I recently attended at Conference in Mumbai and the sole purpose of it was to understand the challenges one faces as an organizer and how easily or with struggle they are overcome. My writing isn’t about the conference but about what all I realized as my third window of the brain opened towards how to make a conference world class by avoiding a few mistakes. Anyways continuing with the topic; we had to register online for the conference and my first challenge began here. While the event category and prices were mentioned on the website properly; the event description lacked content. Hence the very first mistake is creating content.
- Content: When we list an event online for registration, the content plays a critical part. Any prospect delegate will register for the event only after knowing what the event is about and to an extend the schedule of the event and the speakers (if decided already) Why would any delegate attend an event paying a hefty amount without knowing the purpose/ reason for the Conference? Many people argue that the name and a few google searches can display about the event.
I agree. But being a delegate, the very first impression of an event I get is via the website or the online registration page.
- E-mailer: Getting an email instructing the delegates about what to do next and other important instructions about the conference is a must. And this should be sent without a fail.
These were 2 things that need to be taken care before the event. Well; proceeding to the D day. I had a great welcome with well-marked boards guiding me to the registration desk even though I felt the placement of the registration desk is crucial and it should be placed before the conference venue/hall and not at another corner. Yet, this one is a bit negligible, a bit only.
The event organizer hired a team to take care of event registrations. Upon reaching the registration venue I saw a line longer than the one outside ATMs following the recent demonetization. I wanted to like sherlock investigate the reason behind this & it thus, brings me to speak about the third common mistake:
- Coordination: I spoke to one of the team members from registration desk who told me that the reason behind this slow and steady movement in handing over the ID tags to delegates was the sole mistake of organizer as s/he dint give proper briefing about the process to be followed for issuing the tags.
Another thing I recall while speaking about the tags is the pouches and lanyards. Once the issue of turtle pace line got over, another issue cropped up within half an hr of handing over the ID tags. Yes, there was a shortage of pouches and lanyards for ID tags. And the response towards this was miserable. Most delegates were furious over this as ID tags mention name and company you are representing. Since, one of the major reasons for attending a conference is networking; any delegate without the ID tag would miss it vice versa.
- Quantity of Pouches & Lanyards: It is important to count and take a higher estimate of pouches and lanyards.
Tip: If there is a shortage of same and you are expecting them to arrive in an hour or so, please don’t ask the delegates to come back and take the same. Rather arrange for a volunteer who could go inside the conference hall to hand over the same. After all, convenience of the delegates matters the most.
I, thankfully got mine before the shortage. In fact I was impressed seeing a bar code on my tag. On asking the purpose of it, I was told that this is for scanning the number of participants attending a session during the conference. Reminded me of my school days but honestly, it is a great feature to have especially for the Organizer. Wondering why? Well for 2 reasons:
- Helping the organizer know which session had maximum or minimum attendance and this in turn lets them plan the sessions according to delegates interest.
After 2 great educating sessions, when I went for the third session, my worry started taking over me; “How will the organizer scan bar codes here”. Well, this third session was being held in an open venue with three side entry while the organizer only had one bar code scanner.
- Open venue Hassle for Scanning Barcodes: Understanding the trouble s/he are in, the organizer quickly arranged for a team member with scanner and laptop to take count of attendees, but this wasn’t enough. While the poor staff member dodged the lanes holding the laptop in one hand and bar code scanner in other; we too got disturbed as it diverted our focus from the speaker onto this staff. I feel they could have been smarter by using a mobile or another way of scanning than attaching a bulking laptop to the scanner. Also, it is important to take control of all entry points, which is a bit hassle filled in open venues with people pouring in from all sides.
Alas! After all these issues, it was time to enjoy the sessions peacefully. I must admit the sessions were resourceful and they helped me learn about how to overcome the major challenges I faced in relation to the topics. Once the session was over, I wanted to head back to my hotel but wasn’t sure how to go ahead as my phone battery ditched me and I couldn’t book a cab or see the route from venue to my hotel. I then went to the registration desk for help.
And the 6th mistake was:
- No information and unhelpful staff: The organizing committee staff at the desk was polite and spoke in a pleasing manner but the answers weren’t pleasing enough. They asked me to contact hotel for help. I asked “where do I go for the hotel reception?” and they said “we are clueless maam”. Sounded strange to me.
While writing about it, it strikes my mind that even in the morning when another delegate waiting in the line in front of me queried about availability of Cloak room, s/he was told to contact hotel staff as once again the desk staff was “Clueless”.
I feel that even if the staff at the desk doesn’t have information about the question or delegate query, they should be kind enough to help the delegate get an answer for their question. Rather than being clueless if the lovely lady cladded in the pink saree sitting behind the desk had made the effort to get up and escort me to the reception, it would have been an experience I would have remembered.
Don’t you agree too? Well, I am sure you too are now aware of the 6 common mistakes that can be easily avoided at a Conference and will keep a note of these while organizing your conference. What do you feel? Please feel free to share your comments in the section below.