Putting together a cohesive conference in any given industry is hard work, but the rewards are numerous for those who manage to plan a successful event that’s mighty memorable for attendees. Trying to tackle the details can feel extremely daunting, like staring at a blank page without knowing which way to turn.
Although conferences vary in length, subject matter, and location, there are always commonalities that make or break how people feel about your event. Even with the best networking iPhone apps at your side, a conference can seem daunting. Keep reading to learn more about the five core elements that make up a successful conference and why you should always make them a priority during the planning stages.
The check-in stage is the first impression that participants form, and disorganization at this stage may spell disaster at worst or annoyance at best. Entrepreneur reiterates that a smooth check-in is key, and that facilitating a solid registration process gives you the information you need to follow up with attendees at the same time it gives them the information they need to get organized and navigate the conference with ease. Make sure that you have arranged for friendly, attentive, and professional staff members to help new arrivals, and practice the check-in system before the big day so there are no stalled lines or glaring oversights.
Give A Sign
It might seem like a no-brainer, but putting up adequate signage is a must to keep the flow of people smooth. Start outside the front doors, and place attention-grabbing signs at proper intervals so people can find their desired locations in a timely manner. Per The Balance, branded signs can help attract attention more quickly than generic ones. To accompany inanimate signs, you’ll want to have wandering staff ready to respond to peoples’ questions and comments. It doesn’t matter how good your lineup of speakers is; if people can’t find the right rooms on time, they won’t glean the full benefit from the conference you worked hard to plan.
Think about what the people attending your conference want and need, then work from there. Every element of the venue, from size to shape, accessibility, seating, temperature, and more will affect the perception of the event. Match the form to the function. Zach Inglis wrote about planning a conference for Smashing Magazine, and pointed out how lighting, seating, and overall feel will affect people’s behavior and mood. Lower lighting could encourage people to put away their laptops or notebooks and just listen, while warm ambient lighting could encourage conversation and working throughout the conference. Critically reason through every decision, and try to view it through the eyes of someone who will be spending one or more days immersed in the environment.
PowerPoint is a great tool for presentations, and the intent should always be to engage audiences as well as inform. Interactive PowerPoint technology like the PollEv Presenter add-in integrates interactive elements like real-time polls into decks to give the audience a say. All that an attendee needs to respond is their mobile phone or a laptop, and the “a-ha!” moment often occurs for the crowd as they look up and see the slide change to reflect peoples’ real-time answers. An average conference may have several PowerPoint presentations throughout the duration, but an extraordinary one will have people talking about how they got to directly engage with the information along with everyone else in the room.
Humans are prone to the two o’clock yawn, as well as a variety of other situations in which attention starts to wander. Conferences need to keep a tight pace that changes focus often enough to keep people engrossed, but doesn’t rush anyone along. One LinkedIn contributor recommends keeping at least 25 percent of any event “workshoppy” and interactive. Too much listening becomes monotonous, so it’s best to give people a chance to use their voices and interact in novel ways through setting a schedule that has a variety of different types of events. Just like we need a varied diet to stay healthy, conferences need a varied offering of activities to stay impactful.
When in doubt, put yourself in a first-time participant’s shoes and think about what questions they would ask along the way. The more comfortable, organized, and engaging you make your conference, the more positive associations people will build over time.