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Organising a perfect conference is a huge challenge. Preparation of a successful meeting often requires the involvement of various resources, as well as coordination of the work of a numerous team.
Advices Katarzyna Bobowska,
General Director of Adgar Plaza Conference Centre
Depending on the scope of the event and its character, the time necessary for the preparations might range from several days to several months. Unfortunately, in some cases, in spite of great efforts on the part of organisers, the meeting might turn out to be unsuccessful. How to avoid mishaps and what to take into consideration in order for the conference to be fruitful and remembered by participants as a special event?
Katarzyna Bobowska, General Director of Adgar Plaza Conference Centre Centre located in the Mokotów Busiess District, describes 7 key factors, which determine whether a meeting will be a success.
1. Think over the idea, determine the profile and the number of participants
Organisation of each meeting irrespective of its scale and complexity ought to start by considering the main idea. In practice, it means that basic questions regarding the event need to be answered (what? what for? for whom? where? when? how? you want to organise). The topic of the meeting should be interesting for potential participants and meet the needs of the market. Who will be invited as speakers depends on the choice of the topic. It is also recommendable to link the topic of the conference with the character of the venue – if we organise a conference on the development of new technologies or innovations – let’s try to find a modern conference centre.
Apart from the topic, one of the keys aspects concerns the participants - who is the meeting aimed at? Whose attendance is relevant in terms of business objectives? What turnout are you expecting? The profile of attendees determines the character of the meeting. An ideal venue for a conference of interior designers is a facility with an interesting design and construction solutions. In the case of business meetings, places located in business centres are ideal. A natural form to send invitations to IT specialists is to do it via e-mail or by registering at the website of the organiser.
2. Elaborate a scenario, time schedule and cost calculation
The next stage is to prepare a scenario. For routine events it may only include a general time frame. If the event is more complex, it is better to consider as many details as possible, which enables you to predict potential problems beforehand. Elaborating a scenario will enhance your cooperation with subcontractors. It is also a good starting point to gather information about the costs. If you are limited by budget, you will have to decide at that stage already which elements of the conference you find most relevant and which can be abandoned. It is always advisable to put away a certain amount of money for unexpected expenses. Another crucial part of preparations concerns creating a weekly timetable in which all the absolute deadlines, such as developing the project, printing and distribution of invitations, production of information materials, need to be clearly marked. Drawing up a contact list with numbers and e-mail addresses of people involved in the organisation of the event might turn out to be helpful.
3. Choose an appropriate location
The success of the event depends also on the venue, where it will be held. The location is important both for the organizer of the meeting and its participants. The looks and the standard of the venue, where you invite guests, is a factor of huge importance since it shows your taste and the prestige of the event. It is worth paying attention to convenient access to the venue for the guests who travel by car, airplane, public transport, and also securing enough parking space for them. A very important feature of the conference centre is also its universality, i.e. the possibility to move the walls and change the size of the rooms and the arrangement of chairs, screen, sound system depending on the various needs and preferences. This enables, for instance, even in the case of simultaneous discussion panels to adapt the venue to our needs, without additional costs. In the case of conference venues, it is already a standard that they offer state-of-the-art audio and video equipment and advanced multimedia services. It is worth checking what kind of equipment is included in the rental price, and what costs you will have to bear additionally. In order to make the meeting as effective as possible, it is best to choose a conference venue which was created especially for such purpose. For business meetings an exceptional, modern design or the possibility to make use of a separate room for speakers (the so called VIP Room) raise the prestige of the event. Another important factor is the comfort of your guests, which is determined among others by access to natural daylight combined with fast blackout function, comfortable breathing chairs which adapt to the shape of the body, place to rest during coffee breaks providing a free WiFi service, where the meeting participants can access the Internet and check their mailbox. What is also very important is the atmosphere created by the venue, to a great extent by the team of people who work there, and whether they have a personal approach to their clients – in a word, chemistry. In some cases, initial contacts with conference venue staff are enough to evaluate the level of service they provide. Do not be afraid to check locations, which you have not tried before. Only by being open-minded will you find new, interesting venues.
4. Select the subcontractors
Organizing a conference is a huge logistical challenge. To make it easier, it is worth to inquire about additional services offered by the conference venue you have chosen. For instance, they can provide also catering services, hire and train hostesses for us, rent equipment for simultaneous interpreting. Such venues often have data bases of reliable, trusty subcontractors, which they can recommend and sometimes even organize and supervise their activities. In this way you arrange all the details with just one person from the conference centre instead of being in touch with several different subcontractors. Such a person not only makes sure that everything goes according to the plan, but also has a lot of experience and can advise you regarding best solutions, propose creative ideas in unexpected situations and ensure the highest quality of provided services. As a result, not only do you have a peace of mind, but also save time and money, since when you liaison with subcontractors who cooperate with the venue on regular basis, you can be offered attractive prices. One should remember that if one liaisons with many subcontractors, key factor for the success is the selection of right, professional people on which you can count in emergency situation.
5. Pay attention to details
In the case of complex events, they usually say that “devil is in the details”, that is why it is so important to develop a scenario including all the information about the involvement of each subcontractor. Such a scenario should be delivered to all the crews involved so that everybody knows the agenda of the event. All the documents, such as invitations, materials for participants, contracts and orders should be double-checked in order to avoid mistakes. While preparing a conference one should foresee every possible scenario which might occur. It enables you to avoid unnecessary stress on the day of the conference. The more possible negative variants you are able to foresee, the less chance there is that an unpleasant situation will take you by surprise. If you consider it relevant, it is worth organizing additional meetings with subcontractors on spot or even a general rehearsal on the day before the conference.
6. Stay calm on the day of the event
During the event you should control its flow. Don’t be afraid to ask subcontractors to improve anything, if you notice any shortcomings on their part. In the case of emergency, ask your consultant from the conference venue to help you. For sure, he or she will immediately cope with each minor or major problem. Even if something really bad happens, stay calm and do not show that there is something wrong. Stress will not turn the clock back. Afterwards, analyze the situation, find its cause and remember it so that you do not repeat the same mistakes in the future.
7. Take care of feedback
In order to improve the quality of events which you organize, you should be aware how they are perceived by the participants. It might be a good idea to carry out the so called “follow-up”, for instance in the form of a questionnaire distributed among guests at the end of the meeting or a phone call with selected guests. It is important that the feedback concerns such elements as evaluation of the content of the meeting (for instance – what do you think about presentations of each speaker?), what is your opinion about subsequent stages of the organization of the event (for instance – have you been informed about the logistics early enough?), evaluation of the conditions during the event (what is your opinion about the venue, access, catering etc.?). The more information you are able to collect, the better you are able to meet the needs and tastes of your guests, which also means that your conferences will be highly valued and popular with attendees.
Katarzyna Bobowska, General Director of Adgar Plaza Conference Centre, has been working in the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, events) sector for 9 years. She gained first professional experience in event agencies, later she ran the Conference Department at Harvard Business Review Poland publishing house. Since 2008, she has been responsible for creating and development of a new conference venue on the Warsaw market – the Adgar Plaza Conference Centre, distinguished by its unique atmosphere, personal and individual approach to its clients, and the highest quality of customer service.
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