Beat the business conference planning blues with 5 easy tips. How to pick a great conference venue, plan memorable networking event & more.
Let’s be honest: even if your next business conference is in a popular destination like Las Vegas or Cancun (we can dream, right?), there’s nothing fun about the planning process.
Planning a conference can feel like a stressful, full-time second job. Pulling off a successful conference, however, can give your career a huge boost—gaining you accolades from upper management, widening your professional networking circle, and maybe even landing you an introduction to your next job.
A successful conference is not just about great planning; it’s also about avoiding common pitfalls that can send the conference spiraling downward. Follow these simple tips to dodge common conference problems.
Problem 1: Settling for a Sub-Par Location Due to Budget Constraints
Not every conference can be held at the Ritz, but if you’re planning a conference in an unfamiliar city, it can be hard to tell which locations are actually a good deal and which will leave you marooned miles out of town in the middle of nowhere. Work with a third-party coordinator that knows the lay of the land.
This is especially true for overseas conferences where you won’t be able to review the venue in advance. Free venue search services, like BizBash, Venue Search London and Cvent make it easy quickly compare different venues, read reviews from other conference planners, and get the inside scoop on the best deals in a specific city.
Do your research before committing to a spot and don’t be misled by an attractive price tag.
Problem 2: Every Networking Event Is the Same
Serving sub-par appetizers, cheese plates and regrettable wine every evening for your networking cocktail hour gets pretty old. If the conference is taking place over several days, consider scheduling an interesting off-site event that gets the group out of the conference center hotel and facilitates more genuine connections.
For example, the Bay Area startup Event Yoda offers coffee tastings, an “Amazing Race” style scavenger hunt through the city, casino nights, beer tasting, cooking tutorials, escape room team challenges and even archery. Check with your conference operator about what discounted team building packages might be available through the conference center, too.
Problem 3: Recruiting Top Speakers to Headline the Conference
Let’s face it: top speakers in your industry have their pick of conferences to attend. Even if your conference is well established, nailing a coveted speaking line up can be a challenge until at least one or two speakers commit.
Woo your speakers with conference perks. At the very least, ask for free lodging from the conference hotel and offer your speakers airfare vouchers. Presenting potential speakers with a robust attendee list can work in your favor, too. It’s never too early to start an active email marketing campaign and social media campaign to boost interest and drive conference enrollment.
Related Article: Email Marketing Magic: The Secret to Getting More Opens
Problem 4: Cranky Conference Attendees Battling for Too Few Power Outlets
Two words: Power strips! Work with the venue to offer plenty of power strips for emergency phone charging. And keep in mind that conference attendees are often trapped in a Catch-22: they’re happy to be out of the office and on a “mini-vacation” of sorts, but they still need to be on top of work and have space to take calls, send emails and solve client crises.
In addition to plentiful charging in the conference rooms, designate one central space a “quiet room” where attendees can work throughout the conference in peace. Stock it with plenty of coffee, snacks, water and power strips for emergency phone and computer charging.
Problem 5: Networking Gets Awkward Once the Conference Ends
The last session ends, attendees (and their swag-stuffed bags) head to the airport, and you breathe a big sigh of relief. It’s all over, right? Not quite: providing attendees with easy ways to stay in touch will solve one of their biggest conference challenges: the post-conference networking conundrum.
Keep the discussion going on social media, be that through LinkedIn groups, Facebook or Twitter. You can also play “matchmaker” and send a two participants an article they both may find interesting—and mention they should get together in person to chat about it. Encourage attendees to post about their experience on a business blog and then share these posts. Make it easy and natural to stay in touch.
At the end of the day, attendees will remember a few key things: the great venue location you selected, the fun off-site events you arranged, the in-demand speaker you scored, and the plentiful power strips that made it easy to charge their phones. (Seriously, that last one’s a biggie!)
And by keeping the conversation going post-conference, you’ll solve one of the biggest pain point’s attendee’s face while boosting your own reputation in the process. That’s a win-win.