In these times, a few simple tips can spell the difference between flair and fiasco.
Help! The boss wants you to organize the next sales conference, meeting, or special event. How can you make sure it’s a success and not a flop? Here are a few tips, based on years of helping companies host their events.
1. Anticipate your attendees’ needs.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make or break a conference: coffee breaks, snacks, activities to break up the day. Most people can only pay attention for so long before they need a break, so be sure to schedule these in. The more intense your meeting, the more people will need a chance to stretch, visit the restroom, or simply chat with their neighbors. In these highly-connected days, people always need a chance to check their e-mail or make a phone call.
Also, find out if anyone in your group has special dietary needs and let your hosts know ahead of time. Vegetarians, vegans, and people with food allergies deserve to get as much out of the conference as the other participants. Even without advance notice, a good conference site should be able to handle your requests, but alerting them ahead of time will allow them to prepare special meals or snacks and prevent delays in your program.
2. Have a budget.
Knowing what you have to spend will make planning your event much easier. These days, most conference sites have their menus and fees available on-line so you can decide ahead of time what it might cost to hold your event there. Included in your budget should be food and beverage, facility fees, equipment (such as an LCD projector or copy machine), and any special items you want—piñatas, pineapples, whatever.
Being flexible might save you some money. If a site is typically slow on Wednesdays, they might be willing to negotiate a lower price if you plan your event for that day. It can’t hurt to ask.
3. Visit the conference site.
Web sites are great for getting a general feel for a location, but you won’t know for sure that it’s what you are looking for until you see it. Is the room they’ve reserved for you the right size for your needs? Has the carpeting been replaced since the Johnson administration? What’s the lighting like?
When you do visit the site, ask a lot of questions and communicate your expectations—believe me, your hosts would rather answer your questions than have to guess about what you really want. If you are clear about what you have in mind, it’s much easier for them to make it happen.
4. Trust the site staff.
Assuming that you’ve chosen your site carefully (any reputable facility should be willing to give you references), then sit back and let the staff do their work. It won’t help if you stress out over every detail. Do your best to plan ahead, then let go and let someone else do the worrying. Trusting the professionals will take the stress off of you.
5. Have some fun.
Make time during your event to have a little fun. Depending on what the facility has available, consider asking them to organize a group activity to break up the day. This could be as simple as a hike or as involved as a round of golf. Think creatively—just because the facility has a bar doesn’t mean that’s the best place for your attendees to relax and unwind.
Having an successful business event doesn’t have to be stressful. Go into it with positive expectations and you’ll be surprised at how positive the results are.