Event Best Practice
When planning an event, it’s easy to focus on the “big picture” and to forget about a key component – the delegate! We’ve compiled a few simple tips that help you keep the event delegate-focused.
1. Send accurate Joining Instructions
Delegates often turn up at a conference already busy and stressed – often coming straight from work or from another conference. Don’t add to their stress by neglecting to thoroughly research how they can travel there! Accurate Joining Instructions are crucial – providing the correct postcode for the venue and maps of the surrounding area will help delegates get to the right place at the right time! If the venue is really large or campus-based, providing details on how to access buildings can be useful. Remember to keep these under constant review once sent out – access routes change, diversions can be in place, and car parks can close or have exit codes. Ensure your instructions are written specifically for each event – don’t ever copy and paste over last year’s!
2. Turn off reminders
Many online registration systems have in-built automatic event reminders. If you have designed your own message, are you sure that the “automatic” reminder won’t conflict with your own message? Remain in control of communication – switch it off!
3. Give excellent information on arrival
Some events simply hand you a badge and leave you to fend for yourself. The arrival can set the tone for the event that follows. These are a few key things that people will want to know about:
- Where to store luggage
- What time sessions start
- WIFI access code
4. Tell people what’s going on
I was recently at an event with two hundred other delegates where the organisers had not produced an accurate programme. Delegates were left in the refreshment area lost and confused, not knowing the timing of their sessions. It resulted in several of the speakers starting their sessions with delegates still arriving (noisily!) into the hall, frustrating the speaker and many of the delegates! How were they to know they were late! Stick to the programme – and if you need to change it, publicise it via notices, the PA system and the event twitter hash tag and make sure that you have enough event staff to ensure that all delegates can be provided with information. Or get an app, you can send push notifications of the changes.
Another issue related with timing is related to break-out sessions – are the break-out rooms close by? Are they well signposted? Do you need guides stationed along the route to keep delegates from getting lost? How do you handle moving multiple break-out groups between multiple locations at the same time?
5. Put yourself in other’s shoes
Sit down and walk through the venue. Imagine yourself as the delegate and as a speaker –think about the following:
- Does the venue provide a good delegate experience?
- Is the stage high enough to see the speakers once the delegates are sat down?
- Are there any sight lines that prevent a good view?
- Do the lights shine directly into the eyes of the speaker/audience?
- Will the sun cause problems i.e. significant glare on the screen, overheat the delegates?
- How clear is the projector screen – how would it look with slides that have too much content on?
- Do the microphones work? What does it sound like to the delegate?
6. Tell your speakers how things work.
How many times have we seen a presenter take to the stage, and, tapping the microphone, start their presentation with “Is this thing on”? Many of us will have seen a speaker turn towards the screen and say “Well, that’s wrong”, with the AV support rushing to change the slide! It’s important to brief those taking to the stage on how the stage works – from how to turn the mic on, to what they need to click to move a slide forward. Many presenters have developed their style over years of presenting to different audiences – what works for one won’t work for another.
It is good practice for presenters to know who to turn to if there is an unexpected malfunction – a “technical hitch”. Preparation and planning of how each presenter is going to use the stage will help make the event run and look more professional!
7. Empower the MC
We’ve all been there – at the end of a lengthy Q&A, there is always that one person who likes the sound of their own voice a bit too much…the original question is lost, and becomes either a sales pitch or an annoying rant! To get the best results:
- Consider whether you could avoid questions altogether – would that have a positive or detrimental effect?
- Question screening – ask for questions to be submitted in advance, either digitally (via Twitter) or the event app, or on slips of paper
- Give the MC or chair the authority to shut down a ranting delegate
- Don’t give the questioner the microphone – like in the Jerry Springer show, let the AV helper keep hold of it, and work out a “kill” signal in case the questioner goes on too long!
8. Food affects results
Conferences are filled with food – coffee breaks with cake, lunch platters with pastries and breads and pasta, the inevitable drinks reception… Evidence suggests that the food we consume has a direct impact on our cognitive performance. A poor choice of lunch options could derail an entire afternoon! Always try to offer a balance of food options, which will allow every type of person on every type of diet to eat how they want or need.
9. If you are social, be social!
Engaging with delegates has never been simpler – social networks such as Twitter can enable you to connect with delegates before they arrive at the venue, by using Twitter hashtags (#) to build excitement about your event. Whilst many conferences engage before an event, some don’t engage during the event! Be the exception – make sure you have enough resource to fully engage during the conference, using Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Periscope. Be prepared to be flattered and challenged, but it will engage your audience!
10. Just do it
The delegate, the speaker, the exhibitor, the supplier, they all matter. They will all help influence the success of both this event, and the next one. Feedback is feedback. Don’t shirk your responsibility by apportioning blame elsewhere. The feedback should be tackled in this way:
- Show Understanding
- Elevate to a higher level (if necessary)
- No Fighting about who was to blame
- Write / Communicate the resolution – getting agreement
- Learn from it
These are just of the ways that help influence a successful event. We would love to hear about any other top tips. If you need help supporting your events, do please get in touch via 01904 540920 or via firstname.lastname@example.org or @TMadeConf on Twitter.