How to Improve Your Conference Sessions (and Create Happy Attendees)
“I enjoyed every session I attended.”
“The speakers did a great job.”
This is the kind of feedback that makes the months of planning worthwhile.
Every conference planner knows how important educational sessions are to your event. Attendees often justify the cost of their trip by citing the new topics they learn about. This means nothing is more welcome than receiving positive feedback on your conference sessions. After all, who is more likely to return next year than satisfied attendees?
But these positive learning experiences don’t just happen.
A big-name speaker for the keynote speech is not enough to ensure a good learning outcome for everyone involved. Successful planners know the work they do before the conference plays a major role in the feedback they receive afterward.
Here are five tips that will help your speakers deliver impactful sessions:
1. Have a system in place
Organization is key to ensuring a smooth-running conference. But coordinating with speakers before the event has been known to derail even the most seasoned planners. The constant back and forth can become an all-consuming experience.
An abstract management system takes the hassle out of coordinating with your submitters. Having the right organizational tool means less time hunting through emails and attachments. Freeing you to focus on finding speakers that resonate with your audience.
2. Inbox hero
Peer review is another organizational challenge that will overwhelm your inbox. A full-featured abstract management system organizes and automates your peer review process. Emailing research paper abstracts to individual reviewers can be a thing of the past! Imagine what other elements of your conference you can work on with these time savings.
Seriously, go ahead and imagine.
Others will notice the improved communications, as well. Your reviewers will delight at the ease of use that allows them to focus on what they do best.
3. Plan for different learning styles
Not all conference attendees learn in the same way. Some prefer the traditional presenter/listener model, but try to offer other formats, as well. A panel discussion allows for different points of view, while a workshop creates an interactive experience. Embrace this variety! Encourage your speakers to re- evaluate event learning models for presenting their educational content.
“Visual” vs. “verbal” learning is another factor to consider when selecting conference session formats. The format of the presentation is best left to the presenter, but as the event organizer, you play an important role. Make sure all the necessary A/V resources are available to handle a dynamic presentation.
Start this dialog with speakers early during your call for abstracts to avoid any surprises during the conference.
4. Make an introduction
Letting your presenters and attendees connect before the event is good for everyone. Speaker bios, preliminary papers and conference schedule give attendees a preview of the sessions. Speakers will appreciate the chance to develop their personal brands online. And this fresh content drives traffic to your website.
Keep a space reserved on your conference website for guest postings. Promoting these posts on social media builds attendees’ excitement in the weeks leading up to your conference.
Presenters can also use this opportunity to provide preliminary information on their topics. This is especially helpful in emerging fields. Attendees will be able to get more out of their conference session by having a baseline education before the event.
5. Give your educational content a life of its own
(Psst…. Guess what? There’s a way around that.)
An online content library is a great way to create a single location for all your conference content. This digital library lets your attendees know exactly where to go for the information they need, when they need it. And finding material is a breeze whether browsing by topic or searching by keyword.
Online conference materials add depth to your association’s website. This relevant, high-quality content makes your website a destination for those researching industry-specific topics. Exactly the kind of people your association wants as members.
Don’t wait until the conference is over to start gathering materials, though. Avoid confusion by making arrangements with your speakers early in the process.
These discussions should happen as part of the initial call for papers.
Focusing on what’s important to your attendees is critical to hosting a successful conference. Having the proper system in place leading up to the event allows you to spend more time choosing content and less time managing communication.
As a result, your attendees biggest challenge will be deciding which sessions they have to miss. And when the show is over and everyone has gone home, how will it feel to hear that feedback?
Has feedback ever motivated you to change your organizational process? What other ways do you accommodate different learning styles in your sessions? Any good tips to help attendees make the most of what they’ve learned? Let us know in the comments!