Organising a conference can often be tricky business, especially if you are accommodating a significant number of delegates. As with most events, guests tend to remember only the things that went wrong, leaving your hard work and conference objective overshadowed by the blips. Good organisation allows a conference to run smoothly, and a minor setback can be easily overlooked, but it is when one problem follows another that your conference starts to become a disaster.
No one wants to turn up to a conference venue to find that the only place to leave their car is a car park that charges extortionate prices by the hour. An ideal venue will have its own free or subsidised parking facilities or convenient parking spaces nearby. This should include facilities for any delegates who are disabled.
In the same way, choosing a conference centre that is out of reach for those using public transport can cause delays. A centre that is not too far from the railway station is often a convenient choice for conferences. Having a venue in the middle of nowhere is not very helpful, especially for those delegates who are spending the night.
Some conference venues might provide accommodation facilities, but ensure that there are hotels or bed and breakfasts nearby, and give visitors plenty of notice to book a room if necessary. It is helpful to inform overnight delegates when the centre has a preferential rate, making it clear in the figures whether or not VAT is included.
Carrying out research helps you determine whether there are any other events going on at the venue, like a wedding party for instance. Overlapping events can sometimes lead to confusion, such as the venue's facilities being closed for private use, or delegates being kept awake at night if rooms are located next to a noisy party.
Overnight delegates should also be informed about dining arrangements such as whether breakfast is included and if there is a restaurant at the centre. Ensuring delegates' dietary requirements are catered to will leave a good impression.
Think about catering in terms of your conference. Serving stodgy lunches can make your guests feel lethargic; it is important to keep them refreshed and interested in what is going on.
The area where there is plenty of room for glitches is the actual conference hall itself. Ensuring the venue has the relevant facilities for presentations is one thing, but making sure they are in working order on the day is another. There is nothing more awkward than the technology and audiovisuals messing up on the day. This can include poor lighting, weak Wi Fi connections, faulty projectors, whistling microphones and buffering video streams - to name but a few.
You also want to ensure the room is suitable for visitors wearing a hearing aid. Seating should be adequate, as making some delegates stand due to a seating shortage shows lack of organisation, and people's patience is likely to wear thin. Delegates should also have a decent view of any presentations that will take place during the conference.
On the whole, delegates should feel like they have been well looked after. They can then concentrate on the positive aspects of the conference.