Business | Mottram Hall

How to make your conference more engaging

Planning a conference Planning a conference

The planning and preparation that goes into running a conference can take up a huge amount of time, money and resources and many find it hard to make their conference as engaging and interactive as possible. There are a huge variety of needs to cater to, from a selection of clients to preparing a professional and coordinated presentation.

We have spoken to a selection of event planners and asked them for their top tips on how to keep your conference as engaging and informative as possible.

Get the audience involved

One of the best ways to get an audience engaged in your conference is to get them involved in the whole process, that doesn’t just mean whilst the conference is on, it can mean before and after the event too.

We spoke to Nicky, the Commercial Director at KDM Events who agrees that getting the audience involved is key: “Asking your audience to be involved as early as realistically possible and then maintaining that connection during and after the event will give the best results. One great thing to do is send out a short video intro to the conference before the event and ask for workshop/content suggestions. Allowing your delegates to get involved in the crafting of the itinerary really helps to create connection and commitment.”

As Nicky mentioned, getting people involved before the event enables them to feel invested from the start, allowing them to get an idea of the topic beforehand which in turn should help them connect and communicate during the talk.

Nicky also went on to explain how focusing the success of your event based on your audience’s experience is the best way to move forward: “Clearly identify what impressions, thoughts and feelings you want your delegates to leave the conference with. Knowing what you are aiming for ensures you can hone the content and itinerary to contribute towards these goals. Then think about how you can convert your business messages into simple games/tasks to get the delegates actively involved in the flow of the day, rather than passively listening. So, working on ideas to involve the audience to make the itinerary organic and flexible with plenty of opportunities to contribute and be involved helps create the highest levels of engagement.”

If planning the event becomes a struggle, Daniel from Steven Duggan Events recommends getting advice from a event planner:

“When it comes to conferences, one has to remember that in essence, one is asking attendees to sit and absorb information for hours and days on end. It is in this itself that the issue lies - one must captivate the audience. There is no need to spend hours researching trends and the best means of communication; lean on your event planner and trust in their expertise. Do not allow yourself to get caught up in the details; that is what an event planner is for. They are there to bring their combined vision to life and ensure you do without the fret and overthinking. Beyond that, give your planner the freedom to express modern trends and think outside the box; this will ensure your delegates are kept fully captivated and are able to absorb as much information as they possibly can.”

Being creative at a conference Being creative at a conference

Get creative

Getting creative sparks conversation and intrigue amongst your guests. Creativity can come from the venue you choose, the branding you use all the way to the sort of freebies or gifts you give people to take home with them. There is no better way to make your event memorable than evoking the ‘wow’ factor, Jennifer Davidson, Founder and MD of Sleek Events agrees: “Get creative! Having a unique venue and integrating your branding will make the venue more visually appealing and will ‘wow’ your attendees and leave them with a longer-lasting impression.”

The most important thing about running a conference is to convey a message, provide topical information and ultimately sell your service or product, so it is key that you keep your audience happy. Getting creative with your offerings shows them that you have gone above and beyond to cater to their needs, you have thought, prepared and executed an event with precision showing professionalism and efficiency.

There are plenty of ways in which you can jazz up your conference, picking a unique and relevant venue is a great place to start. Pick a venue with a large and impressive space as not only can you fit in a larger audience, it gives you freedom to add extras – an alcohol free bar, a space where the audience can ask any questions they may have or even a chill out area – you want your event to the talk of the office. Add small flourishes – send clients home with a goodie bag, that way, two weeks down the line they will remember your event with fond memories and it’s great free press.

We spoke to Jonathan from entertainment agency, Silk Street, who thinks hiring entertainment can bring a real boost to proceedings: “Conference attendees are technically working, but that doesn’t mean they’re ‘at work’. Booking quality entertainment can make your conference even more memorable, plus it’s pretty energising after that post-lunch slump!

“We recommend booking through an experienced, national entertainment agency with magicians, bands, singers, dancers, cartoonists, comedians, and even circus performers on their books. Their acts will have passed tough auditions, and will regularly perform at corporate events all over the UK.

“It’s also important to think about the theme of the day, and what your attendees will want and expect. Are they ready to be amazed, get a stitch from laughing, or fill the dance floor? The best acts can kick off your conference or close the show like nothing else.”

Person presenting Person presenting

Perfect your presentation

A boring presentation is the first downfall for many events. You want to make sure what you are talking about is not only relevant but is engaging and on-brand too. Jennifer recommends organising a variety of speakers to talk alongside your employees: “Have a variety of speakers. Having one speaker all day is bound to get a little samey, whereas a variety of speakers discussing different topics will encourage listening and reduce the dreaded post-lunch departures. The relevance of speaker content is also a big one - attendees don’t want a sales pitch about why they should use that company’s services - make it useful and interesting!”

As well as a selection of speakers and topics, Kate from Kate Park Events thinks it is important to have a theme and follow it when planning your talks: “Make sure your keynote speakers are relevant and engaging. They can be the make or break of the conference and you want them to inspire and stimulate conversation. Think about having a theme, something unifying that attendees can relate to. Finally, make sure there are a variety of presentations, workshops, networking and team building exercises so the conference remains fluid and inspiring.”

“Using different methods of communication will make the day a bit more interesting for attendees. Rather than just putting up a PowerPoint in one large room, mix it up a little! Create an app, use unique digital signage to display information and add smaller breakout sessions to discuss different topics - the possibilities are endless!” Recommends Jennifer.

If your talk is lengthy, it’s advised to have a short break in the middle where you can supply refreshments and interact with your audience. What you really want to gain out of the presentation is an audience that is interested and engaged. You want them to leave having learnt something new, and you want them to feel invested in your brand and company as a go-to point of contact in the future.

People clapping at conference People clapping at conference

Allow time for a Q&A

Allowing time for communication is a really important part of a conference. You want to give your audience the opportunity to ask any questions they may have on the topics you have covered, you as a speaker or your company in general. A question session at the end can be a great guide as the success of your talk, if people are asking more questions about the topic, it shows that they are invested and want to find out more.

Jennifer left us with a closing statement, that sums up the importance of keeping people happy when they are at your event: “If you make your conference more engaging, the event is bound to leave attendees with a great impression. Our number one top tip for a successful conference, other than always having a plan B, is keeping people happy - be it making sure there are plenty of lunch options, employing knowledgeable and helpful host staff, or providing a great range of sessions. This is the number one thing that should always be at the forefront of your mind when planning a conference.”

If you’re looking to plan a conference and need to find a suitable location, we offer a range of meeting rooms and conference facilities that are perfect for a variety of events in Cheshire. Get in contact with us today to find out how we can excel your next conference.

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