Curate the content…
You probably love TED presentations… so why not use their principles to design your event?
At the Meeting & Incentive Summit, organised by Grupo EventoPlus, we were looking for killer content – education that would really match the needs of our audience. We conducted a survey between our target audience and created an Advisory Board with a few industry leaders to identify the most relevant content. However, we knew that getting the right speakers and topics was not enough to deliver inspiring presentations.
We therefore offered coaching to all speakers on how to design their presentation (and made sure they applied the principles). We even offered to edit their slides to make them more visually attractive. Most of the sessions were limited to 20 minutes, the optimal amount of time to convey a message. If a session needed to be longer, interactive activities were mandatory. We also asked for the main takeaways of each session and indicated they would be included in the evaluation questionnaire.
Some may think that we asked too much from our speakers… but it is for the benefit of everyone! It is very important that you set the expectations in advance and deliver a good briefing. In return, do your best to accommodate the speakers’ needs, like the meeting room layout.
Have professional moderation…
I can’t emphasise this enough: having an MC or not can make or break your event! I strongly encourage you to invest in a professional MC, one that ideally is familiar with the subject matter. In our case, we had Erik Peekel, who has a background in TV, and Jesus Maria Gomez, MPI Spain’s President. Before the event, we reviewed the day in detail together and made sure they knew exactly what was happening, key sentences or notifications that they needed to announce during the day, and back up actions and activities in case of delays, last minute speaker no shows or other issues.
They not only created a good flow between sessions, encouraging people to network, but also increased their learning, by summarising what speakers were saying and made it fun with their sense of humour and improvised ice breaking activities. Which brings me on to my next point…
…add a bit of fun!
Someone once said that conferences are like playgrounds for adults. Even if your conference is about ‘serious’ topics, I’m sure your delegates will appreciate a bit of relax time and humour. We, at the MIS, had different activities and meeting formats that encouraged interaction and were fun to do, such as body voting, a Super Brainstorm or facilitated networking through Lego blocks. We even had a short session on a business topic presented by a professional comedian. So, why not introduce some fun to your next event, but always adapt it to the profile of your audience and the topic.
Of course, you need other ingredients to make your conference a success: you need a nice venue (the MIS took place in a museum surrounded by a beautiful garden), delicious food, AV production, and so on, but I’m guessing you already know how to do that!
Next time, besides the logistics, try to invest more time in the content as well. Research your audience, invest in finding good speakers and coach them, hire a professional MC and use a variety of formats. And… don’t forget to have fun!