Whether you’re a professional conference producer or this is your first foray into hosting one, there are always a plethora of things to organise and shopping bags full of worries that something (one of many things, actually) could go wrong. Like any major function, the key to running a successful conference is planning, planning and more planning. The less things you leave to chance the better, and the more opportunities you have to steer the event into a glowing success that will be talked about for years to come!
Just because you know your material inside and out, it doesn’t mean that the people attending your conference are going to have an easy time understanding it. Whether you’re doing most of the speaking yourself or you’ve arranged a number of speakers and workshops, the way you structure the speakers and topics can be the key to whether the attendees benefit from it or dose off in the back seats. Try to have an overview at the beginning of the conference and a big welcome so that everybody knows who’s who. A detailed program with information and backgrounds on the speakers is a vital tool and allows people to relate the topics in their minds. Another word on structure–be sure to never go too long without a break and make sure the less-interesting or more complex speakers go at the beginning of the day when folks are fresh and ready to listen!
Make sure it’s fun! People have travelled interstate to be at the conference and are away from their families, it’s important to keep morale high. It doesn’t matter if the subject matter isn’t exactly entertaining, making sure there’s some entertainment on the menu (after-conference drinks? An organised dinner? Team building activities?) will at least keep people buoyant!
Know Your Audience
People learn in different ways, and the profession of your audience members may give you some kind of clue into the way their minds work. If your presenting a conference to creative, artistic types, chances are they learn and process in less-than-linear ways. Changing up the schedule to include some practical activities or brainstorming sessions could be beneficial for everyone involved. On the other hand, a group of accountants probably learn in a more traditional, structured way and may not respond well to the same stimuli. Understanding the kind of people you’re presenting to is one of your biggest tools in ensuring your success.
Stick in their Minds!
Ultimately, you want people to come away from a conference having benefited in some way, and you want that to reflect well on you and your business. It sounds obvious, but the more branding your conference has, the more likely you are to stick in their mind as the person or business who hosted the really valuable conference. Whether it’s pens, promotional bags full of goodies and local restaurant vouchers or a colour-scheme or theme, having something people can link in their minds with your conference will benefit you months after the conference has ended.