What makes a great conference or event? Is it the venue, the food, the speakers, the delegate pack, networking opportunities or something else altogether? For me a good conference is one where you not only learn something new but one where you are challenged to rethink your position on a particular subject and so expand your horizons. Learning is essential to keep us fresh and moving forward so if a conference doesn’t offer the opportunity to gain new insights or hear different perspectives then it may well be a poor investment of time and money.
Conferences come in all shapes and sizes and some can take place over several days, so it is important to provide a great line up of speakers and an environment that will make the most of the agenda. Too often I have attended conferences where I have been so cold my hands have turned blue or so hot that without escaping for fresh air – in danger of passing out. If conferences are about learning and sharing information then we need to think about how we learn and the stimulus we need to retain information.
How many conferences have you attended with hundreds of PowerPoint slides that are too small to be readable or contain so much information that the message is lost? What about those speakers that have driven you mad by mumbling into the microphone or worst still have spoken for so long that you and many others in the audience have lost the will to live? I once chaired a conference where a speaker, who, conscious that they were not great on a microphone opted for a lapel mic. This worked a treat in making sure everything that was said was heard, except the nerves of this speaker were so acute that they literally bounced around the stage like Tigger. At several points a sharp intake of breath cold be heard from the audience as they saw the speaker get so close to the edge that they thought he was going to fall headlong into the audience.
All of these pitfalls can be avoided: it’s all in the planning. Sorting venues and speakers, organising the flow of the day, ensuring that the balance is right across the agenda and making the day run smoothly don’t just happen. Stress levels for conference organisers can be high but this is the very time when you want to look and feel your best so that you can network and build new relationships and build on established ones. Conferences should add value and provide a platform to showcase the best of what your sector has to offer and should not be left to chance.
Remember it was Benjamin Franklin who said ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’
If you need help with preparing for your next event please email firstname.lastname@example.org.