Now it’s time to perfect some more details along the road to providing attendees the best conference experience possible:
16. Family Program
Multiple-day conferences often come with the difficult decision of spending time with family vs. spending it on education. Consider offering a family program to ease this dilemma for attendees.
“Sometimes it can benefit the event to encourage attendance of spouses and children. And, sometimes it can distract,” says Sean Schuette, a 14-year veteran in the meeting industry. Determine logistic requirements for having families present, and evaluate possible pros and cons for your conference before making your final decision. A survey of previous attendees might provide valuable insights.
You can find some tips on childcare for corporate events in the article “Toddlers – Event Crashers At Corporate Events?”.
17. Ground Transportation
Make getting around easy for attendees. If there is no convenient public transit option within walking distance, organize shuttle buses to and from event locations. Plan ahead. Busses will need space to park, load, and off-load.
Get quotes from multiple vendors, and book early. Transportation companies have a limited number of vehicles in their fleet, so you might have to pool resources from multiple providers to fill your need.
Have an agenda, timeline, and directions ready for each driver. They may humor you for using this old-fashioned method, but trust me – hard copies come in handy when navigation systems are out of satellite reach.
18. Location Set-Up
The set-up of the location has an enormous impact on the guests’ event experience. So, do everything you can to get it right. Build upon the conference location’s knowledge of the space and its capabilities during the planning process. Keep in mind not to crowd your attendees, and remember that ample signage will help people to find their way. “And grouping like things together helps attendees move around the conference facility intuitively,” advises Schuette.
Work with to-scale visuals of the conference location as you lay out the space, either with maps or interactive technology tools. Software such as Social Table’s Venue Mapper allows planners to create a realistic venue layout, all the way down to decorations. Having functional visuals at hand will not only help avoid miscommunication with your team, but also improve contractors’ set-up efficiency.
19. Day-of Challenges
Large-scale events bring different challenges than smaller events do. No matter what, registration and coat checking will be tricky as you welcome hundreds of attendees at the same time. Schuette also points out the “… oh, by the way-factor,” meaning that planning never ends, and last-minute changes are part of the deal.
Be prepared, and know that, especially for large conferences, the devil is in the proverbial detail.
Read about how to tackle day-of challenges at our post “Turning Snafus Into Full-Fledged Event Success”.
20. Post Production
Think of the attention you would like to get as contractor, collaborator, or attendee after an event if the roles were reversed. And take your planning from there.
Thank the team, debrief all who lent helping hands, and collect feedback and lessons learned to aid for future planning. Communicate with attendees, provide promised information, and evaluate their feedback questionnaires. Report to event sponsors, and include statistics and numbers that justify the event to stakeholders. Assure all bills are paid, and go ahead and book the location for the next time around. You know, in planning, the earlier is always the better!
Thanks for taking this journey with us. We have now touched upon the twenty stepping-stones on the way to a successful conference. While Schuette warns that when organizing a large conference “there are many moving parts to keep track of,” I know that with this roadmap you will be on the path to success.
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.