Following on from the post ‘Ensuring Your Event Attendees Arrive Relaxed and Happy‘ we wanted to continue the theme with some basics for keeping attendees relaxed and happy throughout your conference or event.
A happy attendee is going to stay at the event longer, engage more and get more from it. Keeping attendees relaxed and happy is always our utmost priority. Here are 10 essentials to giving your guests a positive experience throughout your live event.
1. Have a good event Chair who keeps people informed and gives clear instructions.
Key information the Chair will cover at the start of the event is likely to include the evacuation procedure, who are the key staff to speak to in case of any queries, a reminder of the Twitter hashtag, WiFi log in details, introductions of speakers, and (at the relevant times) where attendees should go next and when they should return.
Guidance from the Chair during question and answer sessions also helps to keep everything on track and efficient. For instance, reminding people to wait for the microphone to reach them before they ask a question and giving their name and organisation first are helpful in laying down the ground rules.
A good Chair is also invaluable in terms of summarising the key points, asking probing questions and making seamless links and connections between content and speakers.
The event host can be a calming presence and reassure even the most nervous delegates.
Event Planning Top Tip: We always create Chair Briefing Notes detailing the housekeeping with important information listed in chronological order against the programme so that no key information is omitted and that it is communicated in a timely manner without overwhelming the delegates.
2. Ensure the event environment is comfortable.
Ensure the event surroundings including the ambient temperature, room layout and set up is conducive to the purpose of the event. For example, if you want attendees to concentrate on the speakers and presentations ensure that everyone has a clear view and sight-lines to the stage/lectern and don’t make the room too warm so it makes everyone become sleepy. Having comfortable chairs is also a must to keep attendee concentration.
If you are running a workshop and want to facilitate group work then don’t have a theatre-style layout, consider more inventive and interactive options.
Event Planning Top Tip: Don’t pack too many people into the room, having space to move around the event room is important!
3. Provide relevant information within the delegate folders/conference brochure or event app.
Basic information should be provided to delegates via the delegate folders or brochure or via the event app if you have one. This includes the detailed event programme, venue WiFi details, event hashtag, and speaker biographies. Attendees also really appreciate a list of attendees and access to any key information, detailed documents, research and learning to be announced/shared through the event.
Event Planning Top Tip: Event apps are a fantastic way to ensure delegates have the key event information at their fingertips but at the same time reduce printing and plastic folders, which is great from an environmental perspective.
4. Encourage and facilitate easy networking and interaction.
Networking doesn’t come easily to everyone so we always try to assist in providing opportunities without putting anyone outside of their comfort zone. We always have clear, easy to read badges and generally provide a ‘sharing table.’
Without putting anyone on the spot we also like to give attendees a low key opportunity to introduce themselves to the people around them and make them feel comfortable at the start of the event, meet some new contacts and perhaps to discuss a key question at relevant points throughout the day.
Event Planning Top Tip: A skilled facilitator will put everyone at ease and get the audience to connect and share effectively.
5. Ensure plenty of signage and staff for easy navigation.
However skilled you are as an Event Manager you cannot be everywhere at once (unfortunately!) and so having signage and support staff in place to guide delegates around the venue is important. Conference venues can be huge and so you don’t want attendees to find themselves lost and frustrated, and late for the next session!
Event Planning Top Tip: Think about the flow of the event during the planning stages. If the lunch and refreshments can be served in the same place throughout the event it helps attendees to feel comfortable, with a familiar base point and help them to navigate their way around the venue effectively.
6. Keep the attention and interest of the audience.
Ensure that the presentation times are not too long (20 minutes is generally sufficient) and that there are plenty of opportunities for movement, networking, and changes of scenery throughout the day.
Event Planning Top Tip: Request presentations in advance from speakers if at all possible so you can check and save and familiarise yourself with the length and content of the presentation. A speaker will generally need at least a minute per slide if it is content based.
7. Keep to time!
Nothing is more frustrating than to an attendee than seeing an event timetable spiraling out of control. Keep the speakers and event to time and always make an effort to pull back time if you do get slightly behind (for instance by shortening the coffee/lunch break or cutting down on time for questions).
Keep your attendees informed about any changes to timings and the programme. If you have an event app you can even update the schedule in real time to reflect the latest changes.
Event Planning Top Tip: Agree a speaker warning system to help them keep to time. This might be a countdown timer or specific warning signals to discreetly keep them on track.
8. Avoid lunch and refreshment induced rage!
Unless you are running a really small event (and we mean a tiny event of fewer than 50 people) don’t let the venue persuade you to make do with only one catering serving station under any circumstances! It is vital to have multiple identical servings stations for refreshments and lunch to avoid long queues and frustration.
Event Planning Top Tip: Ask the venue/caterers to label the food clearly so that people can select their lunch confidently rather than trying to identify the different items. And insist that vegetarian and meat and fish items are plated up completely separately. You should have discussed with the venue/caterers in advance what arrangements will be made for those with special dietary requirements such as gluten-free, vegan, etc. Often they will create a special plated meal for those with special requests.
9. Give advance warning if you need attendees to do something.
For example, if you would like delegates to complete a feedback form before leaving, via the event app or on paper, give them a heads up at the start of the last session so they can complete the form in good time. If you only ask attendees to complete their form as they leave the event you risk having a very low return rate.
Event Planning Top Tip: Is a paper feedback form the best way to get feedback from your event? Consider an online survey with an incentive to respond or gather feedback through your event app instead. You should also monitor social media channels too for other event feedback.
10. Finish on time.
It is absolutely vital to finish your event on time, or even ideally perhaps a few minutes early! If you overrun you risk people getting antsy as they think about the train they need to run for or the childminder they need to get back to. Us Brits are polite human beings but many will start to depart and leave a speaker mid flow if the event finish time is nigh or has passed.
Event Planning Top Tip: Ensure everyone is ready for everyone to exit the event as smoothly as they arrived. Have staff ready to collect feedback forms and badges, hold open doors, retrieve coats from the cloakroom quickly, etc.
We hope you have enjoyed these basics for keeping attendees relaxed and happy throughout your event. These are 10 basics which you should be getting right, however, we are always surprised at the number of events that get it wrong!
We would love to hear your top tips to make delegates feel comfortable and ensure they get the most out of the event as a result. How are you keeping attendees relaxed and happy at the events you organise?
When you attend events what elements make the difference in terms of your personal enjoyment and comfort? Let us know in the comments below.