For an event organiser, choosing the content of a conference is one of the most exciting jobs in the planning process. There will be lots of topics you’ll be keen on covering and lots of speakers you’ll want to hire, but your delegates will have many more needs you’ll have to consider in order for your event to be a success. Invitees will, of course, expect to be attending stimulating seminars lead by your industry’s leading thinkers, but there are other factors you need to take into consideration when planning your conference schedule.
No one wants to get up at the crack of dawn, but getting things underway early does give you the time you need to execute an amazing event full of fabulous ideas and inspirational content. If the resources are available, then starting the day with a short, healthy breakfast and networking session is a great way to energise your delegates and get them ready for the day ahead.
Anything over 75 minutes for a single session will end up with attendees losing focus and interest, regardless of the subject matter. A maximum of 45-60 minutes with a 15-minutes Q and A session is a tried and tested amount of time, so stick to this formula.
Give your attendees a break in between each talk or seminar and remember, it’s about quality rather than quantity. In other words, make sure each break offers something like food and drink, ice-breaker games, fresh air or perhaps even something a little more extravagant like meditation or yoga. It’s worth spending as much thought over the non-seminar parts of your conference as the talks themselves. They make up a huge part of your delegates’ experience at your event. If you’re on a tight budget, consider approaching companies who might be able to offer their services as part of a sponsorship deal.
Attending a conference is incredibly tiring for delegates, so really good food and drink is essential, and it needs to be served regularly. Schedule in breakfast, mid-morning refreshments, lunch and mid-afternoon snacks to ensure your guests are getting the right fuel to encourage them to perform their best at your event. Fantastic quality tea and coffee will quickly lift any flagging guests and a light but filling, healthy lunch (high in proteins and vegetables and low in carbohydrates) will help people maintain enthusiasm throughout the day.
Save the most coveted seminar for the last slot of the day and make sure it’s really good. Have all of your talks wrapped up by 4.30 and immediately move your delegates into a networking session with a celebratory drink. Ensure that everyone is catered for and leaves the event on a high.
It’s harder to convince delegates to stay for after-show fun and games these days. With everyone leading such busy lives they are going to need a really good reason not to go straight home after a long day. Make sure whatever you organise requires no effort on their part to get to (in short, organise transport if you’re changing location) and try to keep momentum going by not leaving a long gap in between the last session on your schedule and the party or dinner.
If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a conference, we can provide a complete organising service to take the weight off your shoulders. Give our Conference Manager, Tony Steedman, a call on 020 3313 1606 to discuss your plans.