Attending a professional conference provides an unmatched opportunity for attendees to build networks, strengthen work ethic and get new ideas for the workplace. They also give employees a way to get out of the office and stir things up to retain employee morale. These face-to-face events continue to make lasting and sizable contributions to any work environment.
From choosing the perfect venue and catering the right menu to finding the best speakers, no matter your needs for hosting your best conference ever, look no further than right in the mirror. Yes, you can plan and carry out the most successful conference anyone has ever attended. And, here are some easy-to-follow steps to get you started.
1. Objectives and Goals
The first thing to do when you want to hold a conference is to figure out the why. Finding your conference objective and setting your intended goals is possibly the most important thing. Why hold this type of event without an objective? You would just be wasting your time and resources.
So, define that objective. It can be anything from informing your attendees about the latest tech gadget or help colleagues learn about the best way to write an interoffice email. But, no matter your objective, you must reach that by defining short and long term goals. Not only should your conference have goals but remember that your attendees will also have their goals as well as expectations of what the event should be like.
Most people, when asked, state that the goal of attending this type of event is to gain knowledge or increase skills. So, make sure that your goals will help others attain theirs. If you hold classes about only one subject, you will leave people thinking they could have gained better knowledge somewhere else.
One of the best ways to find a conference objective is to ask those around you what they need. If that is a bit too overwhelming, look around you and your workplace. Find something that only you can offer and take it from there. And, remember that it doesn’t need to start big. Take a small thing and find it a greater purpose.
2. Conference Presentation
Three words: remember your audience. Now is the time to take into consideration who will be attending your conference. Once you have your audience defined, work on your presentation to them. From choosing the perfect venue to planning for speakers, your attendees are the ones who will get the most out of your event. Make sure to plan accordingly.
And, make sure that your objective is easy to follow and concise. You need something that everyone can get on board with, no matter what they think they will get out of your event. It is often said that presentation is everything. That is especially true when it comes to planning your conference and developing your object.
Make your goal presentable. It needs to be as quick as an elevator pitch, but also easily expandable. This isn’t just about one speech or presentation. It’s about a whole event, and you want to make sure that your attendees understand that as quickly as clearly as you can.
3. Speakers and Subjects
Your event line up should be enticing to those attending. Find speakers who will be engaging and exciting for those in attendance. While some of your presenter topics may be a bit bland, find someone who will make it enjoyable.
There are opportunities everywhere to find speakers for any event. Look inside your company, or ask friends and family if they know someone willing to present on a topic that they might find intriguing. But, no matter where you find your speakers, remember to get them on board with your conference objective. There is no point in having someone talk about fish if your conference is about digital literacy.
Also, remember perspective. From you to your speaker to the attendee, everyone will view the presentation a bit differently, and that’s okay. Just make sure that your message is clear and precise, which brings us to your next step.
4. Setting Your Conference Agenda
Most conferences post their agenda ahead of time. Whether you use an online format or mail out a brochure, make sure you advertise your event. And, many planners now have interactive mobile applications to help you schedule speaker times and other pieces of your event. But that is just the beginning.
Take it a step further, and make sure that all attendees have access to a schedule so that they can plan out for their best experience. Everyone should know beforehand what they should expect from your event. This ties into getting your objective and goals set before scheduling your conference.
5. Open Every Door
Make sure the opportunity to take full advantage of everything there is to offer is open for everyone. Use your agenda and time to create an immersive and interactive experience for all attendees. While not everyone will be pleased continuously with your conference, make sure that you adhere to the majority rules concept.
If you need to, take a poll on what people expect from your objective and work from there. But, no matter what you do, keep the door open for everyone. Sometimes this is as easy as finding a venue with an open floor plan. Other times, it can be a bit more challenging to get people moving around and communicating with each other. So, enter step six.
6. Providing the Whole Experience
Your conference needs to be about the whole experience, not just speakers or significant events. To keep everyone engaged and interacting, remember your audience and remember your objective. A conference is more than just someone standing on a stage yammering on about a single topic. It’s a collective mind with the intent on learning everything they can about everything you have to offer.
So, even if you are holding a conference about those previously mentioned fish, remember that the ocean is full of different types of fish. Yes, weird analogy, but here’s the point: keep the conversations going. There more people are engaged, the better your conference will be for everyone involved. And, part of that involvement is offering the ability to grow and learn.
7. Interactive Conference Events
What is a conference without a bit of networking? Help your attendees keep on learning even when they aren’t in classes or at a speaking event. Allow them to take a break and chat with new found friends and colleagues. While these interactive events don’t have to be very big or creative, make time for them, they are extremely important.
And, during these down times when you don’t have someone speaking or presenting, provide other learning opportunities such as mentor programs. Make them casual to keep people open and growing. These small group activities offer incredible chances for people to meet, mingle and often find answers they won’t find anywhere else.
8. Professional Identification
Yes, we said it, you need name tags! Helping your attendees make lasting connections is what your conference is really about. Make this an easy process by providing event credentials. From badge holders for schedules to speaker name tags, using identification will help everyone involved.
Personal identification is key to any event whether it’s a conference, seminar or trade show. As an event host or planner, you want your attendees to enjoy networking at your event. And, when they do, they are more likely to return next year. Use quality name badges to put people at ease and make your conference or seminar a success.
9. Networking and Socializing
Now that you have the proper name tags, give opportunities for everyone in attendance to network and socialize. Use apps, business cards and these new name badges to help attendees remember each other (and you) after the conference is over.
Provide opportunities throughout the whole conference for attendees to give out their information to others. If you are making printed schedules for everyone to use with badge holders, include a QR code for easy sharing. But no matter how information is shared, provide as many opportunities as possible for everyone to mingle.
Networking is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. Knowing someone’s name makes people more comfortable socializing with that person. With each attendee sporting a name badge, people will have a positive networking experience at your event.
And, whether you are wearing a name tag for an event or work every day, chances are you don’t realize the impact which you are making. In social settings, name tags can level the playing field. They are also free advertising for your company. And, they inspire people to be more approachable.
10. Make the Little Things Count
From setting the event energy to controlling the mood at your conference, sometimes it’s all about the little things. With that said, being organized is an important thing to do. That organization needs to include smaller event details. So, don’t forget about those little details. And they are what makes up 11 and 12.
11. Dress to Impress
There are so many details in this, make sure that you check all the boxes. Think about your venue, your attendees, your objective and your speakers/presenters when considering a dress code. Make sure that everyone will be comfortable and still able to maintain your desired professionalism.
Spend some time addressing your dress code before your conference happens. Make sure that everyone coming understands what you want to see. Too many event planners overlook this simple detail, and attendees show up wondering if they are over or underdressed. Add these details to daily schedules that you send out before your event happens.
12. Be Considerate
Remember that others have a routine and help them stick to it. Help your attendees be comfortable while making the shift from their daily work life to attending your conference. Don’t plan events too early or too late. Make sure when providing food and catering that multiple options are available, so no one goes hungry.
Whether it’s providing time for breaks or making healthier choices for catered meals, make your conference flow better by keeping your audience in mind. It is, after all about those coming to your event. Make their experience memorable so that they want to attend another fabulous conference put on by their favorite event planner: YOU!