Hosting a multi-day conference or stand alone event can be a very rewarding and overwhelming process. When you get started on the right foot, everything else becomes much easier. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.
Be friendly and thoughtful in your personal contact
This seems like a no-brainer, but you never know when you will meet a prospective attendee. If you have a booth or table set up at another conference, anyone who walks by may be considering your event. First impressions are everything. Your instinct might lead you to jump in with a “sell-my-product” attitude, but it’s important to remember to be kind and friendly as well. A good pitch is a good pitch, but if someone doesn’t feel like they like the person delivering it, the pitch is worthless.
When you have the opportunity to market your event directly to a potential attendee, try the following: First, ask about the other person and listen to what they have to say. This gives you the opportunity to discover common interests and gauge if they would be a good fit for your event. Once you have listened carefully, you can transition into talking about more specific reasons why you think your event would be useful or appealing to them.
Maintain a website/app that is up-to-date and easy to maneuver
Your website needs to be easy to use. It is common for websites to frustrate people who are searching for information. It is uncommon for a website to impress people. Invest the time and money to make your website, app, and/or message stand out. Ensure that relevant information is prominently placed and have clear directions for any necessary action on the part of the attendee (such as online registration). Provide easy to navigate information on nearby hotels, restaurants, and other facilities so that your attendees are not fending for themselves. Create a way for registrants to connect with other attendees and speakers. All of this is applicable to your event app – which, by the way, is an absolute must.
Do not use over generalized buzz phrases to advertise your event and then leave out the specifics to back them up. “Life-changing”, “eye-opening”, “buzz-worthy”… they are all useful, but they also mean different things to different people. Tell people WHY your event is life-changing, or simply let your attendees know exactly what to expect right from the get-go. What are the main topics to be addressed? What is the strategic goal of your event? Who are the speakers and what are their credentials? Why do you think this event is needed or will be helpful? What makes your off site or bonus events stand out? Do not simply advertise that your event will be amazing. Instead, tell your attendees why it will be amazing. Give them something solid and specific to look forward to.
Take into account the generational span of your attendees
Facts of life: most likely your conference will be attended by people with a broad age range. Depending on your industry and the level of technical knowledge, do what you can to cater to each generation represented. It might be appropriate in some instances to offer both printable and online registration forms. If a ticket or barcode is necessary upon arrival, make sure that these are also printable and accessible online. Your general/plenary sessions should contain relevant information for all age groups. If your conference has breakout sessions, consider a range of topics. Bring in a contracted company to offer childcare for parents traveling for your event. If you offer “swag bags” at registration, consider tailoring the various perks and offering different gift bags to people of different age groups. Only you know your event best, but the simple act of putting extra consideration into where people are coming from (physically, mentally and generationally) makes people feel appreciated and more connected to your event.
Review the way you do registration, and explore ways to improve
Registration often goes like this: after scrambling for several minutes to find an attendee’s name tag, the volunteer behind a desk speeds through a memorized presentation that contains more information about the event than they can likely take in. When the attendee leaves, the volunteer starts the whole process over again with the next person in line, who just heard everything and doesn’t exactly want to hear it again. Depending on the size of your crowd and the time of your registration, it might be time to look at a different system. One way to streamline your registration is by having event packs (name tag, schedule booklet, swag items, etc.) in an organized display where names are visible. Attendees can find their own bag and then move on in groups to the registration tables. The volunteers will only have to go through their event review once for every ten or twenty people. For other ways to improve your registration process, check out our post with 4 tips tailored to registration.
Bonus Tip: Remember that if you are feeling overwhelmed, Coterie Spark has your back. We are here to make sure that your event is a success! If you are curious about how we can help you, let’s sit down and talk about it. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.