February 21, 2018

12 Keys to a Successful Conference Event

Planning and conducting a successful corporate conference is an enormous and important task. Here are twelve quick tips to help make your big event an even bigger success.

1. Use BIG, CLEAR names on nametags.

This sounds pretty simple, but it is a common mistake.

Use a bold, sans-serif typeface with the largest possible letter size. If possible, place the first name prominently with the last name in a smaller size below.  Nametags should be easy to read from at least 12 feet  away. The whole purpose of a nametag is to make it easy for people to network.

2. Keep participants hot by keeping the room cool.

Keep your conference room temperature set toward cool. Studies show people are most alert at 62–64° Fahrenheit .  Work with the venue to ensure a 68° setting as I have found this works across a broad spectrum.  Advise your guests in advance to dress in layers if they tend to be cold.  This can be done in a pre-event email reminder and the confirmation.

3. Distribute a participants’ networking sheet.

Gather names and complete contact information of all conference delegates. Assemble them in a user-friendly networking sheet for during and after your conference.  Often times, this will be the only time they are together in person.  Contact sheets provide an on-going relationship for people across the world and can easily be added to a program.

4. Use a variety of activities.

Jazz up your conference with some variety.  Employ a wide range of conference activities: speeches; conference games; interactive workshops; panel discussions; Q & A sessions with presenters, “speed dating” with the vendors; themed meals; lounge areas, etc.  Odds are, there will be something valuable within for everyone!

5. Pick your theme and promote it like crazy.

Give your conference a distinctive theme and title. If your event has footing as “Annual Conference,” then add a sub-title to the event to distinguish this year’s event from the ones before.

When appropriate, couple your theme with an attractive logo to illustrates the key idea or message. Repeat the theme throughout your conference.  Provide your speakers and vendors with the theme and encourage them to use it as well.

Repeat the theme and/or logo on all your conference gifts:  notebooks, nametags, banners, shirts, etc.

6. Set the look of conference presentations.

Once you decide on a theme and logo or illustration for your event, use it!

When possible, provide presenters and exhibitors with camera-ready images in hard copy, on CD, or by direct download from your website. Send these out early so there is plenty of time for everyone to customize their material, making your conference look good.

7. Begin before the conference.

Get your audience participating in the conference even before they arrive on-site. Send out advance mailings with selected readings, ‘think-about’ assignments, information-gathering responsibilities, a detailed program agenda, etc.

8. Continue the conference after it’s over.

Extend and prolong conference value by sending out selected materials after the conference is over. Send a follow-up article, newsletter, results of a survey, etc. Put your own cover letter on top of the package with thanks and congratulations to the delegates, and an invitation to your next conference event.

Put a page on your website with photographs from the conference, key ideas and articles presented at the event, survey results, etc. Promote the post-conference website/social media site during the conference itself and encourage others to visit during the event.

9. Triple check all audio-visual equipment.

If the first thing your audience hears is ‘Can you hear me in the back?’, you have failed on this key point.

If the speaker says, ‘Can we have the lights down please?’ and the lights don’t come down right away, you have failed on this key point.

To make your conference a success, triple check all microphones, projectors, screens, computers, music sources, lights, air-conditioning controls, etc.  And just in case, have back-ups ready to go if needed.

10. If you start with tea and coffee, schedule a ‘bio-break’ early.

Offering coffee and tea during conference registration is a very nice touch, especially if you include pastries and fresh fruit. But if your conference begins at 8:30 am, don’t wait until 10:30 am to schedule the first break!

11. Begin with a bang.

Start your conference with a powerful video, captivating slides, stirring presentation, strong first speech, dramatic performance, multi-media extravaganza – or just about anything else that gets the audience interested and involved. When you start strong, your conference is off to a good start. When you start with a boring lecture from the CEO about last quarter’s financial results, you will be trying to recover all day.

12. End with a memorable finale.

Make your final impression a lasting one. Close your conference with an amazing speaker, tear-jerking song, major award presentation, multi-media event or anything else that gets the audience motivated and reminds them why they came in the first place.

Ending on a high note promotes your next event!

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