physically visit your shortlist of venues to see if the space will work for you. Look at whether the venue gives a good first impression – both inside and out – and film your walk-through so you can reflect on it later. Check the event space has all the technology you’ll need and what services on-site staff will provide. Make sure the space can comfortably fit your numbers and think about the location and whether delegates can get there easily. Working with a venue finding agency can really help take some of the pressure off as they are experienced in choosing venues and planning events.
2. What Technology to Use
The best events achieve just the right combination of face-to-face interaction and innovative technology. Striking a balance means delegates feel the benefits of being out of their usual environment, while their conference experience is enhanced by just the right amount of technology. Ensuring Wi-Fi and audio-visual systems are up to scratch is a must, but keep an eye on individual sessions that rely too heavily on digital presentations alone. Technology such as Sli.do can greatly enhance delegates’ conference experiences, enabling them to ask questions or comment on presentations via the Sli.do app or website, which encourages broader engagement. Event apps can also help the visitor experience, with the ability for participants to view event maps and content, participate in polls and network with each other.
3. Finding Speakers
Creating a line-up of engaging, expert and compelling speakers forms the core of a successful conference, so great care should be put into this side of conference planning. Firstly, ask conference attendees from previous years, or contacts in your business network, which speakers they would most like to hear from. This kind of feedback is invaluable to ensuring the relevance of your conference to your audience. It’s likely you’ll want to approach speakers you haven’t worked with before, so do some research on LinkedIn, look at well-read blogs and find people on professional forums. Also keep your eye out for people who have recently launched a book or who have been interviewed in the media recently, as it’s likely these individuals will be interested in other publicity opportunities too.
4. Audience Engagement
Getting the physical details of a conference just right is just one piece of the puzzle – ensuring delegates engage with the conference and each other is just as important. Technology and apps can assist greatly with this, but it’s also important to give people other opportunities to participate. Weave some practical sessions into the day, where delegates can split off into teams to discuss set topics, or participate in hands-on workshops. Also set up dedicated networking sessions participants can opt into, such as a speed-networking breakfast or small group seminars on specialist subject matters. Also give people the opportunity to opt into having their details circulated to other delegates, so they have the option of collaborating before, during and after the conference.
5. Food, Glorious Food
It’s a fact – food can make or break a conference, so don’t underestimate how much good catering matters to delegates. When planning a conference, be sure to taste the menu options yourself ahead of time, so you are assured of the quality and diversity of food that will be on offer on the day. Giving delegates various food options is key, as is catering for different dietary requirements. If you’re offering a buffet lunch, make sure there are plenty of spaces for people to sit down with their food in break-out areas or a dedicated dining area. Go the extra mile to include some food options that will get people talking, whether it’s a great Vegan selection, a doughnut wall at the morning coffee break, or a local food truck serving pizza slices for a late afternoon pick-me-up.
Pay particular attention to these five areas of conference planning to deliver events that won’t disappoint.