4 Simple Ways to Make Your Conference More Valuable

Author: David McMillin       

“I would pay my own money to participate next year.” That may be the highest praise an event can earn from participants — and that’s exactly what Rebecca Schingel, PCMA’s director of digital content, told me after she returned from CXL Live, held March 28–30 in Austin, Texas. The organizers had offered Schingel a complimentary pass, but she said that she got so much out of the event that she would happily pay the price tag — upwards of $1,500 — to be part of the next edition. What made her experience so special? In addition to a program packed with insights from brands like Airbnb, Dell, Instagram, and a number of other leading companies, four key elements were part of the program’s design. Consider how you can apply these lessons to your next event.

1) Hire Someone to Take Notes. 

Walk into any regular conference session, and you’ll most likely find a number of attendees typing furiously on iPads or scribbling notes. That’s a good indication that they’re finding information worth remembering, but they may be racing to catch up with the conversation. At CXL Live, the audience focused on thinking and engaging — thanks to a transcriptionist who typed notes into a Google Doc throughout the entire program. The entire document — 46 pages of post-it-note-worthy insights — was available for all attendees throughout the conference and when they returned home. 

2) Share Everything.

The Google Doc wasn’t the only piece of the conference that attendees could review when they returned to their offices. “They shared the slides from every presentation,” Schingel said. “So I can go back through some of my favorite speakers’ slides for reminders of the ideas I want to implement.” 

3) Have a One-Track Mind. 

CXL Live replaced the usual multi-track, concurrent-session approach with a simple model: one agenda with no need to choose between speakers and topics. “This is a single-track conference,” the CXL Live agenda read. “You get to see everyone.”

For Schingel, that was an especially valuable benefit. “Every session was 30 minutes long, and every session was worth seeing,” she said. “It really helped drive discussions among attendees, too. Since we were all seeing the same sessions, we could all have conversations about the content during breaks.”

4) Make Your Speakers Stick Around.

Those conversations weren’t confined to the approximately 500 attendees at the conference, either. The experts who had appeared on stage also joined in. “All the speakers stay for the program, and they participate in sessions, too,” Schingel said. “They’re very accessible. So if you hear something that really resonates with you, you’ll probably be sitting close to that speaker in another session with an opportunity to talk to him or her one-on-one.”

Looking for more lessons from your peers in the events industry? Check out how the organizers of the AACR Annual Meeting use mobile app data to make better last-minute decisions that keep attendees happy.

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