Jen Dodson

Brand Manager

Have you ever been to a conference that’s lackluster, disorganized, or just plain boring? Recently, I’ve been to a few that could be amped up. Everyone hates that feeling of dozing off in front of a speaker or feeling hungry halfway through the second breakout session. Here are a few simple tips that make a world of difference when it comes to hosting your own conference.  

Nutritious Snacks and lunch

Whether you’re at a multi-day conference or an 8-hour education seminar, keeping people hydrated and energized is essential. I’m talking breakfast, lunch and a mid-afternoon boost. It’s easy to feel fatigued after lunch, especially in a dim room with a panel discussion. To keep people intrigued, make sure there’s plenty of coffee and quick bites to scarf down before the next session.

Break the ice

While some attendees travel in packs and can spot a few familiar faces, others travel solo. To get everyone energized and more comfortable, have a networking breakfast where the name tags highlight a personal interest. This serves as an easy conversation starter that can build rapport rather quickly. Perhaps start off by playing a game or even giving a pep talk. I once went to a conference and a marching band played through breakfast!

Networking breaks/bathroom breaks

In addition to nutritious snacks, make sure there is plenty of time for people to use the restroom and network with other attendees in between sessions. While a majority of people are there to learn, others are there to build their network and meet new people. Some attendees may even take advantage of that time by hopping on a client call or checking email to put out any necessary fires. Whatever the case may be, give your attendees a break from listening to speakers to socially re-energize.

Stick to a timeline

Make sure to stick to a timeline. If one hour is allocated for lunch, ensure people are seated, lunch is plated and cleaned up in one hour – just in time for the following keynote speaker. Once a session runs late, everything else gets pushed back and the conference may run over by an extra half hour. While some schedules are flexible, attendees may have to skip out early for a prior engagement before hearing the final speaker. It’s important for attendees to feel relaxed, yet energized at conferences, they shouldn’t be worried about time schedules.

Good mix between keynote speakers and breakout sessions

Make sure everyone has a chance to listen to a wide variety of speakers from beginning to end. While breakout sessions are important, sometimes they fall flat with non-engaging panel discussions or a topic that seems great on paper, but delivered poorly. The keynote speakers should be the highlight of the conference – they should be the wow-factor that everyone values.

Have a killer happy hour

After a long day of networking, learning and active listening, most attendees appreciate a good happy hour to wind down. Not only is it nice to crack open a beer after 5pm, it’s a great time to network with other attendees in a more relaxed environment. This gives people the flexibility to leave right away, or stick around for conversation and a few more cocktails.

Despite the content of the conference, whether it’s an educational summit, small business conference or marketing conference, the fundamentals are the same: keep your attendees energized and entertained. They will always come back for more!