Conferences and events are often the staple of the business calendar, but do you give enough thought to what your delegates gain from these events? After all, delegate enrichment is just as important as the canapés. Carol O’Reilly explains.
You’ve got the venue, the food and even the AV sorted, and hopefully the content of your next meeting or event has already begun to take shape – but are you thinking with your end delegates in mind? If not, you could be going to a lot of trouble for very little gain.
An event or meeting should have some sort of impact on attendees, hopefully more positive than negative! In general, we are talking about your event leaving delegates inspired, motivated, valued and educated. So, how can you achieve this and where do you start?
Before the signatures
Just because you might already have the venue and location of your next event in mind, why not create a shortlist and open up the discussion to delegates as to where they would like to go? Not only have you begun to engage with them from the outset, but by the very nature of the process you are making delegates feel empowered and valued. This is key to employees feeling personally enriched.
Make sure you set objectives for your event and get delegates to think about what they want to gain from attending. Consider opening a pre-event online form where you can encourage delegates to share their ideas.
Another way of getting your delegates involved in the content is by asking them to share their own knowledge with the rest of the team and invite them to put forward a suggestion for a speaker slot.
During the event
Just because d-day has arrived, there is still plenty of scope to ensure your delegates leave feeling enriched. Two-way communication is vital; ensuring you are meeting your delegates’ needs on every touch-point is essential.
Sight: ensure the event visually looks appealing and exciting. This could be achieved through use of colour to determine different topics being covered in various workshops or seminars.
Sound: memory retention is said to be improved by listening to classical music, so consider playing music at intervals.
Touch: provide a variety of break-out areas that include formal seating and tables to soft tactile furniture, such as cosy couches and beanbags.
Smell: if a seminar is close to lunchtime make sure the kitchen is far enough away so delegates aren’t distracted by cooking smells. Essential oils such as rosemary are thought to offer a traditional memory aid, so why not create a herbal garden for delegates to walk through prior to entering sessions, or give them each a personal vial and encourage them to dab some on the corner of their notepads or on their wrist?
Taste: ensure your delegates are fed healthy, memory and concentration boosting food rather than stodgy pastries which, while tasty, can lead to lethargy.
You could even try adding a quiz to the end of the event to encourage delegates to apply their knowledge, or create a points system which recognises each individual’s attendance of seminars.
Closing the event
After the last delegate has left, don’t make the mistake of thinking your job is done. Feedback is crucial and can help you to weigh up your objectives from the start of the event to see whether you, and more importantly your delegates, feel this was achieved. If a delegate feels their time at an event has been well spent, this is when you have achieved the holy grail of delegate enrichment.
Author: Carol O’Reilly, Manager, Liverpool Convention Bureau