There is a delicate balance between insightful preparation and making assumptions when it comes to organising events. Some things are obvious – if you’re organising a conference for stakeholders in an eye hospital, you need clear signage, corridors free of hazards and plenty of time built into the schedule for people to make their way around the building. You might even need a sturdy bowl of water for a guide dog to quench its thirst!
If you organise meetings regularly, by now you probably provide miles of extension leads and, if you’re feeling generous, a multi-adaptor charging unit for mobile devices of every persuasion. Nowadays these come under the umbrella of common sense; and might I say any venue that’s cut its teeth should be advising you on the above as well?
But how you can really make your delegates, audience or guests feel welcome is by personalising your event to their needs. By all means think about what you’d like to receive when you attend an event, but what would they like? And what do they need?
At a technology conference recently the caterers provided tea and coffee in chunky white mugs instead of the usual precarious porcelain. Hoorah! No more juggling dainty cups or irritating chinking saucers. For a trendy caffeine-quaffing demographic this was a simple but effective switch, which probably cost nothing more than a moment’s thought yet provided a practical alternative, spot-on for the type of event, not least because the aforementioned techies were of course already carrying more mobile phones and iPads than they had hands in the first place!
But don’t be fooled into thinking technology is for the young. Preparing for a two-day conference back in July, my client sought advice on how to incorporate a Twitter wall. As she had previously said the room would be full of culture and heritage VIPs, I wasn’t expecting a social media savvy audience, but in addition to traditional coverage on breakfast TV and in the Telegraph, their event was livestreamed and its hashtag used by over 400 contributors with a Tweetreach of over 400,000.
One delegate even let us know she would arrive late because she was stuck on a Number 55 bus! Cue to let the stewards know, keep the coffee coming and make sure there were accessible seats for latecomers – no one is going to absorb anything or make constructive contributions to a day if they’re rushed and flustered.
Research starts with your front-line sales team, continues with the discerning questions you ask during a site visit and is enhanced by developing a rapport with your client so they come to you rather than you digging for information. In my experience you rarely cover every eventuality but if each time you manage an event you incorporate the lessons from last time perhaps you’ll have cracked it by the time you retire!
Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor