How I Planned a Winning Conference (Thanks CHART!)
January 28, 2019 | 860 Views
Real-life Post CHART conference Text String from me to Serah Morrissey:
Me: "CHART for the total win at my conference!"
Serah: "I knew you would crush it!"
Me: "Sooo many comments made by participants around how far our conferences have come..."
Me: "In my head I kept thinking about how much I love CHART. I am so much better with how I go about running sessions because of it. The conversations in the room was a trainers dream come true!"
Serah: "Love, love, love this!"
Over the past few years, I started approaching my attendance at CHART conferences differently. I realized that while the content of speakers was helping in my development, if I also paid attention to the logistics of the conference and unique features that engage attendees, I benefited in a key aspect of my position at work – planning training workshops and my brand leadership conference.
Here are some key conference planning takeaways I learned at CHART:
- Create a Memorable Theme - Every conference should have a theme that can carry through the entire event. While a theme can be a message that ties to your brand’s objective, it should also have a look and feel that can carry through the event. A good theme creates fun. People remember fun.
- Build a Diverse Conference Team - Think about who else in your company can support your vision for the conference. For example, having someone from marketing can help brand the conference, while including someone from purchasing can help get items from vendors and order supplies.
- Pay Attention to Content Delivery - While at CHART, I noticed – Go for the content, but also pay attention to how the content is being delivered. Is there a way the speaker presented their information that engaged the audience that you can apply to your own content? Was there a format of someone’s slides that caught your eye? As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
- Save Time for Networking - The number one word of value that appears in every CHART conference survey is networking. While your brand’s conference has a ton of important information to squeeze into the meeting time, networking time is even more valuable. Conferences are a time where the leaders of your organization are in one place. Have some free time, as amazing brainstorming and sharing can happen over a glass of wine or on the golf course. To ensure networking conversations happen around priority topics, create sessions like CHART’s Live Ask my Peers so all attendees can walk away with a list of ideas they learned from each other.
- Include Your Vendor Partners - No matter the size of your company, your vendors want to meet the leaders in your organization and know how they can better serve your team. Vendors also tend to be willing to sponsor aspects of your conference as a “thank you” for your partnership. If vendors are only there for part of your conference, ensure there is time for networking and your content that day is educational (that teaches them more about your brand) and practical (something they can take back to use in their own company).
- Incorporate a Service Project - Everyone likes the feeling of giving back. Service projects are a great way to build camaraderie, as everyone is out to achieve a common purpose. If you have a charity your organization already partners with, find a way to do a project for them at your conference.
- Recognize People and Ideas - CHART’s Training High 5 is a fantastic way to quickly acknowledge small ideas with big impact. Your leaders have those great ideas too. Give a deadline prior to your brand’s conference where ideas or successes can be submitted and allot time to allow them to present. CHART Talks (similar to TED Talks) is another great format to use in your conference. At my brand conference, I began assigning our Area Directors a company pillar to speak on for 8 minutes using whatever format they would like. This is a great transition between presentations or open to the day. It allows for a variety of speakers to mix things up and keep the attention of your attendees.
These are just a few approaches to planning a conference that I “stole shamelessly” from CHART conferences over the years. Two years ago, my CFO asked me at the end of our brand’s conference where I learned to put these together and how I come up with the ideas. My response, “You know the check I ask you to write twice a year for CHART conferences. Here is one of your ROIs.”
Make sure to check out CHART’s upcoming conferences at CHART.org. I hope to see you in Albuquerque and Nashville in 2019!