The act of planning a conference for your organization requires balancing the intentions of service and fun. Having the ability to bring multiple voices in the same industry and discipline together once a year is no small feat. Some individuals plan their whole year around professional events that create opportunities to learn, connect and build for the future. Create space for magic to happen. Whether it is meeting the person who inspires a whole department, learning about a new resource that will uplevel the field, or allowing time to recharge away from their natural environment for a fresh outlook.
Unique experiences keep members engaged.
Keep your members on their toes by throwing the conference in a new location every year. Aim to vary the conference destination as much as possible if your association is national in order to satisfy wider percentages of your membership body. Help your members’ perspectives grow by showing them places they’ve never experienced. An inspiring locale can tie nicely into the “big picture” focus or theme of the conference. One of our upcoming conference themes is “Helping You Achieve 20/20 Vision.” Matching the 20/20 Vision theme with a destination that has jaw-dropping views of vistas, mountains or bodies of water could be a natural pairing.
Part of experiencing a destination is understanding the value of the venue team. Fostering a respectful relationship by developing rapport with the hotel staff is imperative to the success and enjoyment of your conference. Remember, this is a partnership, so the hotel staff wants you to succeed just as much as they want a win for themselves. Make time to listen to their recommendations and to understand their accommodations. Allow them to think of the things you have not. Together you will provide wonderful service for the participants.
Showcase the FUN for your participants.
Keep in mind, some attendees are required to be there. You want to make this event as fun and appealing as possible for your participants. It’s not just a conference, it’s an opportunity to put yourself out there, network and gain industry knowledge. Choose a location that would be enticing and new for your members, that has options for varied types of recreation. Instead of a conference hall perhaps a resort, or a hotel with a golf course attached. You’d be surprised which of your members you see enjoying the lazy river, and heck maybe they will even bring their family!
Source Passionate Speakers and Industry Leaders.
Your speakers and panelists must be as passionate and actively engaged with the industry. Even the most beautiful venue can’t cover for speakers who don’t “bring it”. Source panelists that are industry experts, well-known names and that will drive attendance to your conference. Reach out to panelists and speakers that aren’t necessarily easily accessed and do your research for up and coming talent. Go for the ideal, you never know who might be available and excited to share their perspective. Encourage your speakers to embrace thought leadership by choosing topics for discussion and presentation that are current and forward-thinking. Who is leading the pack? Who needs to be represented on a bigger scale? Bring the current leaders together with those who are about to change the entire game for the better. Understand that all the participants involved to create the end product, this is what creates the true value of an all-encompassing event that will have your members saying, “I’m so excited to see everyone next year.”
Megan Van Petten
Van Petten Group, Inc.