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What Makes a Successful Conference?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) annual conference was declared the winner of the Best Association Conference at the 2014 Conference Awards. EMAP won the Best Award Event for its Construction Industry Awards and Wilmington Group was the winner of the Best Product Launch for SJ Live. There were a number of other categories and winners, but what made these events better than any other conference?

A well-managed conference can encourage unity, positive action planning and a hunger for new opportunities. If you are simply planning a conference because you always do at this time of year, there is a risk that the event could result in demotivation and dissent. So, what makes a successful conference?

Clear Objectives

The best way to start things off is to have a clear set of objectives. You need to identify the message that you want to share and know exactly who you want to hear that message. The EMAP team were recognised for having clearly outlined objectives which informed their award winning event and it will make the management of your event easier if you do too.
It can be tempting to use the opportunity to achieve multiple objectives and share many messages, but this can make planning and delivery more complex, as well as diluting the impact or results than can be achieved. It’s often more successful if you keep the core message simple and focus attention on deliver it in a variety of ways.

Planning and Research

Once you know who you want to hear your message, you can start to plan and research what those people want. What will tempt them to attend? How can your event help them to meet their own personal objectives? Knowing your ideal audience will also help you to set the tone of the event, decide on the duration, consider a suitable location and plan the delivery.
NICE were complimented on the extensive research that their event team had undertaken to ensure that their conference was targeted to their ideal audience. If you put the audience at the forefront of all your planning then the event is more likely to be successful, both on the day and with the longer term impact it can have.

Variety and Innovation

Blasting your message out to the audience isn’t the best way of communicating. Lots of conferences take a very similar format, with speakers, PowerPoint presentations and Q&A sessions, but there is no need to follow this approach. Again, it is important to focus on your ideal audience and consider how you can deliver your message in ways which promotes engagement, discussion, debate, idea sharing and positive action.
It’s time to get creative with your plans for the event, but creative doesn’t need to be off the wall. If your event is quite formal and serious, wild activities would be inappropriate, but just consider a format that doesn’t have to fit with what’s gone before. Both the Wilmington Group and NICE were recognised for the innovative approach to all aspects of the event.

Conference Venues

Once you know who you want to attend and have a clear vision for how the event will run, you can explore conference venues that have the facilities to match your requirements. If your ideal attendees are all local, then it is best to find nearby venues, but if you plan to have national or international attendees, you will need to find a central location, or one close to an international airport.

The Clare Charity Centre sits in rural Buckinghamshire, but is ideally placed for travellers. It is on the mainline train route between London and Birmingham and is easy to reach from Heathrow Airport. It is also close to the M40, M25 and M4, with plenty of on-site parking. If you are researching a number of conference venues, Bucks is a great location and The Clare Charity Centre has plenty to offer your guests. For more information visit: http://clarecharitycentre.org/

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