There are many different conferences happening all over the world in your sector – the problem from a delegate’s point of view is which one to choose to attend. They want to attend the one that will give them the most “bang for their buck” and have the perfect conference environment. You (as Chair) don’t want to hear after the event from delegates that it was very disappointing. But how do you ensure this doesn’t happen? How do you ensure that your good conference is great?
The delegate experience is very important at a conference. It is the experience you give your delegates that will ensure they come back and also tell their peers about the conference. Simple things like making sure that the Wifi connection is sufficient, that there is adequate signage to each venue and refreshments are available may seem like small insignificant things, but if they are not done properly it will be quite evident and delegates will pick up on it.
Create Networking Opportunities
While the main objective of a delegate attending a research conference is to present and learn from other researchers in the same field, they also have a fantastic opportunity to meet and make new contacts. However, in a one or two day conference it can be difficult for delegates to get appropriate opportunities to meet new people. Providing collaboration spaces and break-out rooms with tea and coffee for delegates between sessions can be invaluable networking time for them, and will benefit the conference overall. We have also given tips on how to network at a conference here.
Ask the Opinions of Attendees
Trying to second-guess what delegates want in a conference setting is difficult at the best of times, so why not take out the guesswork and simply ask them? This can be particularly useful if you run an annual conference. What you could do is have a suggestion page or box where delegates can give their opinions on what worked, what didn’t and what they would like to see next year. An online suggestion box could be set up and sent to each delegate after the conference, first of all thanking them for their attendance and also asking for their opinions on the event. It is natural that you will not be able to implement everything delegates suggest, but you get an idea of what they would like to see. This can only heighten their conference experience of the delegates and turn your conference from a good one to a great one. Furthermore, delegates will like the fact that they know their opinions are taken into consideration.
Content is King
Good content is fundamental to any conference. A Chair’s time is precious, but encouraging good quality content to submit to the conference is of high priority. However, the admin work for a conference can be phenomenal. Too much time is spent on the mundane logistical elements. One way to counter-act this is use an abstract management system that reduces admin time so you can spend time focusing on the more important things. The Ex Ordo Abstract Management system can eliminate up to 80% of the admin associated with conferences, so you can spend more time encouraging keynote speakers, for example, to attend your conference.
A conference can gain great recognition for many different reasons, sometimes even surpassing everyone’s expectations. There are a lot of things that can affect a conference that are out of the control of the Chair, but these simple tips can be controlled and carried out to good effect.