Cutting edge conference – the critical success factors

Cutting edge conference – the critical success factors

I had a great meeting at a hotel with a business contact recently. We had a good catch up and both came away with a few ideas. Now what, you ask, is special about that? Well nothing really, apart from the fact that this was achieved in spite of a large business conference taking place at the venue. Yes..we have all been there!

Quite ironically, business conferences was the subject of our meeting. We have worked together over many years to deliver state of the art conferences in locations from the British Motorcycle museum in Birmingham to 5* overseas resorts, for 50 through to 950 people. So it was a good time to reflect on the lessons we’ve learnt and focus on the critical success factors – securing real business results from the investment of time, resource and money in the traditional business conference.

To quote one of the top 10 most influential management books ever written, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey” – habit 2 “begin with the end in mind” is a key principle to apply when planning any conference – a clear vision is needed of what is wanted to be achieved, when you focus on the outcomes you can then work backwards to put a plan in place to achieve them. In terms of the end result I don’t think you can ever under estimate what can be achieved when people, ideas, knowledge and information all come together – in one event we recently managed, a £1.5m revenue opportunity was generated when we enabled the right people to work together effectively form different sectors, being challenged to explore a bit further.

This also highlights another key success factor – the true experts are likely to be in the audience, one of the common mistakes I have learnt along the way is that a conference should not be about the presenters, the approach should be participant driven from the start.

I once read an article likening the art of planning a conference to that of an architect and building a house, which from my experiences I believe is a great comparison. The architect is always thinking about the needs of the people living in the house and what they want it to achieve, these residents are the conference attendees – they then work backwards from there taking into account specific needs, considering their budget and creating a blueprint that includes all of the details needed, such as location, suppliers, materials, facilities etc …., and a plan to as to where to begin! You can never under estimate the organisation skills needed in creating a successful conference, there is a need to get the basics right – and we’ve witnessed the consequences of not doing!

But that is just the start – the most successful events we’ve managed are the ones that include real action and a follow up mechanism for tracking and sharing results, in our opinion this is the only way to ensure a real return from the huge investment made and not have the notes taken put on a shelf or in a book never to be looked at again!

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