Conference Organisation

Details matter in Conference Organisation

A key note lecture taking to much time to finish, a moderator not knowing how to handle a noisy audience, zero interactivity, an unfriendly security guard, a hostess at the welcome desk not knowing to point the direction of the plenary room, a serious typo in the meeting booklet, not enough food or high tables to eat, a mobile event app with complicated log-in, ...

There are many details that can go wrong in conference organisation that send your attendees home with a 'sub-optimal' learning and networking experience.

To avoid most of the pitfalls, there is only one solution: invest time in planning and working with your speakers and organising committee. Obviously, what we all lack is time and budget to do so.

Some key tips to 'square the triangle':

Motivated team

  • Get a motivated team of organisers and suppliers involved. Without motivation and passion, no good things happen.

Think concept

  • Think about your concept: What do you want to achieve? How to engage all participants? How to avoid 'one way communication' and truly make your conference an interactive learning experience? Put this concept on paper and get consensus with all persons involved.

Plan

  • Develop work streams that are managed carefully via planning & indicator tracking: programme elaboration, promotional campaign, registration management, venue management and audio-visual&technology are the most important.

Prepare your meetings

  • Prepare your project meetings and focus on the key points - with clear 'decisions to take' and minutes. Work via conference call if needed - it makes everybody comes on time and only speaks when relevant.

Be efficient

  • Use collaboration tools to share files, milestones, etc. - it makes it all more efficient.

Project file

  • Produce a clear project overview file that summarizes the entire conference into the smallest detail (including briefings for all suppliers involved). Its worth the effort.

 

Magic happens

Magic doesn't happen for granted - it requires motivation, passion and rigorous planning.

If you manage to do so however, the rewards will be yours: an event team & suppliers that deliver, a programme that works, an organising team that is satisfied and participants that truly benefit from an interactive learning and networking experience.

Conference "MatchMaking" is Magic - 4 Trends in Conference Organisation

Here goes my view on the current conference trends I see in the market: its all about community building, offering a unique live experience, the use of data to increase the effectiveness of your coference and its about using technology.

Community Building

People attend live events to meet peers as much as to learn from the speakers on stage. Conferences should therefore be used as a 'milestone' in a community building strategy that starts long before and continues after the live event.

Start with feeding your event subscribers with pieces of content that make them curious and eager to attend and to connect with other delegates (Conference "MatchMaking"!).

Community building efforts will increase delegate engagement, increase the Return on Event and it will benefit your (social) objective.

Offering Unique Live Experiences

Its not only about the speaker on stage, its also about the social dinner at a unique location, its about the group picture that can be shared on Twitter, its about experiencing innovations during the exhibition, its about an interactive workshop that sends your delegates back home with fresh ideas. And yes, its also about speeddating with peers (Conference "MatchMaking"!)

Its all about live experiences that make a live event different than an internet live stream experience.

The Use of Data

What item of your online program has been visited most? Which speaker received most replies on his/her live voting question? Which exhibitor received the most visits? Which session was well attended? Which attendee received the most meeting requests (Conference "MatchMaking"!)?

Data enables you to better organise and run the event and to learn for future editions.

Use of Technology (apps, live stream, interactive voting, …)

An increase number of participants use their smartphone to consult the program, speaker bio's, even watch the live stream from their hotel room. All these uses are pretty passive ...

The next step of digitalisation lies in increasing active delegate engagement via live voting during a lecture, networking facilitation (here we go: Conference "MatchMaking" is magic), lead scanning during an exhibition, ...

Organisers should use technology to shift delegates from passive conference visitors ("info downloaders") to active participants ("info contributors").

It is about interaction, stupid!

Welcome to the 21st century, where interaction with your audience is key to keep that audience interested and turn them into real promotors of your message, product or service.

Your key note presentation? A product launch for your sales teams? Did you ever consider broadcasting live events over the internet? 

Organisations plan business events to get a message across to those invited and to gather as much feedback as possible. However, some of the invitees can’t make it because they lack the resources : no time, too expensive, traffic jams! flights! train delay!

Hence: let’s record the live event and broadcast it via the internet to a pre-invited target group. It could also be collaborators or customers that don't need to attend the entire event but are specifically interested in hearing the key note or a specific product presentation. Thus: you offer customised content to the target group: great! It will keep them motivated and interested.

Next step is to get that motivated target group to provide useful feedback on the content you shared. You could offer them the event’s mobile application, other conversations tools or a live stream platform allows immediate feedback options: voting, questions, etc.

Ideally, the live event uses the feedback immediately into its presentation to offer a ‘direct return on investment’ to the audience.

The time of one way events is definitely over. Live streaming is one of the answers: its cost effective, surprisingly interactive and increases your target audience.

Clear objectives lead to successful business events

When companies want to increase the return on investment of their business events, they need to focus on defining exactly which objectives they wish to achieve.

When it comes to business events, return on investment or return on objectives thinking (ROI&ROO) should be an important guidebook for both business event planners as well as their professional event agency. In my view, event agencies can make a difference by advising their clients to take time to think about the real objectives of the event and by using these objectives when planning, evaluating and improving the event. This is how it works for me:

  • Most events are evaluated at the ‘satisfactory’ level: Has the hotel accommodation been satisfactory? Would you advise this moderator to a friend or colleague? How would you evaluate the quality of the information you received?
  • However, the event ROI/ROO methodology (http://www.eventroi.org/) speaks about three more levels that are harder to monitor: learning (did the participants actually learn something?), application (do the participants apply in their day-to-day business what they have learned? Meaning: did the event started a behavioural change?) and result (once the participants apply what they have learned, does it impact the bottom line or any other change I wish to see?).

But how to monitor this in a pragmatic and cost effective manner? My advice would be: First, think things through at the concept phase of the event and second, to use online and offline tools for continuous monitoring purposes. At both stages, bringing in the expertise of an event agency will bring much added value and lead to a successful business event.

  • Think things through: If you have a meeting to inform several EU subsidiaries about the new sales strategy, you want them to apply the strategy in the end. As a result, you wish to see a coherent EU wide sales strategy. If your meeting is about a detailed product repair briefing to technical staff, you wish the staff to repair the product using the learned procedures. Hence, from the onset of the event planning, one should think ‘strategy’: what behavioural change, leading to the result, does the event aim for?
  • Use online tools: This should not be rocket science. A first online survey right after the event, should measure the ‘satisfactory’ and the ‘learning’ level. For the learning level, smart questions are necessary to measure whether participants did actually ‘get the key messages you want to come across’. Close collaboration between the event agency and the sponsoring company is necessary for this. A second online survey should be planned 3 or 6 months after the event, measuring whether the participants actually apply what they said they have learned (behavioural change). Again, close collaboration between event agency and sponsoring company is necessary.
  • Use offline tools: To find out whether or not the EU sales strategy has been coherently applied throughout Europe, one could easily speak to the national sales managers. If the objective was to improve the bottom line, one should consult their sales figures. And if the objective of the repair briefing was to lower recurring breakdowns, this could be in the companies IT system. The point here is that measuring results, cannot be done via an online survey to the participants. The participants can confirm they changed their behaviour, but the result should be monitored via other, often offline, tools and methods.

The above methodology is straightforward and cost-effective and allows, what I would call, continuous improvement of how the business event is organised. A good starting discussion on the real behavioural change one wishes to see, ensures that the right focus is brought into the event setup. Lean monitoring whether or not the ‘satisfactory’, ‘learning’ and ‘application’ objectives are met, allows to adjust the focus of the event for the next edition.