Your delegates

Delegates are your prize, the key piece in the jigsaw of your conference. How they feel, respond and react to the agenda, venue and content will be the mark of success. So, it's critically important that you attract the right delegates and in the ideal numbers to suit the conference you have planned.

Estimating the number of delegates is a subtle balance of science and mystic art, you will have a little variance available within the venue capacity, but the more precise you can be the better. Numbers affect everything from seating to catering, accommodation to parking and everything in between. To be sure that you have all the bases covered, try to work to a balance of pessimism and optimism and plan for both.

Numbers are important and there will be a point at which the conference becomes viable. You need to plan and work towards that figure, keep the venue staff updated and work closely with them, whether the numbers are lower or higher than expected. There will be very different risks and success factors between a commercial event where tickets are on open sale and a mandated, in-house, conference.

Whilst the number of delegates attending your conference is an important factor, it is equally important that you consider the position of the delegates within their own organisations. A conference targeting CEOs of major corporations will face different expectations to one that is aimed at operational personnel, and the relative expectations need to be factored into your planning. High profile delegates may expect a certain style of venue, pick up and drop off from stations, VIP parking etc, if it is how they are treated at other events. Clearly, you will want all of your delegates, irrespective of organisational role, to have a great conference. But there are certain expectations that cannot be ignored and this will play through to catering and type of venue, evening entertainment and even any takeaway gift from the conference.

Once you know the numbers attending and their expectations you can then begin to align all touch points in support. There are the basic requirements – essentials such as refreshment breaks, lunch, etc that will have to hit the appropriate standards any delegate would expect, from there it's a matter of customising the experience depending upon your specific delegate requirements. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, getting the room right is essential. This includes making sure that the temperature remains comfortable, the sound quality is good and that the presentation screens are visible from all parts of the room. If they are not, use repeater screens, to avoid losing the attention of the audience.

So, to summarise, work out how many delegates you need, what their expectations will be and having contingency plans should the numbers vary. Keep talking to your venue, they will have considerable experience and may be able to provide you with ideas and options that may not be immediately apparent.