Planning a meeting or conference is no cakewalk. Here are the top tips from expert event planners who have handled hundreds of association conferences:
1. Articulate Your Goals: This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how easy it is to forget this step. It's harder to plan and choose when you have fuzzy thinking. Here is an example of a clear conference objective. To provide attendees with an opportunity to rethink their roles in the rapidly changing library environment and to enhance their change management skills. Here is a leadership retreat objective: To set priorities and shape the strategic planning process for the upcoming year so that we improve customer service.
2. Make the Location Enticing: Choose a place with a special feeling. For example, great weather (think Cancun), great tourist attractions (think Whistler), great food (a local restaurant) or an-off beat location (think Fantasyland Hotel).
3. Make it Easy for People to Network: According to a 2004 meeting industry poll, the number one reason people attend conferences-is to network. Too many conferences and meetings only offer a cocktail hour. Some people don’t drink or don’t know how to easily build rapport in that environment. In addition, unstructured environments like this usually reinforce existing relationships but may not encourage new ones. Hire presenters who can also create non-threatening ways for people to really get to know each other. Or, offer fun activities that encourage strangers to interact easily. One good connection can make all the difference to an attendee getting their money’s worth.
4. Balance Content with Entertainment: Too many conferences are chalk full of content specialists giving dry, boring lectures (with 150 Power Point slides). People attend meetings to get a break from staring at glowing screens. In addition, people learn more effectively when they are laughing and interacting. Choose speakers who can deliver an applicable message with a good dose of humor, stories and experiential learning. Also, have some speakers who cover a more general interest topic so that it feels applicable to non-industry attendees such as suppliers, relatives and guests.
5. Plan a Signature Moment: Include something that people will talk about when they get home. A fun experiential activity can get people talking, laughing, learning and spreading the word. For example, at a publishing conference teams created a “best ad” contest, at a government leadership retreat attendees participated in comedy improv, at a library conference attendees did a treasure hunt through the nation’s capital.
6. Encourage Implementation: Most people will forget everything they learned at the conference within 48 hours. Choose presenters who know how to help attendees implement their learning back home. This goes beyond simple goal setting. It includes case studies they can relate to, ways of delivering information into their long term memory, and systems that help people stay accountable.
Carla Rieger is an expert on creative people skills at work. If you want a motivational speaker, trainer, or leadership coach to help you stay on the creative edge, contact Carla Rieger.
Web site: http://www.carlarieger.com