by Marvin McTaw
It’s readily acknowledged that conference organizers have an incredibly difficult job. You have to wear many hats including project manager, baby sitter, real estate agent and marketing executive all in the name of doing a good job.
Traci Browne’s post on Unforgivable Meeting Blunders got me thinking about some of the core issues attendees face while at conferences, festivals and meetings. I have the benefit of being able to review a lot of event schedules over a variety of events. I’ve also attended my fair share of conferences, festivals and meetings. The biggest mistake I see is one that still blows my mind, even from veteran planning pros…
David Adler, CEO of BizBash once said, “…We are programmers of human interaction.” If you’re not scheduling in breaks and unstructured/networking time you’re forgetting the full purpose of your event. Attendees come to your conference not only to learn more about a particular topic matter but also to be surrounded by others who have the same interests. As event organizers, you should be invested in their success by feeding the whole person and not just the education component of their desires.
I have a strong disdain for events of any kind be they conferences, festivals or training meetings where everything is scheduled back-to-back. It becomes even worse when the consecutive events are scheduled for multiple days in a row. Not even a 15 minute break! Seriously folks, when do you expect your attendees to be able to use the bathroom or, I don’t know, talk to each other?
As an event organizer you have to do better because breaks not only help attendees but also help you to effectively execute your event. You see I’ll let you in on a little secret: things don’t always go according to plan. Speakers show up late. Attendees become engaged with a speaker and don’t let their session end “on time”. A/V equipment doesn’t always work right, even after you’ve tested it.
The prudent event organizer understands that building time cushions into your event schedule is good for everyone involved with your event. It allows for spontaneity, rest and provides a buffer to address logistical nightmares. If you really want to throw a great conference, remember it’s not about everything you can jam pack into your event schedule. It’s also about what you choose to leave out.