How to deliver a great conference – and stay sane

Businessman Superman | Axiom Communications

The power of the playbook in maximising success and minimising stress

Let’s be honest, delivering a world-class conference can be a highly stressful affair! So many different elements, owned by so many different people, representing so many vested interests. And they all have to come together to deliver a great and seamless experience for everyone involved, before, during and after the event.

So how can you pull all of that off – without pulling all of your hair out?

Well, I’ve written the book on that. In fact of I’ve written hundreds of books on that, one for each of the employee engagement events I’ve helped shape and deliver over the years. My clients often refer to them as their conference playbook; every chapter adding to their story of success – and ensuring no one ever loses the plot.

Getting everyone on the same page

The first part of the playbook is a simple overview of why we’re pulling everyone together and what we’re trying to achieve in terms of success criteria. This creates a North Star that points everyone involved in the same direction, and often forms part of an ‘event at-a-glance’ PowerPoint deck. Next we outline, in bullet point terms, who’s coming, where we’re going and at what times.

The prequel and the sequel

Whilst the conference itself is naturally the focus of attention, more can be done to maximise return on investment. I recommend you highlight what is going to happen in the run up to the event, to build interest and excitement and ensure everyone is prepared to play their part. And, critically, what will happen after the conference, in terms of the key message cascade and ideally measurement.

The synopsis

Now you can share the flow of the event, through a headline agenda; who’s talking, about what and for how long. And I’d be inclined to add five or so bullets against each item, to guide the thoughts of presenters on the key points they need to cover. This helps avoid overlaps, underlaps, or the kind of misunderstandings that can arise under a heading of, for example, ‘The Way Forward’ or ‘Financial Review’.

The detailed plot

The above is often all that time-poor senior leaders are interested in, so for them the playbook is just a quick read. For everyone else involved, often quite a cast, there is a lot of detail to cover. That can include all of the cue-to-cue prompts for the technical team; links for facilitators; and, instructions for those tasked with handing out materials, shepherding participants to break-outs, collecting feedback, etc.

The authors of success

Pulling all this together is a task in itself, so I recommend sharing the workload every step of the way. Collaborative file sharing techniques now make it easy for everyone to contribute fully to, and indeed own, their specific area of expertise, or content. And this approach avoids the version control issues that once created confusion and complexity.

Achieving rave reviews

With copies of the signed-off playbook in hand, on both iPads and clipboards, everyone involved has at their fingertips exactly what a great conference experience looks like for participants, presenters and technical partners alike. Moreover, they know exactly who is doing what and when in order to deliver it.

Although I will admit to losing my hair years ago, everyone can now keep their ‘hair on’ and, through the power of the playbook, help deliver a world-class conference!

If you want to deliver a world-class conference without the accompanying stress, get in touch with our friendly team today to see how we can help!

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