With more tech, tools, and trends to contend with than ever before, it can be easy for conference organisers to get carried away with the latest shiny object in an effort to wow attendees.
But sometimes it’s important to take a step back to consider the fundamental elements of a good conference. More importantly, think about your attendees. What do they value in a conference? What do they want to get out of the experience?
Sure, a virtual reality interactive display may delight them, but knowing their meal has been thoughtfully and sustainably sourced just might earn you more respect.
We’re sharing four powerful conference trends that don’t cost the earth, but can make a big impact on the attendee experience.
Boost attendee interaction
Setting up your conference format to facilitate attendee interaction is critical if you want to keep your guests engaged and make your conference one to remember.
If your attendees are taking time out of work or their personal lives to attend your conference, expecting them to sit through a long session where they have no part to play is a sure-fire way to lose them!
Kevin O’Driscoll – Director of Partner Programmes at BusinessRiver, explains how they use a model which acts as a hybrid between the traditional conference and the one-off round table discussion format to encourage participation and engagement from all attendees.
“The way business communities want to engage is always changing. Innovation comes through collaboration and inspiration. Top level business leaders want to be able to explore and expand their experiences, ideas, and insights to be able to innovate and get ahead of the curve. There is now a real desire to be in a setting where peer-to-peer engagement is allowing the thought leaders of today to discuss the ideas that will shape the business landscape of tomorrow.”
Kevin explains how this peer-to-peer engagement model facilitates more close-knit discussions and opens up the opportunity for real knowledge sharing while keeping everyone involved.
“This allows senior business leaders the opportunity to really be involved in the discussion and feel like they are in the nucleus of thought leadership from one community to another. Instead of facing the stage to listen and take notes, we believe that business leaders now want to face each other and engage.”
Reduce your carbon footprint
Going green should no longer be an afterthought for conference organisers. Demonstrating that your conference is sustainable is becoming increasingly important, not only when it comes to attracting attendees, but for winning sponsorship too.
Suggested Reading: The Guide to a Greener Conference
Going paperless, engaging local and sustainable suppliers, and implementing a zero plastic policy are easy measures you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.
Using ticketing software like Eventbrite to manage your event is a quick win when it comes to eliminating waste. Conference organisers can quickly create an event page and send invitations digitally. Attendees can then download the Eventbrite app to receive tickets straight to their mobile and can be checked in by scanning the QR code. No paper necessary.
Choosing a venue with a high certification in sustainability will also help to take the hard work out of going green. When speaking with your potential venue partners, ask about waste management, energy use, and access to local suppliers. Opting for a green venue can play a massive role in reducing the impact of your conference.
Don’t forget to communicate your green initiatives and invite attendees to join you in the cause. This will not only reduce the carbon footprint of your event, but it will also boost your brand as a champion of sustainability too.
Generate buzz inside and outside your conference
Ah, the humble hashtag.
While many conference organisers are chasing down the latest must-have event tech, they might be forgetting the simple stuff – like a basic social media strategy. Conference creators should never underestimate the power of the hashtag. And more importantly, coming up with a strategy to get your attendees to use it so you can monitor conversations during and after the event.
Samantha Kelly of the Women’s Inspire Network shares some valuable advice when it comes to brewing up a Twitter storm through hashtags.
“A good way to encourage them is to use Tweetbeam.com. It’s a Twitter wall which shows Tweets on screen as they come up. Who doesn’t want to see their logo pop up on the screen in front of everyone?
This also helps your conference to trend on Twitter. What happens then is people at home can watch what is happening and get that FOMO and also see how great your event was so you can be sure they will be buying a ticket for your next one.”
If you have another event coming up, Samantha also recommends launching early-bird tickets at the end of your conference to capitalise on the buzz.
Hashtags are an easy and quantitative way to measure the impact of your venue via social media, so don’t forget to track the data and review your results. Samantha recommends Brand24 to measure how many people have used your conference hashtag and review its effectiveness.
(Make sure you avoid the FOMO too – the next Women’s Inspire Network event takes place on October 22nd at City North Hotel. Grab your tickets on here!)
Create a sense of purpose for your attendees
Many of today’s conference attendees want more from the experience. They want an opportunity to make an impact and to feel a greater sense of purpose. Conferences can be a powerful means to connect with people, appeal to shared values, and allow your attendees to feel part of something that’s bigger than themselves.
Imperative CEO and author of The Purpose Economy, Aaron Hurst, argues that a new economic era is upon us – one that is driven by connecting people to their purpose.
More and more people want to make an impact. A recent study from LinkedIn showed that 49% of employees would trade a portion of their salary for an added sense of purpose in their role.
By speaking to your attendees’ desires to make an impact through their work, you can engage them on a deeper and more meaningful level. Your attendees want to leave your conference believing they have been part of something that matters. This can be achieved by including a relevant fundraising element, outlining the sustainable measures you have taken to run your event, or addressing an important topic of social innovation.
By bringing a sense of purpose to your conference, you can satisfy the desire for self-development, to be part of a community, and to affect something greater than themselves.
To learn more about the trends transforming the events industry, download our 2019 Pulse Report.