The most important tip to any event organizer is to prepare in advance. Since you are reading this blog article, I can tell that you have already come a long way. When it comes to events, any conference, meeting or workshop can be considered an event and there is really no upper limit on the number of participants. It is of course difficult to generalize such a broad term as an event, but I have boiled it down to my top five tips that are applicable to almost all event scenarios and I would like to share them with you below.
Communication ahead of the event
An agenda or a schedule is really useful to send out in advance to all participants. It needs to cover the basics of how, when and where, and do not forget to generalize if it is a big group. If it is a smaller group, a more formal occasion and/or if it adds value, write out the names of all the attendees.
Please remember to communicate these three points ahead of the event. You would be surprised at how often people forget to communicate the second one especially.
- Basics: how, when and where
- Purpose: the goal of the event and what all participants can hope to achieve from it
- Attendees: what type of participants are expected or the target audience
Lastly, do not forget to communicate your contact information and phone number so that attendees may call you if they do not find the way to the event location or if they want to give a heads up if they will arrive late or anything along those lines.
Post-its, questions and breaks between activities
Add lots of space in between each activity and leave room for questions after each activity block. There is no point in dumping loads of new information on the participants and asking if anyone has any questions straight away. They usually do not, and even if they do, it is rarely the really good questions that will come at this point.
When asking for questions, do not be afraid of waiting a while before you move on. When standing in front of a crowd, what feels like an eternity really is not. People usually do not have questions straight away and they would rather come up and ask the questions in person instead of taking up time of the whole group. However, lots of time, people will come up with similar questions and it adds value with a scheduled time set out for questions for the whole group. What I usually hope for during these sessions is an open debate.
In order to create an atmosphere that people feel allows for an open debate and that allows for open-ended and so-called dumb questions to be asked in front of the whole group, do not rush. If possible, allow for people to talk to each other about what they have just heard, or hand out post-its to each participant and let them think for themselves for a while and write their thoughts down before asking if they have any questions. An informal setting also helps with creating an open debate atmosphere.
Be prepared for no-shows and other inconveniences
A general rule of thumb is that 20 % of the attendees will not show up, but this depends of course on the event setup. In order to avoid it as much as possible, work with reminders and create outlook invitations so that everyone has it in their own calendars. Except to prepare for no-shows, it can be good to check out the setting where the event is going to be held at beforehand. At the day of the event, come early to the event location and prepare as much as possible to avoid inconveniences. Try out everything that you will be working with. Particularly technical equipment has an infamous habit of taking much longer time to setup than expected.
The golden number
As the saying goes, the golden number is three. This is especially true when it comes to conveying a message orally, which is quite an art. In person and when listening, people tend to be easily bored and go into auto-pilot mode. This is of course something you want to avoid as much as possible. In order for everyone to remember and to catch everyone's attention, limit your conveyed message as much as possible and try to structure it into three clear points or takeaways and use bullet points in e-mails and Powerpoint presentations. However, in writing, some people tend to be able to take in much more, why five may be a nice number, as in this blog article.
Name badges for all participants
Last but not least, do not forget to print name badges for every attendee. Some people are terrible at remembering faces. Others are terrible at remembering names and myself, I am terrible at remembering both. Just a name or just a face is often not enough, but you will come a long way with both.
Any group, big or as small as ten people, if they have not met before, name badges will be extremely helpful. Even if they have met, people a generally really bad at remembering both faces and names. As an event organizer you can help avoid awkward situations for the attendees by helping them start conversations and remembering each other by printing name badges ahead of the event.
These were my top five tips for event organizers. Hope you enjoyed reading it!