Every event manager wants the recipe for conference success. It’s a difficult task to create an engaging and memorable conference year in year out. There is an expectation to build and improve on last year’s event as well as seamlessly deliver the hundreds of line items on the run sheet. Here are some tips you can use to add flare to your next conference and make it a winner.
What matters and what is memorable to a franchise of hairdressers will be very different from a group of truck drivers. Knowing your audience and catering for their needs is the first step to creating a memorable and engaging audience. It is important to understand the demographics of your audience (gender, age, lifestyle) and their preferences to make your conference appealing. A gala dinner with a dance party theme and DJ might wow your hairdressers but could send your truck drivers around the bend. Surveying your delegates is a good way to understand who they are, their likes and dislikes. Or, if you can’t survey delegates then analyse the registration data and look for similarities and differences.
Like a great dinner party, a great conference should leave a lasting impression on delegates. To make your conference memorable, you need to make an emotional connection. Every delegate will engage differently to your event so think about a multisensory experience. By appealing to all the senses, something will resonate with your delegates and form a lasting memory.
Consider all five senses
- Sight – mix up the audiovisuals. Consider a blend of video content together with more straight-laced Powerpoint presentations. Think about the overall conference theming. Does your event have its own memorable look and feel?
- Sound – consider how your conference will be heard. Is there a theme song for your conference that will unite and inspire delegates and remind them of your event every time they hear it?
- Taste – this is where the catering can play a big part. Learning makes the brain work hard, which means delegates will be hungry. The brain is fuelled by carbohydrates but not all carbohydrates are created equal. Give them quality energy burning food so they can stay alert during the conference and learn.
- Smell – this is where great catering can help again to make your conference memorable. Delicious food smells will give pleasure to your delegates and they will rave about your event.
- Touch – think about the tactile experience of your conference. Can you incorporate your overall theme into pillow gifts, tactile displays and take-home packs?
Successful events have a natural pace and sense of progression. After a two-hour plenary session, it’s easy for delegates to feel stale. As an event manager, you need to introduce peaks, troughs, tension and excitement, bring it down and then up again to create a dynamic and memorable conference. Consider using the element of surprise to wake delegates up. At one conference the waiting staff were secretly opera singers in disguise. You can imagine the smiles on delegates faces as their waiter serenaded them with an aria over lunch! At the same time, conferences can be tiring so provide time for rest and reflection too.
Get Your Delegates Involved
Delegates feel a sense of belonging if they make a contribution. Consider using something interactive which makes a connection with delegates. This can be in the form of:
- social media – instant sharing and instant gratification
- contribution via workshops
- participating in community-building programs, which create a sense of shared purpose and meaning. For example, one company held a conference in Thailand and had the delegates build bicycles for children at the local orphanage. The delegates thought it was a straight-forward team building task. What they didn’t know was the children were waiting outside for their new bikes. When the bikes were built, the doors opened and the children rushed in to claim their new bikes. The look of joy on the children’s faces as they rode their bikes around the conference room made grown men cry and certainly created a warm and lasting memory for the delegates.
Recipe for Conference Success
Here is our recipe for conference success:
- Blend the elements of your event until you get the right consistency
- Layer your conference with the right balance of content, learning, social activity
- Use a cup full of creativity
- Spread the budget as far you can
- Stir up your conference with surprises to inspire and delight your delegates
- Pepper your conference with fresh ideas instead of pulling out last year’s run sheet, changing just the dates and speaker’s names
Next week we will provide tips on how to engage conference delegates once the conference is over.
If you are organising a conference and would like fresh and memorable catering, contact us for a quote.