The wheels hit the runway after a quick, smooth flight. You collect your baggage and head to the hotel shuttle. Quick ride. Get settled in. Your boss wants you to observe a user conference in hopes to better understand the general flow and potentially plan one in the future. As this is the first you’ve attended, you have no clue what to expect. You know the schedule shows events for tonight and the next three days to follow, but should you have other expectations? Is this simply a way to gain knowledge on a product? Attend a general session? Listen to a few keynote speakers? Maybe get an outside perspective. But the detail, planning and execution of this event are meticulously orchestrated to make a memorable experience for all who attend.
The first half of day one will be set aside for flights, hotel check-ins and conference registration. Basically, the logistics. A great way to kick-off the second half of the day is to plan to attend breakout sessions that may not pertain to all. Many attendees may have later flights and will probably get in just in time for the welcome reception. The evening reception is a great time for attendees to relax, get acquainted with others and get a sneak peak of what the next few days will bring. This is best accompanied in smalls bites, libations and a little live, subtle music. Location is everything. Outdoors is an excellent option, but the exposition hall is an even better way for exposure to the sponsors and exhibitors in a comfortable, relaxed setting.
Starting off the next morning with an energizing breakfast followed by an inspiring general session is always the way to go. In addition to coffee, a lively performance of music and/or dance will help wake attendees up. Follow this up with a speech from the CEO for added excitement about the company, its products and today’s breakout sessions. Bringing everyone to one place to hear the vision and strategy of the company’s future gets the people going.
After general session, breakout sessions will account for all the time before lunch. Make sure to account for bio breaks during sessions and enough time in between for smooth transitions, a few email and call responses, and the grabbing of a quick snack and beverage for a little added energy. Allow approximately 15 minutes so that attendees can get right back to the good stuff. Lunch provides a great break to refuel and refocus for the second half of sessions.
Having an offsite event the first night is a fun way for attendees to gather with a change of scenery. Charter busses or shuttles, city views and a cool venue provides a great opportunity for everyone to let their hair down. Enjoying some dancing, conversation and relaxation is enjoyable for all. It’s important to make sure the venue isn’t too far from the conference location and that there is steady running transportation so that no one feels like a hostage for an uncomfortable length of time.
The first full day was a complete success! But let’s make sure to keep this momentum going. Hopefully, the night before was fun, but doesn’t make attendees skip the morning sessions. To prevent this, make sure the morning speakers are in high demand. If you decide to go with a second general session, reduce the number of chairs so that the room feels full and energetic. Make sure this general session takes place in the morning hours with breakout sessions sprinkled throughout the day to follow, just in case people decide to depart on this day.
Planning a spectacular evening event onsite for this night will keep people at the conference after the completion of the educational sessions. A concert or show is an incredible option. Take into account the city in which the event takes place to try to make it feel local and relevant. It is important to make sure this is a night to remember!
For the final day, you want the breakout sessions to be irresistible to increase attendance. This provides the incentive for attendees to stay a third night. Keep the sessions early so that afternoon travel is possible. If breakout sessions go until noon, think about providing box lunches so people can grab some nutrition on the go!
When your boss sent you to attend a user conference to observe for planning of future events, it could’ve initially seemed moderately straightforward. The event should focus attendees attention to the promoted product, but also capture their interests. Although the conference is filled with innovative new products, intriguing speakers and a plethora of information, it is crucial to understand the complexity of how and when people are at their best to receive and process this information to attain true success. Making a lasting impression takes much more than simple scheduling. It takes delicate timing, intricate attention to detail and an enlighten execution to make the event unforgettable!