Top Tips for Running a Better Event – How to Get Better Results From Your Conference, Meeting or Convention
by David Staughton CSP CCEO, Speaker Advisor
- Would you like to run a more successful conference?
- Would you like more engaged attendees?
- Would you like more sponsors and suppliers?
Attending, running and speaking at thousands of wedding receptions and conference events gave me a unique insight into organising a successful conference and getting the best results.
Running a conference can cost thousands of dollars – paying for the venue, hiring speakers, conference administration and travel costs PLUS the time of management and attendees means that a LOT is at stake.
Here are some great tips to get better results at your next conference…
Tips For A SMOOTHLY RUN PROFESSIONALLY ORGANISED Successful Conference
- Hire a Professional Conference Organiser to help (see the PCOA website)
- Hire a Professional MC or read the blog how to be a better MC
- Deliver great content – Choose and use Professional Speakers (CSPs) or hire a “conference content coach” to help improve the quality of your internal speaker presentations
- Professionally facilitate and control any Open Room, Town Hall or Panel Question sessions to avoid unpleasant input from highly opinionated or negative attendees
- Have an Agenda and Run on time – The MC should stop speakers and sessions from running LATE
Tips For PLANNING A Successful Conference
- Always Know your OUTCOMES – Agree on what you want to achieve and WHY people are there
- Know how you will MEASURE the success of these outcomes and be sure they are measurable – attendees, Suppliers, sponsorship $, feedback, implementation?
- Have a motivated, well organised CONFERENCE TEAM that is clear on their responsibilities – who does what
- Any staff or conference team members that attend should be clear on their ROLE and desired objectives
- SEEK INPUT from attendees about what they really want – avoid assuming organisers know
- BOOK EARLY – It’s Hard to get the best venue and conference speakers if you book them last minute (makes for desperate negotiations with no backup plans)
Tips For CONFERENCE ROOM SELECTION & SET UP
- Decide what SEATING ARRANGEMENT suits best: Open rounds, classroom, or theatre. Go for Open Rounds where possible.
- Have the CORRECT NUMBER OF CHAIRS for the audience – Avoid having too many empty chairs. Start with fewer chairs than you need. It is always better to have people looking for chairs or bringing chairs from a spare stack at the back than it is to have big empty areas in front.
- SPACE OUT THE CHAIRS – Packing people in makes people feel uncomfortable and squished.
- Avoid hiring a CINEMA THEATRE – the audience looks down on the speaker and its hard to connect with them
- Use Brighter ROOM LIGHTING! A well-lit room makes for an energised crowd that can see each other – use the brightest projector available. It’s better to have a less-well lit screen than sit in a darkened room and fall asleep.
- Room Shape & Seat LAYOUT– It’s is best to have a square or rectangular shaped room layout than a really deep or really wide layout
- Beware of venues with BIG COLUMNS in the middle of the room. They are nearly impossible to work around and promote group disharmony.
Tips For Setting Up The SPEAKERS PLATFORM (Speaker Stage)
- Make sure the stage is the RIGHT HEIGHT for the room. Too high makes it hard to connect with the audience. (I once stood on a 2m high stage for a 60 person audience in a 300 person room and that was NOT very good)
- Having a SMALL & CASUAL EVENT ? – Avoid having a stage platform at all if less than 30-50 people – it makes it too formal
- STAGE LIGHTING – Make sure the presenter’s FACE is well lit – this conveys the emotions and energy of the speaker. Also be aware that wash light on the stage will dim the screen. Make sure all the speakers stand in the well lit NOT the dark areas.
- Have the presenter NEAR THE SCREEN if possible – using one BIG screen overhead is better than 2 or more screens which reduces eye-contact with the presenter.
Tips For Better CONFERENCE CATERING
- A BUFFET table with moderate number of selections can service about 50 people – Avoid any long queues by providing easy access to the RIGHT NUMBER of buffet displays to cater for your audience numbers. (the worst event I attended had 1 buffet table full of complex selections for 450 people – it was a disaster)
- Offer light and HEALTHY FOOD at breaks and lunchtime. Avoid too much rich or sugary food which can make people drowsy or comatose. Clever conferences offer both savoury and sweet snacks.
- Having plenty of quality COFFEE & tea makes for happy delegates – Long coffee cart queues or running out of tea/coffee can waste valuable attendee time for visiting sponsors and networking. Make sure there are sufficient numbers of refreshment stations and fast replenishment by attentive staff
Tips For A Better FINANCIAL RESULT FROM YOUR CONFERENCE
- Get more ATTENDEES! – Market your event EARLY and often. Promote the BENEFITS with Video of past attendees enjoying themselves (Vox Pop) – Sell the Sizzle of the Event.
- Get more SPONSORS AND SUPPLIERS! – ask for their marketing assistance and financial help – they are usually keen to sponsor things like keynote speakers, sessions or meals.
- MANAGE YOUR CONFERENCE EXPENSES well. Ask your sponsors for more, cut better deals or use a PCO to manage conference costs and over-runs.
BEST SUCCESSFUL CONFERENCE TIP – MAKE IT A GREAT EVENT
All the work you do at this year’s conference assures more success next year.
Make sure you take lots of photos and videos as proof they had a great time and achieved good results.