There may not be such a thing as a perfect conference but there is certainly no harm in trying and to be fair we’ve been to many (conferences) that have been damn close.
Today as I lay in a hospital bed recovering from yet more plastic surgery I thought it worthwhile to list what we think goes to make up a good conference and better still give examples of when / where we may have experienced ‘perfection’.
So, in no particular order…
- Great AV. Especially in our industry there is no excuse for not having top notch AV
- Free Wifi (to ensure the venue had it during #smics2011 the organiser MicroStrategy set up their own hotspots in Monte Carlo’s Fairmont hotel for ALL conference guests)
- A single, unique hashtag that everyone agrees with and buys into (best examples to date are the likes of #iseurope, #screenmediaexpo, #dse2011, #smics2011 etc – note it doesn’t matter how long it is, it just needs to be unique, not in use elsewhere and memorable)
- Forget a twitter wall what you need is a BuzzWall (we haven’t seen one of these at a conference yet but speak to Arsenal Media I’m sure they’d be happy to build you one)
- Twitter walls (okay so you probably ought to have a twitter wall as well). Multitouch come close to having something we like but there’s still a lot missing from their interactive solution so it’s probably better just to have a simple non-interactive twitter wall).
- Great speakers and remember less is often more. Over a two day session it’s sometimes better to repeat excellent presentators on different topics than make up the numbers with poor speakers
- Knowledgeable moderator / chairman (Steve Nesbit is the only person who beats me at chairing a conference and luckily in October at the Digital Signage Investors’ Conference in New York attendees and speakers will get BOTH as we are co-chairing the event)
- Time for networking (the networking, socialising and down time at an event is just as important as the speaker sessions – after all, attendees can often get all the education they need online these days. The invidis guys in Munich are masters of this at their Digital Signage conference in Munich and at their #DiSCO events in Amsterdam)
- Speed Dating. Pioneered by the Strategy Institute it’s a great way to get the audience engaged and to get to know each other. There is no reason why all conferences shouldn’t do some form of this.
- Relevant breakout sessions. It sometimes doesn’t make sense to keep all of the people in the same room all of the time. Multiple tracks have their place but don’t over do it and do make sure you get everyone back in the same room before the conference closes proper.
- Speaker presentations available electronically as they take the podium (the organisers have them because they have loaded them ready for the projector. There is no reason why they shouldn’t share them immediately also with the audience)
- Fun goodie bags – sponsors love giving things away and it’s a nice takeaway for people who have paid good money to attend. (Best bag we have ever received was a very high quality wheelie case from #DiSCO11 / #ISEUROPE courtesy of the event’s platinum sponsors but the best collection of articles by far was the recent DisplaySearch Digital Signage conference the day before #InfoComm11 where attendees received a flask, USB keys, calculator, pens, notebook in a good quality bag)
- Good location. Every event is made better by having a convenient to get to, reasonably priced location (you cannot beat the sense of holding OVAB’s Digital Signage Conference at the nice Kempinski hotel attached to Munich Airport – fly in and walk a couple of hundred yards and you are there. Perfect!)
- Back to back events. Check the industry event calendar on our site and see if you can co-ordinate your event next to another one – saves travelling costs, encourages attendance (best example ever is the Strategy Institute and the Digital Place-based Advertising Association who both agreed to book their big industry events consecutively in the same week in October at our urging – hoorah!!!)