In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we focused on the planning processes and logistics that lead to a successful conference. Now, it’s time to look at the most essential part of the puzzle: the people side of planning large events.
11. Staff Communications
Many hands are on board, and it is your responsibility to communicate effectively and efficiently with all. My advice: Listen to your team’s needs, be predictable, and live by what you preach.
Keep progress documented and processes transparent. Explain your thoughts, procedures, and decisions. This will allow your team to take initiative and lift a heavy workload off your shoulders. One-type-fits all is certainly not the way to go when communicating, so tailor communications to your team members.
12. Attendee Communications
Turning attendees into happy guests requires effective communication. Your attendees’ schedules fill fast, so send a save-the-date email as soon as the time and date of the event are set. Then, follow up with an invitation that stands out from the crowd.
Once these two mailings are sent, practice restraint. Limit direct email reminders to three mailings, and remove those who have already registered from your registration-reminder list. Assaulting people’s inbox is more likely to put them off than encourage them to register. Rather, find alternative ways to get the word out about your business event.
And finally, provide the final agenda, speaker information, and essential logistic tips to those who have signed up to attend. A friendly email reminder two weeks prior to the conference will do the trick.
13. Speaker Coordination
Create formal procedures for working with conference speakers. Communicate the goals for their contributions clearly, set expectations, and enforce deadlines. Do not expect speakers to perform guesswork. It will surely backfire.
While it’s almost impossible to secure all final PowerPoint presentations prior to the actual event, seasoned event professional Sean Schuette expects a higher success rate when “setting a maximum of two deadlines, including a buffer for internal procedures, and copying speakers’ admins to all correspondence”.
14. Event Technology
Now more than ever, technology is the driver of conference content. To determine your technology needs, start out by evaluating the existing infrastructure and potential limitations of your event location. Keep your audience and speakers in mind as you fine-tune your options on audio, visuals, and new technology integration. After all, what good is a Twitter wall if a majority of your attendees are not comfortable using this social media tool?
Since most conference attendees will utilize mobile devices, go beyond mobile check-in. Event experience apps will help you communicate speaker information, maps, schedules, and background information directly to your attendees. Do some research, and find the app that fits best.
15. Emergency Preparedness
Conference venues typically provide mandated emergency plans, outlining what to do in scenarios such as power outages, fire, or natural disasters. Build your own watertight emergency plan on top of it.
Include emergency phone numbers, assign team members specific responsibilities, designate persons authorized to speak to authorities and the press, and detail evacuation plans. Your entire staff should be briefed and ready to guide conference attendees should an emergency arise.
With the emergency plan in mind, tour the venue one last time, just before your attendees arrive. Make sure exit routes are unobstructed and light bulbs indicating exits are working. You may be surprised at what could go wrong between your previous site inspection and guests’ arrival.
We are almost there! There is one final contribution on the major aspects of organizing a large-scale business event left.
We’ll look at how to perfect ground transportation arrangements, work on location setup, master day-of challenges, and tackle essential post-production to have you and your conference shine.
This contribution features opinions of Sean R. Schuette, CMP. Sean works for IntrinXec Management, Inc., and has more than 14 years of experience in planning trade shows, conferences and events, some with attendance as high as 15,000 people.
Special thanks to Martin Steger for providing a second pair of eyes to this post.