4 tips for planning the best eve(r) conference

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By Jerri Howlett

Creating the best conference anyone has ever been to seems like a near-impossible task but, fear not, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got four top tips to help you shake things up and keep people engaged and entertained at your next conference. We’ll have them ’gramming the room in no time. (And your boss will thank you forever, of course.)

1. It’s all about first impressions

All too often conferences are organised in the same, or super similar, venues, with standard event design that gives a pretty underwhelming first impression. Stand out from the crowd by designing a whole new look every time you plan a conference or host it in a unique new venue. Look out for inspiring spaces in undiscovered areas or transport guests to an unusual setting with dramatic interiors that Michelle Ogundehin would be proud of.

2. Give power to the people

Don’t get carried away and over organise a conference. Not only will you end up needing 100 coffees a day in the run up, but it’ll make the event a little sterile. It should definitely run like clockwork but, for people to get the most out of the experience, there needs to be a little bit of freedom. Create specific sessions that can be led by your attendees or give them plenty of opportunities to suggest areas that they want to explore or talk about. Ask for their input via an app or get them to submit ideas using tablets throughout the space. Or (radical idea) have a chat and ask the attendees what they’d like to get out of the day as they arrive.

3. Dance party anyone?

We’ve all been to, or at least witnessed, a silent disco right? But have you ever attended a speakers’ silent disco? With less dance and more talk, this new idea let’s people wear headphones and listen to different speakers throughout the space. They can change the channel as much as they like, depending on who they want to hear talk or which topics they’re interested in. It’s a great way to chop and change, keep things fresh and avoid listening to content you may have heard before.

4. Focus on the interactive

 It’s true that people get the most of out of a conference if it’s interactive and they feel included. Make sure your event gives attendees plenty of changes to get stuck in and discuss their own ideas and problems with leading figures and top performers. There’s plenty of presentation and workshop formats out there that you could think about bringing into the mix. Campfire sessions, for example, where a speaker explains an issue and invites the audience to discuss it (just don’t forget the s’mores), and presentations where the audience can vote on which topic they’d like to see covered. You could even split the attendees into small groups of randomly selected folk from different teams or companies and get them to discuss specific problems. You’ll end up with loads of new ideas.

 

So, what we’re saying is that there’s endless ways to design and organise a conference – but you should think outside the box to make it the best ever. Focus on engaging with your attendees and find out what they really want, make your presentations and talks interactive. Most importantly, start conversations and let their feedback shape the conference. They know best!

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