Conference School: How to Organise a Good Conference? Part VI: The Execution

Undoubtedly, there are many who can offer creative ideas, well-known performers and affordable solutions, but a conference can only be considered to be a success after all those plans have been brought to life. The previous Conference School stores have laid out a strong foundation for how to organise a successful event, but nonetheless, the most important thing is execution.

The script

Every event organiser should have two plans. The project plan describes all the activities that need to be done to set the conference up. Immediately before the conference, details become significantly more important. Here, we zoom into the plan and describe the preparatory activities and the whole flow of the conference in the form of a script that is precise down to the minute.

If the programme includes acknowledging the best employees, then that needs to be carefully thought out: what is the role of the moderator; what should the managers and board members who are handing over the prizes do; where will the prizes be located; what will be shown on the screens at this time; what will the musical backdrop and lighting be like; how should the recipient and the giver of the prize pose for the photographer etc.

All this needs to take place within the span of one minute, but this one minute includes a lot of activities and without describing them and even more, describing them to the parties involved, there would be chaos on the stage.

Cooperation

Multiple parties and sub-contractors are involved in the execution of a conference. To ensure that all the plans get fully realised, it is important that the sub-contractors as well as the venue personnel, the catering, the technical team, the additional personnel and others all work together with the organiser as one big team.

To guarantee this, they will all have to work through the script. Even if they do not intend to do so, the sub-contractors or partners may forget something since they are generally working with a much more intense workload (3-5 events per week) than the conference organisers (1-2 events per week) and they might not remember all the details. During collective meetings, everyone goes over the script, thus ensuring that everyone is on the same page regarding the project plan.

While the conference is taking place, try to avoid any situations where the organisational team could give sub-contractors contradictory orders. And even if we trust our team and our partners 100%, be constantly on the move and double check every place and activity that is of critical importance.

Think about our information channels carefully

For an internal conference the most used marketing channel is a calendar invite. Although dispassionate, it is a guaranteed way of notifying our colleagues. However, internal marketing could also be more creative. For example, we could make a separate website for the event. That could be used as a central place to store information about the conference topics after the event itself. Or we could surprise our colleagues by having traditional paper invites or a creative memento delivered to their desks.

Most conferences are sold via emails. If events content is meaningful and high-quality, that alone is enough to get people to attend. Then there is no need to do anything major to entice them. But the more competition the event has and the more expensive it is (or in the case of free events, the more valuable the time of the participant), the more marketing activities we need to plan. It could be paper invites, special solutions and mementos delivered by courier that help the conference stand out among the rest. To figure out how people are reacting to these things, we should also give a call to the most important people we have invited.

Whether our conference is an internal conference or a client conference, a website will help us inform people of the event. If it is designed well and has great functionality, it will also help significantly raise the profile of the event. The first thing an organising company thinks of is to use their own website, which can actually bring various limitations with it. For example, when a website is developed for a commerce conglomerate then the need for being able to also attractively present the conference on the website is usually not thought about. The website should allow to display the programme, sign up for the conference and upload videos, slides and other materials after the event. This is why we should also consider the solutions offered by our partners involved in the planning.

Rehearsals

Once we have all the slides from the speakers, then check and see what they look like on the venue screens.

Do we have different videos that we wish to show at the event? Try those!

Do we have a presenter who has never been in such a situation before and is feeling insecure because of that? Invite them to do a stage rehearsal the night before so they could get a feel for the place.

Lately, a big trend has been to open conferences with a big live or video show that requires different activities to be perfectly synchronised. Have a main rehearsal for this and do not be satisfied until everything goes 100% according to plan.

 

Crisis management

Despite all the great preparations we may do, the detailed script and debriefing all the parties involved, sometimes something unexpected still happens. For example, at one internal conference, the client’s CEO only gave a 10-minute speech instead of the planned 45-minute presentation.

We had to immediately fix the whole schedule for the day, have the catering brought out earlier and inform all the following speakers about the changes in scheduling. It also meant that we had to roll up our sleeves and help the catering with setting out the food. Five minutes later, the situation was resolved, the schedule fixed, and all the right people notified. In a situation like this, it is important to remain calm and to seem calm.

Often, the participants will be looking towards the organisational team and will form an opinion of the situation based on the body language of the team. If we handle any possible problems professionally, then the participants might never even realise that something went wrong.

Although planning a conference takes many months, the participants will never see all the time-consuming preparations. They can only see the tip of the iceberg which is the conference day. So make sure everything goes smooth!

 

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