What tips would I give to an event organizer?
I’ll give in this blog post some tips on event organizing (mostly for conferences and such):
1. The very first tip I’d give is picking speakers the audience doesn’t know that well; Pick some strangers to speak for your conference; I know, that’s a tricky part (how can you trust them? why would the audience pay to see some strangers), but I personally would much rather see a surprising new face, rather than see the same circle of people, again and again, at all the conferences I go; You can only do something wrong if you don’t try;
2. The next tip is making sure the participants at the conference speak about a subject that’s a matter of interest to the audience; This is part of your task; Hard to do, but do make sure that the speaker’s presentation will focus little on what is kindly called “case study” and what it is in most cases self-advertising; You can approach the subject up front, you can set a rigid presentation theme, you can ask for the PowerPoint to be sent prior to the conference for a check-up; Rarely have I seen a self-advertising presentation that is even remotely interesting; Make sure that this doesn’t happen to your event, or you might have some unhappy clients;
3. A nice presentation tip would be involving the audience; A simple raise of hands would wake a lot of people; Go for some resource-giving questions (What would you say are the best ideas for doing X?) and you get some more people to be attentive; Finally, provoke them do a hard-talk dialogue and you might conquer the world of presentations; You can have the audience put a lot of questions to the speakers (have a rather long time of time allowed to questions); You can also have moderators of panel discussions put questions to the speakers; But all-in-all, you should make sure that the trainers at a conference really do involve the audience;
4. How to pick a speaker? I think a good speaker has some qualities like:
a. Good structure of information (he should know things for himself);
b. Provides you with insights (not only does he say stuff, this stuff make my mind go right);
c. Makes you feel good (even laugh; great way to learn things; beautiful state of mind);
d. Involves you (I’m not here to sleep, I’m here to dance!);
e. Provokes you (makes you blush);
f. Say new things (I want to hear something I don’t already know; give me new stuff, I can read old stuff in books);
g. Take you out of the comfort zone (by first going there himself; you shouldn’t feel all that comforting at a conference);
It’s not an easy-to-find kind of speaker, but these are some basic criteria; Find a trainer with as many qualities out of these as you can;
5. Prior to getting a speaker to a conference, I think it’s best to:
a. See him doing another presentation, live or via electronic means;
b. See him live, have a friendly chat with him (while you observe his personal skills);
c. Hearing him doing a presentation on the phone (on the Internet, via a web cam, would be better);
d. Get outside review (ask others, search the Internet, get peer review);
Some of the things above are harder to implement, some of these are easier; But I’d really avoid having a speaker at a conference and knowing little to nothing on him;
6. Be there for the participants; Rarely this thing doesn’t happen, but you have to make sure that at any moment at a conference there is a person from the organizers watching things over; Just a tip to make sure you remember this rule;
7. Regarding food: Solve frustrations with fast-consuming foods by replacing food as soon as it gets hard to find (so rather than having a long lists of foods, and some get eaten very fast, I think it’s better to have a smaller list of foods, that are easy to replace with new foods of the same type; this is not an universal law, but it might be frustrating to talk to someone only to find that there are only some not-that-great-looking sandwiches left);
8. Regarding promoting of the event:
a. Have a web site of the event; Do Search Engine Optimization to that web site;
b. Promote your event via press releases; Press loves this kind of thing!
c. Have a promotion in the social networks of your participants (these are highly dependable on the types of audience you have; but all-in-all, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Xing – Germany mostly, Cirip – Romania mostly, might be good ideas for your promotion; You can see a list of social networks on Wikipedia)
d. Promote your conference into relevant mailing lists; Visit Google Groups and Yahoo! Groups homepages and search for keywords related to your event target group; Promote your conference in there, with care with the general atmosphere in the group (if it’s discussion-only, you might be unwelcomed with a purely informative message; Adjust your speech to the specific audience of a group; Read 10-20 recent messages on the group to have a glimpse on what’s it about);
e. Ask for help; Bloggers, business partners, press – all can provide you with help on promoting the event; Ask for help! They can do anything from writing about you, placing a banner to your web site, send information to friends to participating themselves;
f. Have a fresh thinking! A lot of people would like to see a YouTube video with your event, see a virtual map of the address of the conference, see videos with the speakers, see a list with people that participate to the event, receive a participation diploma from the event, receive a gift at the event; Learn to attract people, to motivate them;
9. Do Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – This might involve giving some invitations to the event or donating part of the money obtained on the event; You can offer scholarships to participate to your event; You can sponsor some persons to accommodate at a hotel; Think creative! And you can promote your ability to do CSR; It’s the right thing to do;
10. Thank the speakers for holding speeches at your event; You might even offer them gifts, flowers or at least offer transportation; Also thank the participants to the conference by sending them a postcard or two with a great picture at the event; This should be memorable;
11. If your conference is an all-day event, it might be a good idea to offer your participants information on other events that take part in the same day, prior to leaving your event; So, let’s say your conference ends at 18:30 and there’s another event at 19, an event on 20, another one at 21; Be a kind host and give alternatives to your guests for the evening; You can also give information on where to accommodate for the night prior and after the event;
12. Pick the right day for the conference: Monday is great, Friday is less-than-great; Think of a day and period of time in which it would be easy to get a day off (if there’s a day celebrating women in March, it might be a good idea to organize a conference in a period of time that is close to that event); Friday may be bad due to the closeness to week-end (and at the end of the week there’s always something to do); On the other hand, very few people plan for the next Monday to do something;
13. In order to keep a tight schedule, you can set a time for registration: so registration to begin at 9:30 AM, while the conference to start at 10 AM; And keep the schedule; Rarely does a conference announced to start at 10 AM really starts at 10 AM sharp;
14. How to get great speakers? Ask for recommendations; Ask the participants to give you hints on who should participate at the next event;
15. I think it would be alright if the speakers had a training themselves: how to operate the microphone, how to get to the next slide, how to use the pointer to show something on the screen; Even some soft skills training might be good (involve the audience); Talk to your speakers and give them a few hints;
16. The most important thing at a training are the trainers themselves: the hotel, location, food, materials, organizers – I personally can live with lesser quality of any of these; A great speaker, who should give me both emotions (make me laugh, annoy me, make me happy) and also provide me with insights (not just learn things, discover them myself) would be great; And at the end of the day, I should take some good memories with me (on emotional and practical part);
17. Try to pick a location that is accessible via more than one way (not only by car, but also by Metro or bus or tram; Think of multiple audience of your conference); Prior to the event, when sending an invitation, also send a map with the great locations near your event; It might impress people in a good way;
18. Make sure that there’s not another great event in that very day with yours; I would hate to have to pick between two great conferences;
19. Ask for volunteers to come and help organize the event in a great way; There are a lot of people who want to get involved and you only need a lot help in the days prior to the event itself and in that very day;
20. What happens when all things are set? I think an evaluation should exist on the following levels:
a. Training contents and structure;
b. Level of “I was touched” (laughed, annoyed, intrigued);
c. Level of “I got an insight” (I learned this and that, I discovered new things);
d. Level of “I applied what I learned” afterwards;
e. Level of “I could keep my attention focused on the things the trainer said and I understood his message right”;
f. How well did the trainer go as a body language?
g. How much did I trust the trainer came in the room to help me?
h. How much did the trainer involve me?
i. How was the event organized;
j. Was it worth coming to the event? (both on time, money and things applied)
Evaluation should be done, in my opinion, after a longer period of time: 6 months, 9 months; Do this and you’ll get some participants the next year.
What do you think about my message?