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Partner News: How to Make your Conference Interesting, On-Topic and Professional

From Catherine McGrath a conference hosting expert and Association specialist.

Associations put huge time and planning into conferences. The logistics are complex. Who will speak, where will it be held? How do you best drive registrations? What catering and entertainment do you need?

These are all important.

But often by the time these things are considered, there is not enough energy and resources left to think about how the event itself is run. Yet the strategic goal of the conference and the public discourse that goes on the stage should be a key priority.

After all your members have gathered for a purpose. Time is valuable. If you are not delivering value in strategic engagement at your event, members will ask: why are we attending?

Here are 5 important factors to consider in your conference planning:

  1. What is the key content /information you want to deliver at the conference? (is it research findings, a strategic call to action for members, legislative change?)
  2. Does the content/speaking program you have planned reflect this goal?
  3. Do each session and each speaker build on what comes before? Are the themes clear?
  4. Are the speakers engaging and interactive? Are they experienced? Do they need support prior to the event to ensure the best results?
  5. Who is your MC or host? Does your conference feel like one cohesive event with a clear goal? Does it seem professional? Are you going to be able to drive outcomes through the conference process? Will it run to time?

For Associations wanting strategic results and policy outcomes, it is essential that conferences are engaging, on topic and reflect your organisational goals. This happens best when a strong, strategic and engaging MC holds the event together and drives outcomes over the conference schedule.

Themes can be reinforced and re-stated. The event remains focused on your goals and outcomes are measurable.

If you have your own representative who is great at that, terrific. If not get a professional in. You will be pleased you did. The costs to your overall budget are relatively small.

After 30 years covering politics for ABC and SBS television, I know how to make your conference sessions great. I approach conferences as though they are TV or radio shows. These events have to be engaging, on-topic, on-time and fun. You want your audience to feel they don’t want to miss a word because it is all so interesting and just what they needed to hear.

Remember, your members have gathered for a purpose. It is your job to deliver on that purpose.

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