14 tips for better conferences| 24th September 2014
Autumn is prime conference season. Thousands of politicians meet at the annual party conferences, and event spaces across the nation fill with delegates at hundreds of industry events, global conferences and annual meetings. Anyone who has ever been to one of these events knows that the quality can range from quite dull, all the way to being the best thing you’ve done all year. Both attendees and organisers can contribute massively to make any event a success, and we’ve got some top tips for conferences we want to share to help make your next event a triumphant experience.
Before the event:
- Find out who else is going, and make a list (mental or written down) of people you want to meet during the conference. Provide information about yourself if there is a system for sharing details and expectations in advance, for instance what you are working on. This is a great opportunity to make sure you connect with those who are most relevant.
- If you can, ask questions to panels and speakers in advance. Find out from the conference organisers if they have set up facilities to take questions, whether that is by recording your questions on video, submitting them via email or posting on Twitter. Not only does this mean a greater chance that your questions will be answered, but conference organisers and speakers can plan the content to reflect what attendees are interested in.
- Organisers can even collect information from attendees to find out what sessions to schedule, so let them know what you want to hear about. This organisation asked about attendees’ greatest challenges in their field, and arranged relevant speakers and constructive workshops accordingly.
- Make a plan for which sessions you want to attend during the conference. Read speaker bios, content summaries or watch intro videos to find out what content is going to be most relevant for you.
During the conference:
- Network, network, network. Make a system to remember people and conversations, connect faces with names and remind yourself what to follow up with. You’ll meet loads of people, so a clever system means that you won’t forget the most important ones.
- If you are going with someone else, split up at talks and sessions so you cover more, and then debrief or share notes afterwards.
- Ask questions. Plan a few well-prepared, thought-through questions about the topic, so you can contribute to a constructive debate or open up to other information being shared.
- Be involved. Miituu helps organisers get people to submit questions on video before or during the event, which can be great for instigating interesting discussions, especially breaking the traditional few minutes of silence before waiting for someone to pluck up the courage to ask a question in front of a live audience.
- Provide feedback to the event organiser. They often gather feedback from people who are there, when they are there, and this is your chance to share your thoughts. The best conference organisers don’t just rely on feedback cards, which are easily forgotten or scribbled down in a hurry – suggest setting up a video recording booth – a laptop, tablet or smartphone and a quiet-ish place is all that is needed! – so they can gather engaging, honest feedback from the audience.
- Enjoy yourself! You may be there with an important business goal in mind, but the most engaging people to interact with are those who are also having a good time. Remember, most of the connections are often made in the informal, enjoyable parts of the conference.
- It is also a good idea to schedule time to relax, so you can process the information and experiences.
After you leave:
- Look at post-event feedback the conference organisers share with attendees. Ask them to send out summaries, quotes, videos and key takeaways – it’s in their interest that their conference stays with the audience long after they’ve gone home.
- It’s not too late to provide feedback either. Many organisers will send out emails or questionnaires to ask what you thought, so they can get good feedback. Be honest and constructive to ensure the conference is even better next year.
- Follow up with new connections. Forgetting to follow up with friendly, clear emails after you met at an event is one of the top mistakes to avoid when attending a conference.
We hope our suggestions help you make the most of your conference season – if you have some great tips on how to ensure you leave your next conference with knowledge, enthusiasm, new connections and bright action plans, share with us on Twitter!