A successful conference will have many components, but I have listed some of the elements I think are most important in my experience of attending conferences:
I cannot stress enough the importance of engaging and relevant content. If you want to hold a conference, the most important element is content. You need to understand your audience, you need to be able to communicate clearly and on their level, and you need to engage them.
You want to make sure that you are not using industry or technical language that only people from your industry would use, if you are talking to a group of people who are new to your topic. Don't try to sound too clever. You will only end up alienating the people you are trying to impress!
You need to make the content interesting, and at all times (when possible), use real life examples. People connect with real life examples. It can help put otherwise technical or hard to understand concepts into real life situations.
The last thing you want is for people to leave your conference feeling negative or leaving with no confidence because they feel they haven't understood anything!
If you can help people learn something that they didn't know before, and it was taught in an interesting, positive and engaging way, the deleguates are more likely to view you in a positive light, feel more confident to engage with you, and feel grateful to you for your time.
Your invite needs to explain very clearly:
- the main topic(s)
- who should attend
- what will be covered in detail (topic points)
- date, time and venue
- if any catering will be included (if not, you can just say tea and biscuits provided); because this should be provided at the very least.
People are very time poor, so make sure you attract only people you really want at your event, and make sure you don't glaze over what you are really going to talk about, so that attendees see you in a positive light after the event and feel like you have covered the topic they came to learn about.
Getting the food and drinks right is important. As previously discussed, you should have at least tea, coffee, water and biscuits. However if you want to make an impact, I suggest you have catering.
You don't need to be lavish. Some wraps and muffins can do the trick. However, it does need to be tasty, so I suggest you ask the catering company if you can have a sample delivered, or at least ask around your corporate friends or family to find out which companies they use.
Pick a venue and location that will suit your brand. If you are a funky, alternative brand, why don't you have your conference in a funky office, or if that doesn't exist, or is out of your price range, try finding a space in the suburb that fits your brand the most. For example in Sydney, that could be Newtown.
If you're a serious business, then a Servcorp office space for example, could be a good idea, because it's corporate and upmarket. Remember everything you do is marketing and branding. Make sure you are using brand consistency when holding your conference.
Conference bags & promotional giveaways:
If you have a conference of any size, offering your deleguates a bag of promotional material and also a promotional giveaway is always warmly received.
Make sure your bag is custom printed with your logo, and custom made to the right size, colour and design for your professional look and brand image.
Your event bags should contain the promotional collateral and giveaway item snuggly. A bag that slightly too big or too small can just look wrong.
Prize giveaways: collect names
Make sure you collect business cards so you can follow up on those who attended. Not only should you do this to thank them for attending, but also so build a rapport, so they know you are friendly enough to approach in future if they want to engage your services. You can also ask them if you can send them a montly newsletter, to keep your company top of mind.
This way, you will hopefully get a ROI from your conference in the long run. If you think you are going to have difficulty asking each guest for their business card, instead ask your guests to place their cards in a glass bowl to go in the run to win a prize.
People will be more forthcoming in giving up their business cards in they are in the chance to win!
Networking opportunity for your deleguates:
If you are holding a conference that concerns small business owners, a timeframe before or after the conference to formally network is always welcomed. Many small business owners would like to meet others that they could possibly assist and/or do business with, or just generally expand networks.
This is just a small summary of the most important aspects of a conference. There are more elements that you may need to consider.
Holding a conference can be fun, it can help you gain more business, expand your networks, and can position you as a leader in your field!
Clara Cassidy, Founder and Marketing Manager of Custom Printed Bags & Boxes, is a marketing professional with years of experience in branding, promotions and events.