Planning a convention takes a ton of work, much more than anyone ever realizes, until something goes wrong. When everything goes according to plan, your guests and attendees will have no idea all the effort and time that went into what they are experiencing. However, if something should go wrong, whether it be a guest failing to show up, a speaker losing their voice, or technical difficulties, everyone attending will surely notice.
While it’s impossible to plan for everything, having a Plan B and covering your bases will help with a lot of issues that can occur. With these tips, it’s possible to anticipate the big problems and make sure that your guests and attendees are well taken care of no matter what happens.
Whether it is the attendees, speakers, or event staff; people need to know what is happening and where. It’s no benefit to anyone if they know the time, but not the location of where they need to be. Make sure that the daily schedule is posted throughout the event hall, so that everyone can see the information as needed. Post a map of the event area so people know exactly when and where to be, to make the most of their experience.
If there are any speaker, room, or cancellation changes; make sure that all the posted schedules are updated as soon as the information is available. By providing everyone with as much information as possible, many problems can be easily avoided.
Everything is set to go, and then last minute, one of the keynote speakers say they missed their flight or they lost their voice, or they say nothing at all and they just don’t show up. Before this happens by surprise, there are a few things that can be done to ensure the room full of attendees will not be disappointed.
Keep the guests informed of any and all changes to the schedule by email and by the schedule posted.
First, in the contract that all guests and speakers will sign, have a 24 hour cancellation policy in which the speaker agrees not to cancel (barring extreme circumstances) within 24 hours of the event. That way, a window of time will be provided for a new speaker to be arranged or the schedule to be altered.
Second, if the speaker has to cancel last minute due to an unforeseen circumstance, make sure to have a back up speaker (from the area) planned with the talent agent. While it’s not ideal to have a change of speaker last minute, it’s better to have a back-up.
If no back-up is available, then make sure to let the attendees know as soon as possible that the seminar or event was cancelled so that everyone has the same information.
Tight convention schedules leave little time for attendees to grab something to eat or drink.
It’s important to make the attendees, guests, and staff as comfortable and cared for as possible during the event. Having stations with water make a world of difference. If the budget allows, small bags of pretzels or pre-wrapped cookies can also help everyone stay hydrated and energized.
Even just providing water makes the experience better for everyone. Place the stations in heavily trafficked areas and make sure that there are enough stations to avoid long lines. Also make sure there are trash cans for the cups, bottles, and wrappers.
It’s also key to have staff members make sure that the stations are fully stocked the entire time, so that everybody is able to get what they need.
To make sure that the speakers are prepared, provide a private room with plenty of water and snacks for guests and speakers to spend time in before and after their events.
For attendees, make sure that there is seating available outside of the event halls. Utilize hallway corners and quiet areas for seating to allow attendees to rest as needed throughout the event.
The biggest fear of any planner is that nobody shows up and all the hard work is for nothing. One way to make sure that the event draws the anticipated numbers is to charge a fee for the tickets. The event price will encourage most people to attend, since they invested in the event. Free events are hit and miss in crowd numbers, since people have no obligation or commitment to attend, however, if they had to have paid money to attend, they are more likely to show up.
Even with charging for tickets, expect up to 20% of registered guests not to show up.
If the event is for charity, still charge for tickets, but make sure that it is well advertised that all proceeds go towards the charity and that ticket sales are a donation.
If the event is over several days, attendees may want or need to leave the event area. Make sure that all event staff know the general surrounding area. A simple knowledge of nearby restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, and banks will be a great help to everyone attending.
Should your event have a dealer hall, make sure to know where nearby ATMs are, if the ATM at the event runs out of money or becomes out of order.
On a smaller scale, be sure that staff know how to direct attendees to event halls, restrooms, and points of interest.
If the event is outdoors or has any outdoor activities, make sure to plan for all weather events. It’s a good plan to have tents set up in the area for rain or sun.
Let’s say the event is rained out, plan a backup in a nearby rec hall, event center, or community center if possible. If that option is not available, make sure to cover all electrical equipment with tarps or a tent and provide plenty of tent shelter for attendees.
What If the weather is scheduled to be sunny and hot? Make sure to provide water, single use packets of sunscreen, cardboard fans, and shaded tent areas for attendees to stay cool.
It’s as important to plan for hot and sunny weather as it is to plan for cool and rainy weather.
At any event, it is inevitable that attendees will have to wait in line at some point or another. However, it’s important to make sure that the lines are no longer than necessary.
For check-in and registration, divide up the attendees as much as possible by last name, registration date, or attendee level.
For other amenities, such as restrooms, water, and seating; direct them to the nearest available options first, but also provide information to other options in the area to prevent overcrowding at one location.
The event will look much more organized, professional, and planned if the attendees do not have to spend much of their time waiting in line.
Whether it’s the sound system, the lights, or the projector…technology can fail. To make sure that the odds of this happening are as low as possible, make sure to run through everything beforehand. Make sure the tech person knows if the speaker needs the house lights up, a spotlight, or sound cues at any point; and make sure they all work.
Have the speakers test out the sound system fully, if they walk as they speak, have them move over the entire area of the stage. Test all microphones, speakers, lights, and projectors before the event.
Ask the speakers and guests for hard copies of any music, video, or slides they will use during their presentation. Try not to use any streamed or internet content if possible.
Test all laptops, flash drives, CDs, and mp3 players beforehand.
Make sure that your tech person is a rock star and on hand for all speakers and guests.
Have back up microphones ready and available.
“The best way to make the event stand out from every other conference, convention, and trade show is entertainment.”
There are hundreds of events across the country, and each one is pretty much the same aside from the theme and purpose.
In order to thoroughly amaze and make sure the attendees have the time of their lives, make the time between sessions, the breaks, and the networking opportunities as interactive as possible. Many people view these events as prime networking opportunities, but are unsure how to approach and engage other event goers. Entertainment can bring people together like nothing else can.
The right kind of entertainment is key. Music over the sound system can work well, but live entertainment engages people on a deeper and more emotional level.
Look into magicians, jugglers, or even caricature artists. These types of entertainers bring groups of people together to interact in a way that creates an instant bond and comradery. It also creates long lasting memories that are tied in directly with the event. These entertainers are pros at bringing people together while keeping the energy, excitement, and happiness up throughout the day.
These tips won’t cover every possible thing that could go wrong, but it does create a solid base for any of the common issues that can occur. It will also make sure that no matter what, the event will continue and that everyone will be taken care of.
Some of the things may seem like small details, but they will make all the difference in the overall experience of the event.
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