driftwoodThere are plenty of articles online about major event planning mistakes to avoid, but how often do you think about the details of the ‘customer’ experience? Have you been to a conference or similar meeting and found yourself wondering if the organisers had ever actually been to one themselves?

All it takes is a little imagining of your potential attendee experience to avoid these mistakes:

  1. Booking – a local authority organised a free conference on business resilience. To book you had to print off a PDF and fill it in by hand, scan it and email it back – even worse it was an A3 document (I kid you not!). It’s so easy to do online bookings these days so why not use a site like eventbrite.co.uk – delegates will be able to book any time and it will capture all the information you need to produce delegate lists, badges and a whole lot more…
  2. Directions – a university department organised a seminar and the only reference to the actual venue name was buried in a link. The security staff knew nothing about it either! Make it clear from the outset where your event is happening and include a map. If you are adding written directions try them – no point in referring to a car park by its local name if that’s not what’s on the road signs!
  3. Timings – a sector network meeting had such a packed programme that most delegates dropped out of breakout sessions in order to get a drink and a comfort break. Chances are your attendees are very busy people who’ve managed to get out of the office for a day. They want to network but still have time to check in on emails or urgent phone messages – don’t overload your programme! If you’ve got people coming a long distance, think about the timings in terms of start and finish – starting slightly later might make a huge difference with train times and fares for example. They are also going to want to leave earlier too so don’t put a keynote speaker at the end of the day…
  4. Goodie bags – that printed unbleached cotton shoulder bag looks seductive, but most are never going to be used again – save yourself the money, and if you really must give your delegates stuff, make it things they will appreciate – a small bottle of water perhaps! Don’t forget the delegate list and try and include information about attendees’ roles so they can target people to network with. Also let delegates know in advance whether presentations etc will be made available afterwards – it will save them stressing about making notes.
  5. Social media – many events these days can take on a life of their own on social media as delegates and those who can’t make it continue the conversation online. But make sure you decide on a hashtag in advance and use it. Try searching it again early on in the day – avoid the embarrassment of a large conference that realised belatedly that somebody else was using the same tag for a totally different event (potentially embarrassing if you are using a ‘tweet wall’ to project interactions!). Make sure there’s good wifi too and that any password is freely available…
  6. Dietary requirements – It’s difficult to believe in these days of endless TV food programmes that a reputable venue could think some grated cheese with a bit of lettuce is acceptable lunch for  a vegetarian! If you are including food, be prepared to cater imaginatively for requirements like meat, dairy or gluten free (always assuming too that you’ve actually asked the delegates!)  – if in doubt about what’s on offer, ask someone who knows…
  7. Evaluation – a very common experience is being badgered to fill in a paper evaluation form at the end of a long day, just as delegates are wanting to leave. Why not use an online form that you can send a link to with an email thanking them for attending? Make it as short as possible and don’t ask for scores of more than 1-5! You could also be imaginative and do some of it on the day, such as face to face questions or show of hands as to whether they liked the venue and the lunch…

So what is your worst conference experience?

Maybe the thought of organising one fills you with dread? Get in touch if you’d like some help.


7 mistakes to avoid for a successful conference
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3 thoughts on “7 mistakes to avoid for a successful conference

  • 23/02/2016 at 13:46

    All great suggestions as especially as I’m just starting the planning for my Confident Mother live! event in September. Thank you.


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