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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Although I’ve managed a number of events during my marketing career, it’s clear that you never stop learning. I recently returned from a large event where I had the opportunity to contribute toward many aspects of the conference and coordinate teams at the actual event.

This effort required thousands of miles of travel and long days – but they were all well worth it. The knowledge I gained could only be acquired through actually rolling up my sleeves and working the event.

Here are a few of the lessons that I feel are paramount when planning or managing a large conference or event:

1. Begin with a theme. Regardless of your topic, coordinating all aspects of your program around a theme is paramount. Once you determine the message that should be communicated, you can weave it into all aspects of your program. Without a theme, your show will have less meaning and leave participants uncertain of expected outcomes.

2. Carefully evaluate and prepare your speakers. Once you invited someone to speak as a keynote or to lead a breakout session, what they say and do is out of your control. To effectively manage this, it’s always advisable to hold a mini-boot camp, preparing and coaching your speakers appropriately.

3. Think about branding. Focusing on your theme, and your company brand, utilize signage, tablecloths, backdrops, etc. to provide a constant reminder of your brand. This keeps your brand in front of both customers and prospects in a way that is largely in your control.

4. Make the next steps clear. Think through conference pre-work, conference activities, and post activities. It’s important to have a clear understanding of what you want participants to do after the conference. Attendance is an excellent goal but really only the beginning. Provide verbal instructions, handouts, and other materials that provide clear access to post-conference materials and resources.

By addressing the larger issues of theme, preparing speakers, and branding effectively, you can improve the quality of your trade show or event experience. Although many factors go into a memorable event, some of the largest initiatives may be overlooked.

If you are new to managing events or an experienced event manager, always document what you are doing and how you are doing it. At the conclusion of your event, have a team meeting with everyone who participated so that you can revise your documents with best practices – preparing you to enhance your events in the future. Constant growth and refinement are essential for world class events!


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