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Mastering conference planning: Crafting engaging programs

Conferences can often be a whirlwind of non-stop activity where attendees can find themselves going from one session to another, drowning in information, all the while trying to network and connect with colleagues or fellow attendees. And, in between all that, keep up to speed with work.

As an event planner, mastering the art of conference planning requires a careful strategy to ensure attendees’ satisfaction and also ensure the event’s objectives are met. Working with an event travel management company like ETM, understand the importance and value of creating meaningful content and connections and can support you to deliver a more thoughtful approach to your conference program.

Here are some key tips for creating an engaging conference program.

Why, what, when, who and how

Before diving into the intricate details of your conference planning, it’s essential to establish a solid foundation by answering crucial questions that will guide the entire process.

  • Why are you having the conference?
  • What are you hoping to achieve?
  • When will the conference take place?
  • Who will be involved in the conference planning?
  • How will you achieve your goals?

By addressing the why, what, when, who, and how of your conference management process, you lay a strong foundation for a successful corporate event. This strategic approach ensures that your efforts are purposeful, well-coordinated, and aligned with the overarching goals of the conference.

Understanding your audience's needs

An audience’s needs are going to vary based on the type of conference hosted, the individual, role type, interests, experience and preferences, just to name a few. In circumstances where the conference is hosted annually, reviewing prior attendee surveys or feedback forms is a great way to learn about the attendee experience, which can be used to improve future events.

Some areas of attendee expectations might be:

  • Opportunities for participation: Gone are the days where attendees wish to sit and listen to keynote speakers for the entire duration. People are seeking opportunities to connect, collaborate and network.
  • Sustainable corporate events: Individuals have a vested interest in sustainable practices just as companies do, so it is important to consider the venue, vendors and suppliers used to ensure they align with your company’s sustainability goals and values as well as the individuals.
  • Wellbeing: Employee health and wellbeing have never been more important and making provisions to allow for rest and mindfulness activities throughout the conference will be something to consider.
  • Gamification: There is always a percentage of attendees that will have a competitive streak and that need a higher level of engagement to be fulfilled. This can be done via games, challenges, problem solving or team building activities like a scavenger hunt.

Reviewing prior attendee surveys or feedback forms is a great way to learn about the attendee experience

Diverse and relevant content

Offer a diverse range of content that caters to different skill levels and interests within your audience. Include a mix of keynote speakers who represent a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to create a richer and more inclusive conference environment. Other inclusions might be panel discussions, workshops, and interactive sessions to keep attendees engaged.

It is important to remember that people attend conferences and corporate events to gain valuable insights. Each session delivered should include thought-provoking content presented by industry thought leaders, delivering relevant, up-to-date information, and actionable takeaways.

Allowing attendees the time to absorb and digest the content received will require paying attention to the scheduling of sessions to avoid information overload. Allow for sufficient breaks and strategically place high-impact presentations at peak attendance times.

Remember people attend conferences and corporate events to gain valuable insights.

To keep engagement levels high, try to incorporate interactive and gamification elements to encourage audience participation, such as Q&A sessions, live polls, and interactive workshops.

These can enhance engagement and make the conference experience more dynamic. Leverage event management technology to enhance the conference experience such as using event apps for schedules, real-time updates, and networking opportunities. Virtual or augmented reality features can also add an innovative touch.

Flexibility and adaptability

Be open to adapting the program based on attendee feedback and evolving trends. Having a flexible schedule allows you to respond to the dynamic nature of conferences and make on-the-fly adjustments.

The landscape of conferences is constantly evolving, with new event technologies, formats, and engagement methods emerging. Using the expertise of an event travel management company will support you to stay abreast of these trends and will help to integrate innovative elements into your conference management program.

Design your conference schedule with built-in flexibility. Allow for spontaneous adjustments based on the flow of the corporate event, unexpected opportunities, or changes in attendee dynamics. A rigid schedule may hinder the ability to capitalize on unforeseen advantages, so including buffer times in the schedule to accommodate overruns or unplanned interactions during sessions is a good idea.

No matter how meticulously you plan, unexpected challenges can arise. Having a mindset of adaptability allows you to navigate and mitigate these challenges swiftly and effectively. Unforeseen challenges could be a result of weather conditions, last-minute cancellations, sickness, or attendee displacement due to cancelled flights.

Allow for spontaneous adjustments based on the flow of the event, unexpected opportunities, or changes in attendee dynamics.

There is always room for improvement

As part of your conference planning, it is valuable to implement a system for collecting feedback on each session, whether it is good or has room for improvement. Perhaps there is room to grow into new areas of content that have not previously been explored before, which can provide scale and growth to your business event or conference.

It is important to understand what is working and what perhaps needs changing or removing altogether. By using feedback, you will evaluate the success of the conference program and make improvements for future events. Continuous improvement and iterations along the way will be key to long-term success.

Remember, a well-crafted conference management program not only delivers valuable content but also creates a memorable experience for attendees and a positive return on the business’s investment. By incorporating these tips into your conference planning, you can ensure the conference program will be not only informative but also engaging and impactful.

Is it time to begin conference planning?

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