Planning a conference? Feel completely overwhelmed? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
At eve we know a thing or two when it comes to planning events. We’ve pooled our knowledge and spoken to some of our contacts to give you our top tips on all things conference planning, so you know exactly what to do to make sure your event is a smash hit.
We chatted with some industry pros, from catering to tech, to bring you our favourite helpful hints from people who have been there and done that. If you want your conference to be one for the ages, then keep reading and find out what they suggest to make your event stand out from the crowd.
Finding the right venue for you- with eve
Finding the right venue for your event may sound like a simple task, but there are a lot of things to consider to ensure sure you’re choosing the right place to host your conference. If the venue you have your heart set on can’t cater for what your audience needs, then sadly it’s a non-starter! No matter how many bells and whistles you add to your event, if the venue isn’t perfect, your conference will struggle to be a hit from the start, so make sure you’ve got everything covered!
We’ve been around the block a few times, so we know exactly what to look for when it comes to picking the perfect venue! First and foremost, you’ve got to make sure the area you’re searching in is suitable for all your delegates to get to. If you’re hosting an international conference, but you’re looking at a venue in the middle of the Lincolnshire Wolds, then you’re cutting your event off from a large percentage of attendees. London, in our opinion, is your best bet. With fantastic transport links throughout the country as well as a number of airports dotted around in close proximity it is the perfect choice for national and international delegates. If you didn’t already know, London has one of the best underground transport systems in the world so getting from place to place within the city is just as easy for local attendees.
Next, you need to think about capacity, how big is your event likely to be? Pick a venue that has the space to comfortably accommodate all your guests, staff, and tech team, as well as space for catering, breakouts, and networking. Don’t forget to take into account how you would like your guests seated, you can fit more in if they’re seated theatre style but cabaret offers more opportunities for interaction and collaboration. Visualise the space or ask to see some seating plans before you decide so you can see exactly how your event will look when it takes place. When you’re making plans, don’t forget to consider delegate flow before, during, and after the event- particularly in the unlikely event of an emergency!
A tech pro’s tips for AV- with Natacha
Getting the AV and tech right for your event may seem like a complex task to start with but really, it’s very simple! It all comes down to making sure that delegates have the best experience they possibly can, so ensuring they can see and hear everything that’s going on should be at the top of your list.
We spoke to Natacha Allen, Head of Commercial Events at the Royal College of Physicians to get her opinion on getting the tech just right at your conference: “it’s easy… delegates must be able to see and they must be able to hear.” It really is as simple as that!
Natacha encourages you to think laterally from the audience’s perspective and ask yourself questions like ‘how many and which kind of microphones do I need?’, ‘how should I arrange the speakers to optimise their use?’, or ‘are the screens big enough for everyone at the back to see?’. These kinds of questions are so important to make sure you’re covering everyone in the audience and not excluding those sitting at the back or to the sides. Put yourself in their shoes and wander around the space, will someone at the back right hand corner be able to see the screens as clearly as someone in the middle towards the front? Making sure every delegate has a complete and engaging experience should be your number one priority in the event planning process.
Natacha also told us that a good quality recording is another must-have for your event. She notes that it has become an increasingly frequent request since the pandemic and is, in her opinion even more important than streaming services. Her rationale for this is that delegates want to be able to review the content after the event, but not always whilst it is still unfolding. A great recording gives delegates the flexibility to go over the conference as and when they please, so it has recently risen to the forefront as a priority for event planners- useful to know!
And for those little extra touches…
There are so many options to choose from when looking for little ways to WOW your guests, but Natacha tells us that event lighting is a nice and easy extra that can transform your event. Something as simple as different colours can have a huge impact on the environment your guests are in and puts them in a great mindset from the very beginning, as Natacha tells us, “coloured lighting can have an impact on the mood of speakers and delegates, or the ambience of the space”. Playing with the lighting can transport your guests into another dimension! Conference attendees expect the works these days, from mood lighting to sound effects and smoke displays as a standard, so there’s no more getting away with basic lecture theatres and harsh lighting!
Another top tip Natacha arms us with is branding to make your event feel even more bespoke. With all opportunities digital tech has given us, play with projecting your event’s logo onto the walls or designing branded, even interactive, presentations with your logo. Don’t forget to include your sponsor’s logos in there too, you can really get creative with this one!
WIFI and live engagement
Living without WIFI just isn’t an option! With demand increasing for hybrid events and live streaming, fast and reliable internet access should be a number one priority. Most, if not all venues, will have this as a standard but it’s wise to check beforehand so you don’t get caught out! WIFI is high on a delegates list of requests, particularly if the 4G is under a lot of strain, so it’s a great amenity to have at your fingertips!
If you’re looking for ways to get guests engaged with the speakers or one another, then live Q&As, polls, and other interactive exercises will be your best friend!
Natacha had some great tips for this one, starting with the outcome. What do you want to get out of the engagement exercise? Perhaps it’s getting the speakers to engage with the delegates or one another, or maybe you need to collect feedback from your event. Whatever it is, live engagement is all about getting a response so making sure you know what you want to achieve before you start picking your tech will be the best approach.
And Natacha’s final, and probably most important, nugget of advice… always communicate with the AV team! Natacha stressed to us the importance of providing your technicians with a clear brief as early as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the most tech-savvy, because event techs are! So, make sure you give them as much information as possible so they can help your vision come to life and your event will surely be a hit.
(Image credit – Sarah London Photography)
Food, glorious food! – with Karen
As head chef Karen Poynter says, food has the potential to seduce, excite, soothe, and gratify someone. It can make a statement as the main event or seamlessly complement any occasion, so it is so important to get the catering right for your conference!
Staying up to date with food trends is the number one way to make sure you’re ticking the box for every delegate in attendance at your event. When chatting with Karen, she mentioned that the demand for plant-based and vegan options is ever-growing and not going anywhere anytime soon, so make sure you incorporate this into the plan for your own event. Not only are people’s preferences changing, but in a post-pandemic world, there is a new emphasis on health and nutrition, which Karen describes as ‘self-defence eating’, that prevents and protects. So, make sure there are lots of vitamin-rich veg on the menu!
Another top tip from Karen to ensure all guests feel included and represented is to increase the number of freedom foods (i.e. gluten-free dishes) on the menu. Try and incorporate them into the main menu rather than stuck at the bottom as an alternative.
As things are getting back to pre-pandemic normality, people have a rejuvenated attitude to events, Karen shared her take on this with us, “there has definitely been a change in events, they are more social and less formal affairs, guests want to socialise and talk to as many people as they can”. The emphasis is now on food that brings people together and facilitates conversation, so finger food and bowl food is always a huge hit!
Karen also told us that keeping the environment at the forefront of our minds is paramount in 2022. By 2050 global water demand is expected to increase by up to 30% and, coupled with climate change, we are seeing new ways of sustainable food production, also known as Vertical Farming according to Karen. Moreover, with a whopping 133 billion pounds of food wastage every year, most starting in the kitchens, it is so important that we’re thinking about how catering for an event will impact the wider environment, as well as impressing your guests!
How to perfectly market your event – with Olivia
Planning the perfect event is one thing but making sure you’re filling it with an excited and engaged audience is a whole other challenge! We chatted to Olivia Parrott, Sales and Marketing Manager at 41 Portland Place to get the down-low on marketing your conference to make sure it is full to the brim of enthusiastic delegates.
There are so many ways to create buzz for your event and it’s all about making everyone wish they could attend your event through exciting PR, and Olivia has shared some of her favourites with us. At the top of her list are countdowns and fun promo videos, to give people a sneak peek of what’s to come and convince them it will be an event not to miss!
Think about the content of your event, what will attract more people? Olivia suggests getting a VIP guest speaker onboard to entice a wider audience- and with a supportive following of their own, it’s a great way to grow your audience too!
Speaking of audiences… Olivia highlighted how Instagram Reels have really taken over, “reels are so much more effective now for social media, they receive thousands of views and engagement”. Interactive polls like ‘this or that’ are such a good way to get the audience engaged and find out a little bit about their preferences too. On the big day, grab some imagery and video content to make some reels as a round-up, and for future promotion.
As event professionals, you will undoubtedly have a fantastic network of talented individuals to call on- so do it! Olivia suggests exploiting your contact list for other industry professionals to collaborate with on your event and to help promote it to wider audiences. Another fantastic recommendation was to offer promotions, such as a refer a friend scheme or group discounts. You could even offer a special discount with an expiry date to create buzz and a sense of urgency to really drum up excitement!
Creating an AMAZING delegate experience – with Laura
In today’s day with so many funky products to choose from, we know it can be a little overwhelming when finding new ways to give delegates a standout experience they won’t forget. We had a chat with Laura, Head of Sales and Marketing at RSA House to get her input on creating a memorable and fulfilling experience from start to finish.
With so many options now, the bar keeps getting higher and higher, so how do you make sure you create a positive and exciting experience distinctly different from the last one? One of Laura’s top tips was to make it personal, making sure every delegate is seen and heard. She says to “make the registration process quick and easy, this is the first element to your conference and one that will contribute to the total delegate experience”. This is so important, as first impressions are lasting impressions and if your delegates aren’t satisfied from the very beginning, it’s going to be really hard to win them over throughout the day- even if you pull out all the stops you’ll still be playing catch up! Laura also highlighted the importance of communication, making it clear where each delegate needs to go, what’s on the agenda and what they can expect to receive.
Another of Laura’s helpful hints comes back to the venue, make sure they’re totally on board with your goals for your conference so you can include them on the journey too. They are experts in this field as much as you are and will no doubt have seen countless events take place, so they might even be able to offer up some handy tips and ideas to really make your conference a showstopper. Finding unique ways to involve or intrigue guests not only creates a memorable experience for them but is also a fantastic talking point amongst guests to get the conversations flowing!
One of Laura’s favourite things to do for her events is ‘engage the senses’. Pairing your event with a specific scent or a particular branded food item is a fantastic way to achieve this, and has a lasting, positive impact on one’s memory. In fact, recent scientific research has shown that certain smells have a way of transporting someone back to a particular memory by way of association. A certain scent will imprint on the hippocampus and every time the delegate smells something similar in the future, they will automatically be sent back to your conference! Cool, right? Another of her fabulous suggestions is branding your event space with vinyl or uplighters to wash the walls in your brand colour to really set it apart from the rest.
Increasing the value proposition
Value proposition and an awesome delegate experience tend to go hand in hand, and Laura told us her favourite ways to increase the value proposition to make sure you’re setting your conference apart from the rest.
Value proposition starts with understanding the consumer, in this case the audience, Laura tells us “You are building this conference for a specific set of people and you need to capture their attention. In order to boost the value proposition of your conference, you need to get to the get to the heart of who your audience is, what their needs and why they should attend.” Essentially, you need to find out what makes your guests tick and then really capitalise on that to give them a personal and well-thought-through experience.
If you’re planning a conference and need a little more help, then you’ve come to the right place! With years of experience planning conferences, we know just what to do to help you find the perfect venue and make sure your event runs smoothly from start to finish. Get in touch with a member of our dedicated events team today, or give us a call on +44 20 7817 10577 and they will be delighted to assist you!