The Secretary Magazine

Meetings and Events – help is at hand

Organising a conference can be quite the challenge. But it’s also an amazing opportunity and a rewarding experience. Putting together a successful event doesn’t have to be an uphill struggle. Just remember three golden rules: plan ahead, surround yourself with a great team, and know why you are doing it!

Before you start booking the venue and calling caterers, take some time to prepare for your conference. This will save you a lot of stress and prevent last-minute surprises.

Picture what you want your conference to look like. Who will attend? What type of event will it be? What kind of experience do you want to offer to the delegates?
Then get into specifics. How many attendees will there be? How many submissions will you receive? How many days will it last?

When arranging meetings, people tend to get stuck with setting the duration as either an hour or half an hour as a minimum. Generally, most peoples work days tend to fall into seven and a half hours, meaning that on a busy day, three one hour meetings will diminish their work day by half, leaving little time to settle into getting other jobs done and taking a break. If you are small business with limited meeting room options, this also puts a strain on the utilisation of these rooms and they become fully booked with just a handful of meetings.
Whether you are arranging a simple update meeting, brain storming for that next big project, or presenting to the board, consider what you will need from your meeting room including equipment and environment.

If you are brainstorming, make sure you have a white board in the room or a flip chart available to take notes, draw diagrams and most importantly, pens that work!

If you are presenting at a meeting where senior staff or board members will be present, make sure that the correct equipment is available for you to present with confidence and that the room itself is representative of the importance of the occasion.

During the conference, make sure all the rooms have the adequate A/V equipment and that it’s working! And remember, this is the 21st century! Pretty much everyone carries a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet and will want to have access to internet. Wifi can be a major issue at conferences. Make sure you check in advance with the venue that they’ll provide wifi with enough bandwidth.

You can also make use of mobile apps to enhance delegates’ experience. There are many apps out there, to help attendees network, navigate the conference, create their own schedule, etc.

Consider where your delegates are travelling from. If people are travelling far and wide to attend your event, be sure to forward plan and ensure there is enough accommodation should they wish to stay. Of course, make sure this accommodation is of a suitable standard and is located close by to the conference venue. When inviting your delegates, inform them of the accommodation options.

Ensure your delegates are up to speed by providing them with the details of the day before the conference takes place. By informing them of the conference schedule, they can easily plan their day and will know what to expect. If budget allows, perhaps think about sending out USB sticks which contain these details, or even creating an app that contains the schedule.