Education, connectedness, networking – all are important ingredients that we’ve discussed for successful conferences. But on their own, they’re not enough. Here are more key elements that need to be folded into the programming mix;
Peer recognition, awards and celebration
Conferences present a great face-to-face opportunity to honour, recognize and celebrate achievements and contributions amongst peers.
Clearly identified key learning objectives and outcomes
When delegates can easily determine those activities that will benefit them in their existing roles and contribute to their growth, they get involved, participate and benefit – which will keep them coming back year after year. When the learning objectives aren’t up front and clear, participation dwindles and the conference suffers. Make sure you clearly position and communicate these key benefits of the program.
Additional pre or post conference workshops
This allows you to respond to specific needs that may not be addressed in the official program. For some, this can be much easier to gain knowledge in a specific area when coupled with the conference rather than trying to find time and availability to do so at another time throughout the year.
Location, location, location
Although it may be tempting to consolidate conference locations geographically, getting away is another way to clear one’s mind and to experience a new destination without the normal day-to-day distractions and responsibilities. Location can also either help attract or detract attendance, and can be used as a bonus in recognition of effort and achievement. The addition of pre- or post- destination tours and/or activities can also allows families to participate for those who choose to spend additional time in a desirable location.
Food and beverage quality
Quality of the food and beverage offered at conferences definitely impacts the value of the conference and even the overall evaluation of learning and networking. Years of experience has taught us that if the food is good, it elevates the conference’s overall assessment, but if the food is poor or uninteresting, it can negatively affect the assessment of every other aspect of the meeting. Fresh, light and healthy meals will act as fuel for the learning and networking opportunities that follow. Most facilities have recognized how important it is to offer menu selections that respond to societal shifts in healthy living and food intolerances. Also, incorporating scheduled meals ensures that delegate participation and attendance is not lost to outside facilities or outlets, and that sessions run on time; another key component.
I’ll admit the last is a personal favourite of mine, but to be honest, all these elements are! I wouldn’t be in this business for 25 years if I weren’t truly jazzed about helping organizations in every aspect of conference delivery.