Back in September the ecommerce software company I work for, SellerDeck, had a customer conference. There were various challenges not only in organising the event but also managing the conference day itself. Therefore, I thought I’d share the things I learnt and some tips for making your event a success.
My 12 tips for making your conference a success are:
1 Plan in advance
Planning any big event takes up a lot of time, so start early. I began six months ahead and this was enough.
Have a checklist of what you need to do and the deadlines for each task. For example, research venue, book it, choose catering, have presentations ready and handed in, final numbers provided to venue. Having this list will make things easier with the planning and keeping on top of your work load.
2 Finalise your goals
Make sure you are clear about what you want your customers to gain from coming to the conference. It could be updating your customers on new products, or the path your company is going to take, or educating them on a subject that is important to your business, but misunderstood.
Knowing what you want your customers to takeaway will help you plan and promote everything.
3 Market your conference
You need to market the conference to your customers to get people to attend. Just having details about your conference up on your website will not be enough. Think about promoting via email, social media and/or phone calls. Start these eight weeks ahead. Assuming you are charging for places (to cover costs), offer an early bird discount. Besides, if people pay for something, however nominal, they are more likely to show up.
4 Visit your venue
The biggest let down for a lot of conferences is the venue it is held in. Make sure that there is adequate space for what you are intending to do. If you need extra rooms for workshops or breakout sessions, make sure that these are available.
Don’t forget to find out what equipment is provided, or what you need to supply yourself.
5 Research your speakers
Naturally you will have at least one person from your own company presenting at your conference, but it’s also a good idea to include some speakers from other companies, e.g. suppliers or partners, and/or an industry expert, such as a blogger or consultant in your sector.
If it’s not a massive event, you may well be able to organise your conference alone (though it’s always nice to share), but on the day ensure you have a team in place, and that they each understand what they are responsible for.
7 Test your equipment
Test your equipment, such as speakers, microphone, projectors, TV monitors and laptops, before the conference is due to start.
The last thing you need is for something to go wrong, or not to work when all your customers are watching.
8 Meet and greet
As your customers arrive, greet them. A good way to do this is to ask them to collect their name badge from you, so you can meet them and make a personal connection.
9 Cater to their needs
Food and drink is essential for any business conference. Listening is thirsty work so provide water, tea and coffee as standard, but don’t forget the little snacks that can go with this. Biscuits will help fuel your customers through your conference.
Don’t forget about lunch, and make sure that there is enough to go round; try to cater for more common dietary needs (or ask delegates about these in advance). Last thing someone wants is to find that there is nothing for them to eat. We had a hiccup on this front and had to get emergency rations brought in.
It’s also a nice touch to give customers a memento to take away. It could be one, substantial thing or a few small items in a branded goody bag.
10 Allow for networking time
Make the breaks in your day long enough for people to socialise and network. Lunch is a perfect time for this, but don’t forget about after the conference as well. Supply some beers and wine at the end of the day as a few glasses will allow everyone to relax and the conversations to flow.
You may want to consider inviting a few key customers to join you for dinner afterwards, but do organise this in advance.
11 Get feedback
Feedback is key to learning where things went well and not so well. Don’t take your feedback to heart if it is negative, just see it as constructive criticism and use it to improve future conferences.
12 Have fun
Remember to enjoy yourself at the conference and don’t get stressed out. Delegation and good preparation make the difference here.
Good luck with your conference and if you have your own tips to add, please comment below. I’m sure they will be a great success.
Jenny Bray, SellerDeck
Image courtesy of Russell Hugo