There’s more to an event than logistics and registrations


July 23rd, 2012

Designing, organising, structuring, promoting, facilitating, and hosting a conference has provided me with a few insights that I’d like to share – just in case you find yourself in a similar situation. Here’s a few random thoughts.

Venue
There are so many considerations around a venue – location, facilitates, cost, public transport, parking, helpful staff, flexibility, vibe, atmosphere, spaces to just sit and chat, access to outdoors, access to good coffee, a bar. Putting the time in to finding the right venue is well worth it. The Amora Riverwalk in Richmond ticked all these boxes.

Food
Most people will forgive almost anything if the food is awesome. Especially if it includes freshly-baked, crispy and gooey Portuguese tarts!

Design
By all means start with how events are usually structured, then play with it. What if you replaced the pre-conference workshops with longer in-conference workshops? What if you found an alternative to a conference dinner? Question every assumption you’ve ever had about events. You may still want to include something that’s been a tradition, and you will have thought it through rather than blindly following said tradition.

The experience
What experience do you want people to have? What memories will they carry forward? How can you make the event eventful?

Personal Invitation
If there’s people you really want to come to the event, send them a personal invitation. Even high profile people might say yes, and the worst they’ll do is ignore you.

One less thing
This from Open Space – what’s one less thing you can do? At AIN Downunder: Thriving In Uncertainty we had concurrent workshops. We didn’t ask people to sign up in advance, or on the day – we simply invited them to go where they wanted. It worked fine. Given the opportunity, people will self organise.

If you’re hosting, then you’re the host from inception to beyond
Be a real person, be known, be seen, be heard, be helpful. It’s good to have one person as a focus, go-to person. There might be others behind the scenes helping. I don’t think people want to correspond with an organising committee or whatever, they want personal contact. It means a lot of work. Organising an event IS a lot of work.

Have an easy-to navigate web site
Doesn’t need to be fancy, after all, it only has a limited lifespan. I use WordPress themes and create web sites myself, keeping it simple and with lots of information that people might want.

Use an on-line registration outfit
There’s a few of these around. I use Eventbrite. It’s easy to set up, automated, and they have the BEST help desk I have ever come across. No kidding.

Social media
Communicating through Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc is an integral part of communicating an event these days. Do it, or find someone who can help you.

Have a logo
This comes in handy for all sorts of things. For AIN Downunder I used fiverr. Best $5 I ever spent.

Know your limitations
Book-keeping stresses me and makes me grumpy. I can do it, but I don’t want to, nor do I like it, so I find someone who does like it who can help. Be realistic about what you want to do and don’t want to do, and find others to do the things you don’t want to do.

Ditch the committee
Helpers are fantastic. Committees suck. Have one or two people making the decisions – have others providing ideas. Listem, learn, question and then decide. And accept offers of help!

Does it serve the event?
This from Geoff Brown and the Airey’s Inlet Music Festival. They have a mantra: “Does it serve the music?” If not, they don’t do it/include it. It’s easy for events to become diluted, trying to be all things to all people. A small, well focused event can change the world, as much (if not more) than a ginormous mega-event.

PS: All endorsements are because I like the products/services.

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