Measuring the impact of a conference is notoriously hard to do but, from our years of being in this business, here are 3 ways we’ve found invariably leads to more satisfied participants:
1. Pre-event research
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. If you’re serious about helping your participants walk away with actionable insights from their time with you, then some in-depth pre-event research is worth doing. Admittedly it’s extra work for what is likely to be an already stretched team, but we promise that if it’s done right, the rewards make it worthwhile. You can go high-tech or low-tech with this, depending on your time and resources. In general, we prefer the good old-fashioned telephone as it allows you to build relationships and connections with your participants before they arrive at the conference. Otherwise, a simple online survey tool, if you get a decent response rate, can give you access to a greater quantity of information.
With clear understanding of what the community is challenged by and seeking solutions to, you are suddenly in a much better position to guide the proceedings. Beyond the clever design of your sessions, we’re big advocates of using expert facilitation. More than just moderation, facilitation plays an active role in propelling the event forward, making sure there’s a clear link from session to session, spending more time on issues that seem tricky and pulling back from issues that seem to be resolved in a shorter time than expected. It’s hard work, and it requires someone (or a team) with experience who is well briefed. In other words it’s an investment. But one that you will be amazed by in terms of its pay-off. In each instance we’ve used it, the audience response has been staggering. And it truly elevates the outcome of your event.
3. End-of-event wrap up
In the same way that it's rare (not to mention inefficient) to leave a work meeting without clearly communicated conclusions and next steps, conferences should be clearly concluded. Why else, in this time-poor climate, would anyone invest 2 days of their precious time, and maybe even thousands in entrance fees? Certainly not to leave with maybe an idea or two, but little else concrete. Drawing on the earlier facilitation, allocating proper time at the end of the conference to re-cap the most important takeaways is the best way to help your participants leave with an action plan and hopefully a new network of peers to seek advice from and collaborate with.
- Team UC
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