The biggest mistakes in conference planning (part 1)

Important Date

Planning a large-scale conference or event is no small task. It requires organisers to take on a lot of responsibility while simultaneously relying on others. They need to be able to pay attention to the tiniest detail as they also maintain a clear view of the bigger picture.

Given the complexity of organising such an event, it’s no wonder that certain parts of a conference can go overlooked. However, in most cases, the same aspects get missed with each event, leading to a repetitive, uninspiring experience for your attendees. Here are the first three you should look out for.

Mistake 1: Failing to make it a discussion

There was a time where conference attendees expected to show up, sit down and be talked at for a few hours, but this is simply no longer the case. Your guests are going to want to take part in the conversation for themselves by asking and answering questions, and sharing insights and opinions with their peers.

Simply adding a five-minute Q&A session at the end of a presentation won’t be enough. It’s time to re-think the standard format altogether, and introduce AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) sessions, or panel debates instead. You should also encourage the use of interactive elements to keep the audience engaged, like polls, quizzes or tests carried out with an Audience Response System.

Mistake 2: Long sessions with short breaks

There’s a limit to the human attention span, and even the most interesting speaker will lose audience interest if they chatter on for more than an hour. After two or three extended sessions you can expect attention to have completely dwindled (especially if you’re not providing equally long breaks), making your last speakers redundant.

Keep engagement at its highest by encouraging speakers to keep their presentations short and peppy – half an hour is a good target. Provide your audience with long and short breaks (make sure to tell them which is when), which will allow them to network, recap and refresh as required.

Mistake 3: Packing in as much as the day will allow.

Signing up a dozen excellent speakers and allocating them back-to-back spots on your agenda might seem like the best way to deliver value to your attendees, but actually, it’s more likely to cause fatigue. Realistically, your audience’s attention is going to wane after two or three sessions.

Balance your day with opportunities for interaction, whether that entails dedicated discussion and breakout surveys after each speaker, or a longer lunch period for delegates to network. Incorporating unallocated sessions will also give everyone chance to check-in with their offices and emails if need be, reducing the need for them to check their phones during presentations.

Do any of these mistakes sound familiar? Look out for our next post where we’ll cover three more common failures in event planning and how you can avoid them.