Interested in planning a conference? I recently attended the first Embark Conference for Women, sponsored by the Milspo Project and had a BLAST! Here are the things they did right!
It all begins with the website! Check it out here. You can immediately tell that it is professionally done and is easy to follow and find information. The graphics used were carried through to the event…from the name tags, to the programs. They want to empower military spouses and women and that is what they did with every action at the event. This is where your attendees will be purchasing their tickets. Make sure it leaves the impression you want.
Grow a committee
This is sometimes easier said than done, but by having a committee, the workload is transferred equally, for the most part, to everyone. This also empowers the committee to take ownership in doing their part and helping a cause they believe in. If you have a good committee, you, as a planner, will be able to successfully delegate tasks without fear that they won’t get accomplished. How do you find a successful committee, you might ask. In my experience, you do a couple of things. You can wait for the talent to come to you. This means that they are proactive in wanting to help and are doing it out of their own free will. Secondly, you can seek out the people you think will help the most. Empower them to have a personal stake in the event. Make them believe in your cause.
Have dynamic speakers with innovative topics
A conference is defined by its success and that success is in most part due to dynamic speakers. Are your speakers relatable? Do they connect well with the audience? Are they entertaining? Do they captivate the audience and keep them on the edge of their seat? And most importantly, are they reliable? The last thing you want is a speaker that is late or doesn’t have their presentation ready. They are going to leave a huge impression on your audience and you want them to remember only the successful aspects of your event.
Moderators are fabulous, when it’s the right person
Embark had a great moderator. Miriam Landru is the Editor of CityView Magazine. She is a young professional and a military spouse. She was also fun and engaging. Moderators should intermittently engage the audience with playful banter and keep them motivated to hear the next speaker. The fact that she was in the same position as the audience members made her instantly relatable.
What effect are you going for with your conference? Embark lighting was dim and there was fun hip-hop music played during breaks and lunch. This kept the attendees moving and gave a comfortable feel to the event. Had there been bright lighting and eerie quiet, it wouldn’t have been as much fun. Again, it comes down to what experience you want your attendees to have. They knew they were catering toward mostly professional military spouses and since the majority of the committee were military spouses themselves, it was easy to know what the target audience would enjoy.
Now, I must say…having childcare is not always an option, but when you know your audience and what barriers they will have at attending, this could be crucial to have. For me, having onsite childcare made it possible for me to attend and I know others felt the same way. Additionally, having free parking onsite is a huge advantage. Who wants their attendees to have to deal with paid parking, in limited spots and have to walk to your event? No one. So having free parking onsite was awesome!
The power of feedback
Before you let your attendees go, immediately collect their input on their experience. This is crucial to capturing their feelings rather than waiting days or even weeks, then their feelings may have changed or been forgotten. The Embark committee had a one-page survey in a bright color and handed it out towards the end of the event. Don’t just ask, “Did you have fun?” Engage your audience with questions that elicit a description of their thoughts. “What was your favorite part about today? What would you have changed? What would you like to see next year?” Don’t forget to ask if they’d like to be involved in planning for next year. This could build your new committee members. And remember to FOLLOW THROUGH!
And most importantly, HAVE FUN! Need I say more?
I could go on and on about Embark’s success, but these are just a few ways to mimic their strategies for your next event or conference. Kudos go to the committee members for their job well done!
Sending you sunshine,