3 ways to make conference events more engaging

Conferences can be a goldmine for hot leads, but beware of these downsides


Download this column on planning conference events
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA Dec 4, 2015/ Troy Media/ – So you finally got your company to agree to host a conference. Congratulations. You have just created enough extra work for yourself to equal three months of overtime. Ever worse, you’re not going to be getting any of that overtime pay. If it doesn’t go perfectly, you will wish you had never spoke up in the first place.

Conference events can be a goldmine for hot leads, community awareness, and local goodwill. But for every upside, there is a downside or two you need to be aware of.

The cost of conference events can be high. Booking a facility can be rather challenging, especially for your first event, because you have no idea how many people to expect. You are also going to have to book well in advance, making estimates really difficult. Few things look sillier than a small event in a huge space. Even if the event is successful, it looks like failure.

Are you going to provide catering? That is another big, expensive unknown. The quality of your presenters can make or break the event. How’s the Wi-Fi situation? Parking? Now that you’ve got people to show up, how are you going to make sure they actually attend the workshops as opposed to hanging out in groups at the bar down the street?

I hope I haven’t talked you out of your planning your own conference events. But fear not, I have three suggestions to make sure none of the worst possibilities actually happen to you:

Offer an event App

It used to be said that if your business doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t exist. But that bit of wisdom has been updated to business aphorism 2.0: If your business doesn’t have an app, it doesn’t exist. That new observation also applies to conferences and other events.

The truth is, whether you like it or not, your attendees are going to have their heads down staring into some company’s app. It might as well be yours. The best part is that you don’t have to build it yourself. There are companies you can look to for building an event app specifically for your conference.

Use your app for:

  • Surveys and Polling
  • Attendee Networking
  • Sponsorship Opportunities
  • Lead Scanning
  • And much more . . .

An event app will increase engagement because you will be speaking a language your attendees already understand. They are used to interacting through apps on their smartphones and connected devices. Don’t fight that tendency. Use it to your advantage.

Provide food

Yes, food is expensive. But no one says it has to be free. Just give your attendees an option to get their lunch on premises rather than having to leave the venue to find something to eat. You wouldn’t invite your guests to a venue that didn’t have ample restroom facilities, would you? Of course not! Eating is no less a necessity. Allowing local restaurants and food trucks to use your venue as a commissary is not only good business, but great community involvement.

The other reason you want to provide food service is that you don’t want your attendees wondering off and getting distracted by the sights and wonders of your fine city. If you want them to stay engaged with your event, keep them at your venue as much as reasonably possible.

Partner with a nearby hotel

We’ve all been to out-of-town conferences. One of the worst aspects of those conferences is finding an affordable and clean place to stay within walking distance of the venue. Don’t force your guests to get a rental car just to get from their hotel to the venue.

In a city like San Francisco, there are lots of little motels that your guests may not feel comfortable staying at. They don’t know the city. And prices can be quite high. You can make a lot of that stress go away by partnering with one or two hotels that would be willing to offer special room rates for the duration of the conference.

That way, your guests will always be within walking distance of a change of clothes, or necessary medications they might not want to carry with them at all times. Combine this with providing food service and a capable conference app, and you will have removed the biggest distractions and barriers to putting on a well-received event.


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