Business isn’t always seen as fun, but there’s no reason a conference cannot entertain – especially if it’s a dinner or celebration.
However thrilling your conference programme appears to be, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to keep you guests spellbound for its entire duration. In fact conference experts suggest that the maximum length of a session should be ninety minutes at the most, as otherwise attention starts to wander and delegates begin to drift off.
Therefore the aim is to keep your sessions brief and concise – but how do you fill the gaps in between? No doubt some delegates will welcome the opportunity to retire to the bar, but perhaps more valuable is to supplement your conference with an array of extra-curricular activities. The idea is not to provide forced fun to those who don’t wish to participate but to make sure the event sticks in the memory and makes it worth their while attending.
Many of our region’s top museums, theatres and other attractions offer top class conference facilities and often there’ll be the opportunity for delegates to receive free or discounted entry to shows and events that are running alongside the conference. Some will even allow exclusive access to the attractions outside of regular opening hours – a particular bonus if you’re looking to impress VIPs.
The aim is not to overshadow your event but to add to its appeal and make it an occasion your delegates look forward to. If you’re simply organising a series of presentations that could easily be made in the office, with the added complication for guests that they have to spend time away from their families, it perhaps won’t be surprising to be met with some reluctance by those you wish to attend. By adding something unique to the event, the appeal of the trip is broadened and staff members actually look forward to attending.
Networking is certainly a valuable part of any conference’s line-up but sometimes it’s reliant on the organisers to get the conversation flowing in the first instance. An added ingredient is often required to break the ice – and no, it can’t always be alcohol. Creating special experiences throughout proceedings will provoke talking points, bring people together and mean that the whole event will stick in the mind. Promising something special in the evening is also valuable in keeping spirits up and ensuring minds are concentrated during the day on the actual business of the event.
A move away from the familiar four walls of the office can certainly work wonders for small companies where staff are frequently working together on long projects – and as well as they may work together, asking them to spend more time together can often be hugely unwelcome. Bringing them to a new venue and allowing them to get to know their colleagues “off duty” can be a highly appealing diversion from the norm – especially if you invite them to get involved in picking the venue and the entertainment. Offering something completely different each year will ensure enthusiasm remains high and it becomes a real incentive for employees.
Certainly those who fear that a conference is just a succession of dull men in suits staring at a flipchart should appreciate the benefits of some of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire’s top attractions. You can’t guarantee that there won’t still be dull men about but at least there’ll be something out of the ordinary to keep them interested.