There’s no doubt that when holding a conference, the venue is one of the key ingredients for success. But as well as having a conference venue which is conveniently located and offers the right equipment, catering options and facilities, there’s one other essential element to a successful conference – audience engagement. Here are a few tips for engaging your conference delegates.
Make every word count
It might sound obvious, but the most important basis of any conference is that the information you present is valuable. Start with a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your conference, what information you want to get out there, and how best to achieve that with a variety of speakers.
Speak to the speakers
Never underestimate the value of a good speaker. A well-known person in the industry can be a drawcard, however, that doesn’t mean they will always be a great presenter. In order to keep your audience’s attention, provide a solid brief to each to ensure that every session has a different focus, and provide a time-frame (20 minutes is a good base) which will allow for feedback, questions and/or related group discussions.
Pick a host with the most
You would be wise to appoint a host or MC to introduce each speaker and coordinate audience feedback sessions. This person needs to be a confident speaker themselves, and be comfortable running the show. If you don’t have anyone on staff, consider hiring a professional. A professional can also be a drawcard in their own right if they are well known.
Start the engagement before the big day
Begin the interaction before your delegates even arrive for the event. After they have booked, provide them with an information pack (by email is fine) with the conference outline and information on what you hope to achieve on the day (or days). Keeping delegates updated in the lead-up to the event may also help build momentum. Include a few questions on your booking form to gauge what your audience is hoping to get out of the event.
Keep it professional
The running of a successful conference is akin to the running of a well-oiled machine. Ensure you have planned every element of the event, and have contingency plans in place so that if things go off the rails, you don’t lose your audience. Keep the speakers and sessions on time, and the coffee flowing. Don’t promise something, such as a key speaker, and then fail to deliver.
Your guests are likely to be carrying a smartphone, iPad or laptop, and technology can be a great way to interact with them. There are a number of conference-related apps for instance that you can use to provide up to the minute information to guests or poll your audience during the sessions. And apps such as Bizzabo are like a one-stop conference shop, helping you to plan, market and pull off a successful event.
And social media
Social media can be another useful tool to help engage your audience. Ask delegates to follow your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts when they sign up for the conference. Rather than just swapping business cards, encourage delegates to connect with each other on LinkedIn to help create a community around your organisation. And you might even create a hashtag before the conference to give your event an identity on Twitter. Encourage both speakers and delegates to join in the Twitter conversation, retweet relevant content and interact with each other. You might even choose to display the Twitter feeds on screens around the conference venue.
Don’t make it all work
Keep the conversations flowing outside of sessions by presenting after-hours events such as dinner and drinks at the conference venue and offsite events like local tours (a venue in a stunning destination is a plus). Enhancing the experience for everyone attending, and providing a break from ‘work mode’, can also help you hold your audience. This can be particularly important for longer events that are held over two or more days.
Seeking feedback from delegates after the event is another way to build on new relationships, and it can also provide valuable tips for future conferences. Ask for honest feedback, as it’s the best way to learn what worked, what didn’t and how to do things even better next time around.
And now for the venue
Our conference venue in Victoria can provide you with the perfect location for your event. We help to make it easy with great conference facilities, wonderful accommodation, and exceptional food. We have a range of conference packages available for varying numbers of guests and requirements. And Glen Erin is situated in the gorgeous Macedon Ranges, a convenient 35-minute drive from Melbourne Airport and 50 minutes from the Melbourne CBD. Feel free to get in touch and discover how Glen Erin can provide you with the ideal conference destination.