“No two events are the same but the principles of delivering a successful event should be” says Nancy Mollett, Convention Centre Director at ICC Wales and Celtic Manor in Newport, South Wales.
Having worked on events including the Nato Summit and the Ryder Cup, the expert team behind these two Welsh venues know a thing or two about delivering spectacular events with aplomb, ensuring that every detail is considered.
We asked Nancy for her 5 top tips for running a world class event…
- Put yourself in their shoes
Thinking about the whole customer journey and reflecting on your own experience of attending events before you start planning is really helpful. Too often all the budget is spent on the main plenary space and associated production of the main sessions and not enough consideration is given to making an impact from the moment the delegate arrives. How are they getting there, do they know where to park, is the signage appropriate and is there a physical welcome ensuring they know what to do next?
I have seen so many events litter a venue with signage and it still isn’t clear what delegates have to do or where they need to go. Think of the number of times you hear delegates around the registration area bemoaning their arrival to the venue or frustration at finding where they need to go. This starts the event experience with a negative. You can’t underestimate the impact of human contact and a personal welcome. Once a delegate has arrived, easy access to WiFi, (and the WiFi code if there is one,) as well as the agenda, time and appropriate areas to network all helps to get things off to a great start.
- Hold their attention
After all the cost and effort that goes into producing an event, there is nothing more frustrating for the organiser or presenters when the size of the audience noticeably dwindles throughout the day. I have been to events where it is clear after lunch and at the last tea break that delegates are taking an opportunity to leave. When considering the programme, as much focus needs to be on ensuring relevance, opportunities for interaction and different styles of presentation as the appeal of the speaker. Putting all the big money into the first sessions of the day is tempting but there needs to be a hook to make the last session unmissable.
- Feed mind, body and soul
It’s no surprise that when reviewing delegate feedback that ‘food experience’ is generally the most commented on. Venues should involve themselves as much as possible in making sure the catering is going to be best suited to the style of event and audience, to minimise any negative feedback for their clients. For many events the traditional format of three coffee breaks, a fork buffet lunch and gala dinner no longer works, and it is the responsibility of venues to be creative and help clients make the event feel innovative through the food and drink on offer.
On top of this, networking and providing delegates with the space and time to catch up is increasingly important, so providing an environment that makes this easy to do is critical. Rolling refreshments, grazing stations and relaxed styles such as street food for evening events ensures delegates get maximum time to move around and interact with each other.
Always consider the needs of those with dietary requirements as this group can be the most vocal in their assessment of catering at an event. Make sure you have all the information you need from these delegates in advance, and ensure the venue is fully briefed and can share how they will deliver against these needs so that you can in turn reassure your delegates. Thinking outside the box for entertainment options also enhances the experience and creates the required wow factor that will become the talking points that add to a memorable event.
- Keep them comfortable
One aspect of event organisation that may seem minor, but which actually has a big impact on the delegate experience is temperature. If a delegate is uncomfortable it affects their concentration, they become distracted and share their opinion with those around them. Consider what the audience are doing, if it’s a static session then the rooms need to be warm enough to ensure coats are not required, if it’s an interactive or team building session then cool it down.
- Keep in touch
There are endless options for conference Apps now, ensuring delegates have instant access to key information before, during and after the event. Choosing the right partner to deliver this for you is critical and this activity should link seamlessly into the registration process, minimising the formal process of registration. Sharing information throughout the day, providing opportunities for real time feedback, questions and thoughts across the network of delegates all helps with engagement and provides valuable content for the client. If the event has an exhibition element then there are lots of tools and quirky interactive boards that enable the quick sharing of information between various parties at the event.