Conferencing is a massive and growing industry.
There are conferences taking place around New Zealand every day - association conferences, industry conferences and internal company conferences.
Whether they are small for under 10 delegates or large for over 1,000 delegates, conferences are vital in today’s world for learning, communicating, planning and innovating.
Conferencing can also be very competitive in some industries as they strive to attract delegates, speakers and sponsorship within the same market.
So, if you wish to host a conference this year or next, what will help ensure the conference achieves your goals?
Here are our nine ingredients of a successful conference …
1. An experienced PCO
An experienced Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) will guide you every step of the way from the planning to the delivery of the conference. They will also help secure the best arrangement with venues and suppliers through their event management connections.
2. An efficient registration system
The registration of delegates and speakers can often be the most time consuming and stressful part of a conference especially with the booking of flights and accommodation. An efficient online registration system is a ‘must’ today particularly one that can be tailored to record information specific to your conference.
3. A suitable venue
The venue will leave a lasting impression on your delegates and could be the difference between a good and poor event. It is important to consider the following in your venue selection – location and accessibility, overall size, number of rooms and sizes, outdoor access, lighting, air conditioning, ambience and aesthetics, parking, accommodation, AV capabilities and catering options.
4. Catering for your audience
Everyone enjoys nice food and drinks. At a conference, catering should be appropriate for your audience, your setting, your schedule and your theme. It can add variety too with sit-down, cocktail style and outdoor options to consider. A good registration system will help you record special dietary requirements.
5. Highly credentialed speakers
The content is the key to your conference. Your choice of speakers and topics is critical in the attraction of delegates. So, work out what you want to achieve from the conference and identify or shortlist speakers that will help you achieve these objectives. Consider using speakers with different presentation styles to add variety and keep the audience engaged.
6. Reinvigorating team activities
It is important to break up your conference program with team building exercises. Sitting in a conference theatre for hours on end can disengage your audience, so the inclusion of activities to provide a rejuvenating break is beneficial. Consider team activities that can reinforce the theme of the conference or showcase the destination in a fun and unique way
7. Breakout training sessions
Another great way to engage with delegates and to provide variety in the program is to feature breakout training sessions. These can be run concurrently in smaller groups and provide tailored and targeted training for that particular group. You should use a registration system that can help segment your delegates into these sessions based on their preferences.
8. An entertainment focus
Combining work with play will also create a memorable experience for your delegates. Providing an appropriate entertainment component to the conference will enable everyone to mix and mingle in a social environment and also sample the destination and its attractions. It’s important to again carefully consider your audience, scheduling and conference theme when choosing entertainment.
9. Technology for engagement
Explore how technology can be applied for greater audience engagement and content accessibility. There are simple tools available like event apps, live polling and live streaming to provide information to delegates and provide alternate avenues for response and collaboration, as can social media platforms.
These are our nine ingredients of a successful conference. And to let you in on a little secret, if you use an experienced PCO, they will help with the remaining eight ingredients!
Kathryn Laslett, Conference & Events, Corporate Challenge Events