Planning an Effective Conference
Many companies and industries arrange conferences to bring together their employees, or a community of people with a shared interest, knowledge and experience of a specific field. Some events are highly effective and aid improvements in working practices, whilst others can seem like a complete waste of effort, so what makes an effective conference?
Reasons for the Event
Arranging a conference takes a considerable investment of time and money, so it is important that positive outcomes can be assured. Attending a conference takes people away from important work, so there must be benefits to taking the time to attend.
To make it worthwhile, it is important that there are clear reasons for the conference to occur. Change is common in every industry, so a good reason would be for the conference to act as a catalyst to help the company or industry move from A to B. A change in regulations, policy or practice guidelines, a company restructure, innovations or a new business opportunity are examples of changes that could be addressed in a conference.
A conference provides the opportunity for everyone to focus their thoughts on a specific topic. Ideas can be suggested, questions can be asked, debates can be had, good practice can be shared and obstacles can potentially be overcome.
An effective conference won’t be a series of senior managers or industry experts talking at the audience; it will also encourage open discussions. Every attendee should feel confident to raise concerns, question ideas, present their thoughts and possible solutions and engage in wider conversations.
You may question who are the best people to present? The senior management may have a good strategic overview of the situation; however it could also be valuable to hear from people at other levels of the organisation who will be putting strategies into action. What potential issues can they identify and how might these be overcome?
If you are asked to present at a conference, your presentation should be concise. It should raise a point, clarify the desired outcome, explain ideas on how the outcomes could be reached, but then open out to the audience. It should be engaging, which means it can’t go into endless detail. It should spark ideas and make the most of having so many relevant minds in the room.
Even a great conference isn’t effective if nothing changes after the event. If everyone returns to their desk and continues with work as usual, the event has been a waste of everyone’s time. The organisers need to allocate people to take notes at the event and capture all the ideas, suggestions and other points raised.
At the event attendees should be encouraged to prepare SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) actions that they will undertake as a result of the event. This could be visiting another company to see good practice in action, forwarding details to a colleague, signing up for training or changing their delivery style.
Post Event Follow Up
Specific people should be given time after the event to collate the information gathered at the event and circulate it to all attendees. They should invite people to get in touch with progress that has been made and send a fortnightly update to everyone to encourage follow through. They might arrange meetings or undertake other activities which support action being taken.
This post-event work can be at least as effective as the conference in achieving the desired outcomes for which the event was put on. It is a vital part in the process, but is commonly overlooked. If you are preparing a business conference this year, your preparations should include before, during and after the event, to ensure that you get the most from the opportunity.
Conference Venues, Bucks
If you are looking for suitable conference venues, Bucks based Clare Charity Centre http://clarecharitycentre.org/conference-meetings/ could offer the ideal solution. In close proximity to major road and rail links and with a strong CSR agenda, we can help you put on a great event.