Keep the plates spinning: five hazards that can throw your event off balance

David Chalmers, European marketing director of Cvent, points out a few common wobbles and suggests how to address them

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when organising an event, whether it is large or small. Venues need to be arranged, speakers booked, catering organised and that’s all before the event has even started. You need to pay constant attention to each element in order to prevent anything from spinning out of control; overlooking just one could create disaster. Below are five things to avoid if you want to keep it all running smoothly.

Wobble 1: Losing the connection

Using technology for events is a wonderful thing, but when it comes to Wi-Fi, be careful – particularly when it concerns presentations. How many times have you been to an event when the screen freezes in the middle of a flashy streamed video? Most venues will have internet access but make sure that it’s reliable if any of your presenters are going to be using it. And if live internet access isn’t 100% essential, encourage them to fake it.

Wi-Fi matters even more to your delegates. They will be checking email during the breaks, and (hopefully) using your mobile apps to interact with one another throughout the event. Make sure that the Wi-Fi can handle the number of attendees – whether it is 10 or 1,000. If you fail to provide a high quality connection, your Twitter feed may start showing some hashtags you’ll regret.

Wobble 2: neglecting your delegates

One of the main reasons for businesses to attend an event is to meet other people, but nobody finds this easy.  If your breaks consist of an empty room and a plate of canapés, you will quickly lose the goodwill of those attendees who are not expert networkers. People will naturally gravitate towards their colleagues and their mobile phones as they attempt to conceal their nervousness, resulting in a lost opportunity both for you and for them.

This is your moment – the chance to engage face-to-face with the people you have brought in – so don’t waste it.  Make sure you have enough members of your team to get the conversation going, learn to facilitate conversations between delegates and if necessary impose a formal structure on your breaks in order to ensure than nobody is left standing awkwardly in a corner.

Wobble 3: Being boring

The prospect of a day at a conference rarely gets the pulse racing. But it should. Your event should be providing your delegates with information they need, people to discuss the sessions with and ideas that make them think.

Get creative – with your venue, with your structure and with your technology. Try a little gamification, using apps to introduce a degree of competition among your delegates.  Splash your social media feeds over the walls rather than presenting them on the screen. You can even liven things up at lunchtime by encouraging people to get involved – for example assembling their own pizzas or rolling their own sushi.

Wobble 4:  being an inconsistent communicator

It seems so easy at first – a nice invitation and a follow-up email.  But have you thought through the full range of communication that you’ll need to maintain before, during and after the event? Too often, event organisers bombard potential delegates with invitations in the run-up to the event, and then become far too busy to send anything until three months later, by which time the relationship has disappeared.

A great event needs a great content plan. Keep delegates, sponsors and speakers well informed by consistently sending informative, regular communications that link to an up-to-the-minute website. 

Wobble 5:  Insufficient planning

This is the most obvious, but also the most frequently ignored piece of advice, and is one of the most likely things to bring those plates crashing down.

If you are still using spreadsheets, make sure you get every element of the event in there before you start. If you have the resources, invest in technology to help you through the process. It will save you time and ensure that you can track your delegates from the first invitation to the follow up surveys.  Make sure you have a timeline that is realistic – and then build in some contingency on top.

A successful event is a very powerful way of reaching your target audience.  So be bold, be different, but above all, be very, very organised.