There are a number of ways you could ruin your conference, and there are a surprising number of mistakes that even professional event organisers make. However, some are worse than others. Here are 6 conference organisation mistakes you should avoid at all costs. We’ll also address why these mistakes are so detrimental.
You should avoid awkward silence in the environment for several reasons. First, it lets background noises dominate a space when people aren’t speaking, and that can be intimidating. Think about the stereotypical awkward silence when everyone hears someone drop a plate. The solution is to plan soft background music in the lobby. Also play music before introductions, during breaks and after closes. The music can set the tone as well as provide an auditory signal regarding transitions.
Letting People Assume Things About Amenities
Many people will come to a conference assuming they’ll have free Wi-Fi. And they’re disappointed when, more times than not, it isn’t available. If you have free Wi-Fi with passwords, give that information out. If the site doesn’t have Wi-Fi, let people know that in advance so they don’t plan on live streaming the event but can’t because there is no wireless internet connection.
Another mistake is using venues that aren’t equipped for conferences, whether it is a movie theatre or restaurant, office or recreation centre. They may have space and bathrooms, but everything else your conference needs is missing. If you need a conference venue in London that your attendees will appreciate, go for a real conference room like 8 Northumberland Avenue instead. They offer state of the art facilities that include all latest pieces of technology allowing everything to run smoothly.
Booking cheap locations that have two single stall bathrooms in the back, while you’ve invited hundreds of people is a mistake that many people make. Another mistake is booking conference space and setting things up so that people have to hike to the facilities and back. That large room on the top floor looks great until the people have to go down two flights of stairs to use the only good lavatory on the premises. And don’t forget to give people bathroom breaks at least every 90 minutes. Furthermore, make the breaks long enough for people to make the round trip to the bathroom and not be rushed to get back.
Lights and Displays Aren’t Good Enough
You’re holding a conference where the speaker should be brightly lit up on stage. Yet there are conferences that act as if they’re a romantic restaurant, keeping the lights down low, no matter the negative impact this has on the presentation. A different mistake is putting projectors on the middle aisle, ensuring that the speaker cannot stand in the middle of the stage without interfering with the images. Off to the side of the images, they’ll probably be too dark to be seen well.
The Content Isn’t Clearly Communicated
One version of this is session descriptions that don’t make it clear what is being communicated. Is this wellness seminar for parents or grandparents, health nuts or the average person who needs to get in shape?
If you’re holding a technical conference, is the speaker discussing how to sell to the public or selling something to technical experts? If you’re holding a conference on tax and estate law, make it clear which seminars are intended for lawyers, accountants and anyone seeking estate planning advice. Your audience will be upset if they sat through presentations that were of no value to them, especially if they missed other presentations that would have been value-added.
One side note – don’t try to fit in more than four topics in a day. Everyone is burned out by the data overload by that point.
Let’s Just Use These Leftover Tables
Sometimes you get cheap conference space by using space often dedicated to other purposes. This is how you get a conference sitting people at round tables left over from last weekend’s fundraising dinner or wedding while trying to watch the presentation.
This is the worst thing you could do if you’re trying to build engagement. Anyone left sitting with their back to the speaker is going to have a negative impression. It also segregates the audience into groups that won’t engage with other audience members.
If you’re using a large meeting room, take the time to remove the round tables and line up the chairs. Do not ever cram in your audience like sardines; it makes them feel like you don’t appreciate them.
If you avoid these few mistakes, you should be able to improve the experience of your attendees. A bad conference could have a disastrous effect on your brand, so make sure that you put your best foot forward and make sure that everything is planned accordingly.