It takes a team effort to make conference experiences memorable for attendees, presenters and exhibitors/sponsors. All parties play an important role in the success and value of attending in person events.
Our Event Management and Marketing & Communications departments formed a Conference Success Team to help our clients improve the conference experience for speakers, sponsors/exhibitors and attendees by creating a resource landing page with all the resources to ensure a positive conference experience before, during and after an event.
The number-one priority is creating relevant content for each audience. So, it’s important to research trends in the profession, conduct a professional development assessment, review membership surveys and past conference surveys to use feedback to improve and enhance the conference experience. Doing it “the way we’ve always done it” won’t cut it.
When you understand what your audience wants, you can then create the framework and tracks that will be the basis for your call for presenters. In addition to contact information, make sure you collect the following session information:
- Presentation/Session Title (15-word limit)
- Presentation/Session Description or Presentation (150-word limit)
- Learning Objectives (require at least three)
- Select Audience (for example: experience level, society type, organization size)
- What keywords relate to your presentation topic? This is for search engine optimization as we promote the conference.
- Provide a two-sentence promotion of your presentation for social media postings.
Getting this information at the beginning will provide the structure for the conference marketing plan.
Exhibitors and sponsors help keep the cost of conferences down for attendees and they also offer a way to make connections on business resources available to attendees. Creating value and ROI for exhibitors and sponsors creates value for the attendees.
The Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) offers unique sponsorship opportunities that enhance the value for both the sponsor and the attendee. They also utilize cool technology at their conference such as a full LED wall with movable graphics, a Gobo light with logo sponsors and video. They also have a dedicated HEDNA TV Channel on YouTube that features conference sessions and helps promote future conferences, giving attendees access to the quality content that is delivered at the event.
HEDNA doesn’t have exhibitors but rather offers different types sponsorship opportunities to show unique value to the sponsors while enhancing the conference attendee experience. They have Nooks/Event pods branded with sponsor logos, offering the attendees a soundproof space with white boards, television monitors, videos and allowing for attendee conversations.
Gobo lights make it possible to project sponsor logos on the walls. It’s a simple and effective way to enhance the conference experience at a reasonable price. In addition, they set up a HEDNA café with existing furniture in the hotel and a barista, featuring specialty coffees with the sponsor logo on top of the coffee froth.
The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) offers a variety of hotel signage and walls/door clings and gobos for conference sponsors as well. This year, PDMA will use gamification in their mobile app to engage attendees.
For the Qualitative Research Consultants Association and Recognition Professionals International, we launched a “Reporter on the Scene” program; members volunteered to fill out an online form for each session and these were developed into blog posts and other content.
At the conferences, we encourage attendees to use hashtags and provide social media tip sheets to get conversations going and keep them going year-round after the conference experience is over. A strong conference and in-person connections foster loyalty and year-round connections.
For attendees, we offer ways to connect with other attendees at the conference in meet-ups, connecting in the mobile app and offering interactive sessions. It’s also important to create time between sessions to allow for conversations, sharing and networking so that learning sticks and new connections are created.
Half of the population are introverts — so it’s important to offer a variety of ways to connect in the manner attendees want. We will share tips on how to get the most out of conferences in a future post.
Mindfulness and wellness activities — both in the workplace and at conferences — are also becoming more popular. Organized walks and runs, yoga or other exercises, healthy snacks and meditation tips are a great way to add new value for attendees that they can take home.
Create memorable conference experiences for your members before, during and after each event!