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Five Insanely Simple Tips To Improve Your Next Conference

By Kelvin Newman
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There’s no getting away from it, organising a conference, is complicated. There are lots of moving parts. So many things to consider and often not a lot of time.

5 things improve conference

We know it’s the details that make an event great though. Those areas where you’ve concentrated on making something perfect for your attendees.

I wanted to share five really simple things you could do that will have a huge impact on the experience of your attendees.

Improve the Usability of Your Name Badges.

Why do you give people name badges at events? It’s probably to make sure you’ve got no freeloaders.

Why are they useful to attendees? To help them remember the name of someone they’ve forgotten or to spot people they’d like to speak to. Yet the badges at most events are tiny, with minuscule fonts that might be on brand but are a nightmare to read at distance.

We take a different approach, that seems to work well for us.

Our badges are huge. A double sided sheet of A6. We do get comments about how huge they are, but making them bigger makes it much easier for them to be useful.

We also use the font Blue Highway. This is not one of our brand fonts. It’s a free font based upon the fonts used on American road signs. That means it’s designed to be clearly read from a distance.

If you can’t read the name of the attendee from 20ft away, we have failed on our badge designs.

Also think about what extra information you could put on the badge with the extra space a bigger badge allows. In the past we’ve included Twitter handles. Sometimes people are more familiar with people’s names on Twitter than their ‘real name’.

Though don’t be afraid to exclude things, on badges whitespace is your friend!

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Programme More breaks.

I’ve struggled with this one over the years. I’ve always wanted to cram as much content into a conference as I can, so I was always nibbling away at the breaks.

Then I had a proper read through our feedback. I got the message that the opportunity to network was one of the main reasons people attended our events. So we made more time for exactly that.

Having healthy breaks does mean when a speaker inevitably runs over time, there is still plenty of time for attendees to stock up on caffeine, fresh air and industry gossip.

Arrange More Power Sockets

You can spot who the conference veteran is. They are the first person in the auditorium scoping out the seat nearest a power socket. They will even get charging early in the day to ensure their fully juiced for the whole day.

The reality is at most events your audience will be spending time on their mobile, tablet and/or phone. They will want power to keep them charged.

You can never have enough power sockets at a conference.

Use this opportunity. There are some great off the shelf charging solutions and it’s a great thing to get sponsored or branded.

Send out a 'What to Expect' Email

Early on in my conference organising days it amazed me the number of emails I used to get about dress codes. I was organising marketing conferences not gala dinners. It’s one of the things people legitimately get concerned about in the run up to events.

One way to fight this anxiety in your delegates is to send round a ‘What to expect email’ a few days before the event. Talk about dress codes, what types of food and drink are going to be available, whether there will be wi-fi etc.

Think about every small question your attendees have asked ahead of your events. Turn then into a helpful piece of communication. You’ll save your attendees a lot of mental energy fretting.

Schedule Tweets to Pre-empt Problems

There are certain problems we know we are going to have at our events. People arrive early, they can’t find the wifi password, their running out of battery and are looking for a charger.

We know to expect these things so ahead of an event we schedule tweets covering exactly these issues.

It leaves us the time to concentrate on other things on the day but allows people on the back-channel to answer their own questions. You’ll also find other attendees retweeting these ‘Public Service Announcements’. Spreading the message for you.

In Conclusion.

A successful event is all about the details.

These are just a few of the things that have helped make our events more successful. Useful badges, more networking time that you might expect, extensive power sockets, allaying people’s fears with a what to expect email and pre-scheduling tweets to pre-empt problems.

You probably do lots of your own, I hope these tweaks will help you run your event better.

about the author

Kelvin Newman
is the Founder of Rough Agenda, a company that arranges specialist digital marketing events which are among the fastest growing and most popular in the UK, including the sell out BrightonSEO.In 2014 Kelvin was voted by econsultancy as the most influential individual in digital and in 2013 won the Search Personality award at the UK Search Awards.He is also Co-founder of clockworkTalent with Natasha Woodford a specialist recruitment consultancy that genuinely understands digital marketing.
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  • Just like how the saying goes, sometimes it’s the small details that count the most. Nice blog post Kelvin. I do love the ideas.

  • James Wight

    Totally agree with adding more power, this is practically non existent at many events I attend, as well as Wireless connectivity, the latter improving though. Small things that make a BIG difference.

  • kelvin newman

    James if you can solve the wifi issue you’ll be a very rich man 😉

  • Really good post Kevin, and I like your first point about the name badges because most of the time they are too small you can only read them when talking to the person.

  • Peredur

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for posting! A good read and great tips! What I particularly found interesting was the idea that you can turn a device charging solution into a sponsorship opportunity. It would be great to read more on this idea.

  • Nick Borelli

    You nailed it, Kevin! Being more prepared and thorough will put you ahead of your competition every time. Great article!

  • Richard Owens

    The badge idea is awesome…it would be nice if you could post an example.

  • Great post, Kelvin. I learnt an useful tip concerning badges at EMEC14. Most of people are right handed and therefore they are naturally prone to pin the badge on the left side of their dress/jacket. However as you reach out for a handshake with your right hand, your badge turns away from the person and he/she cannot read it. The right side is thus a much better place to pin the badge as your partner can take a peek at your name in case he/she forgot it.

  • Vicki Funk

    If this is an incentive program it is always a good idea to include the spouse from the very beginning. When they are included and the details of the program is disclosed to them and it is appealing and they want their husband to win this trip. She can push him to qualify for this program over others in their industry especially if they sell products from competitors. Make your trip the must creative, more optional tours, pre and post extension trips, and a destination that will inspire the qualifiers to chose this one over others.

  • Vicki Funk

    Another good idea on name badges..make the first name the largest…and color code based on different divisions and ie Home Office, Guest Speaker, winners, production Team etc

  • Vicki Funk

    Also the name badge should have a bar code and shld be scanned every time the enter
    and exit the general sessions and exhibit spa

  • karenkingcoaching

    There is one thing missing from a great event. Diversity and inclusion. Too often we are still seeing events where few if any of the presenters, panelist, speakers, facilitators represents today’s population.

  • Killer job – sometimes it’s the simple things that really go the longest- who knew!