22 June 2017

Getting it right on the day: Key tips for running a successful conference

From the legal sector to construction, conferences exist for almost every profession. There’s likely to be a slew of events for people in all industries, so how do you ensure they attend yours and, just as importantly, return the following year?

In this article, we’re going to outline a few key pieces of advice that could help elevate your conference and make it stand out from the crowd.

Speakers

The single most important part of a conference is the line-up of speakers. It can be the difference between oversubscription and empty seating in each of your sessions. Find speakers who are engaging, authoritative, and, ideally, just a little bit controversial.

Equally important is selecting a good mixture of established industry figures, outsiders, and those who are making waves.

You should plan a timetable designed to keep the audience awake, alert, and interested. That means lots of breaks, and a mixture of keynotes, presentations, and panel discussions.

Editorial

So, you’ve got good speakers and they’re saying interesting things, but how do you let the wider world know?

Press invites will help spread all that’s newsworthy through related magazines, newspapers, and websites, but to ensure blanket coverage you’ll need to enable delegates to do some of the work too – set up Twitter hashtags for them to use and encourage online debate by asking questions on your social media forums.

In an ideal world, you’ll also report on events yourself, live and through your conference’s website.

Follow-up reports work well too, but nothing beats live digital reporting for engaging a community and getting them interested in what’s going on at your event.

You can hire freelance journalists to report on the conference for you. It’s a great promotional tool and will help drive name recognition for your next, similarly-branded, event.

Agendas and schedules

As a participant, it can be maddening when an organisation publicises its event but fails to post and update details of all their speakers and sessions online. If you’re asking people to part with money, then it’s extremely useful to explain fully what they’ll be getting in return.

Breakout areas

If your conference is a full day or more then good breakout areas are essential. Between sessions, delegates will variously need to take calls, work on their laptops, and hold impromptu meetings with people they meet. All of this is rendered more difficult when there is nowhere to sit quietly and comfortably for 30 minutes.

Reliable Wi-Fi

A cracking line-up of speakers can be rendered null and void if the Wi-Fi fails. It’s the thing that winds up delegates like no other – and they won’t be afraid to talk about it on Twitter – once they get a signal that is.

So, make sure the Wi-Fi in your venue is reliable, strong, and can take everyone hitting it all at once.

Goodie bags

Regardless of whether they’re handed out on arrival or departure, goodie bags are often of little use to delegates. If yours is just a low-quality cloth bag stuffed with an agenda and flyers, it’s worth asking yourself ‘what would I really like to find inside’? What about filling them with something useful, memorable, or drinkable? Fulfilling any of those requirements means your goodie bag will be better than most.

Refreshments

It’s tiring work listening to people talk, so delegates will need regular food and drink breaks. If your event is remembered fondly based solely on the food, it will be a step above many others.

So, what about pastries and coffee on arrival? More coffee and snacks mid-morning, followed by a healthy and interesting lunch that excites but also keeps people awake in the afternoon? Then coffee and snacks again later. Oh, and what about a bit of alcohol for the networking session that delays everyone’s departure?

It sounds like a lot, but when was the last time a delegate complained off being offered too much?

So there you have it – Redactive’s top tips for running a successful conference.

If you’re interested in discussing an event project with Redactive, call +44 (0) 20 7880 6200 or contact our Business Development Manager Daniel at daniel.butcher@redactive.co.uk.

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