Suggestions for an even better conference experience

I miss Reboot - they always have: internet, access to power plugs and coffee

Note from a conference: "I miss Reboot - they always have: internet, access to power plugs and coffee"

Every time I’m at a conference, I wonder why such and such isn’t done. In my mind, I patch up the best of the different conferences I’ve been to, and start longing after stable internet when it fails and easy-to-plan schedules, when I’m constantly flipping back and forth to determine where I’m going for what session. The DC Week conference currently rolling in DC was no exception, even though the core conference went smoothly, the Keynotes moved me and the speakers gave me something to think about.

On the top of my mind, some suggestions that would make it easier to be a participating attendee:
  • #hashtag for the sessions. Don’t just get a hash tag for the conference, set one for the different sessions (as seen at PdfEurope09). Otherwise it’s a mess to follow up on the conversations from the sessions you didn’t go to. At a great conference, there will be more sessions than you’d want to see, than you can attend. Add those hashtags to the schedule so it’s easy to spot.
  • In the program + the schedule present people with their names and twitter handles, so people can mention them when they tweet. Many of the attendees with be goggling name + twitter – save them the trouble. This would also make it more easy to trace conversations and allow the speakers to get a feel of their own performance later on.
  • Let the name-badge hold all content. Let the name badge (the one around your neck in some merchandise key-chain) have that persons name, twitter handle, organization and a QR code with their contact details. On the back side, add the schedule. Then it’s there all the time, and you don’t have to search for it in your bag, on your phone or on your laptop. (QR-codes seen at Digitaliser11, schedule on the back of the name badge Reboot10).
  • Get proper wifi. If there is a code for it, add that to the name badge as well, so the essentials are together, and people can get blogging, twitter and connecting online straight away. Especially at international conferences, where many of the attendees won’t have a plan that gives them free data on their phone (as seen at Reboot8+10)
  • Create camp tracks. If the conference is divided in tracks, then tell people that they
    Typical conference activity - taking notes, blogging and tweeting

    Typical conference activity - taking notes, blogging and tweeting

    can camp in the same room, if they’re only interested in that subject.

  • Facilitate networking at tracks. Make it possible for those who follow the same track to connect – they have the same interest, facilitate their networking giving them new connections to take home, and not just insights. It might be via stickers handed out when you enter the room, or tags you can add to yourself – on your name badge, the stickers or what ever – stating what you’re interested in, and what you hope to get out of the conference. That gives people a conversation starter that’s valuable for them beyond the average conference small talk.
  • Create a “on the fly”-track at the conference’s second day. Magic can happen on day one, so curate that people can come together in a new presentation, workshop etc. Have the rooms ready and let it be know to the attendees what’s just popped up. (Seen on Reboot8+10 where the popup-DIY was en intricate part of the conference).
  • Stock up on practical stuff. Have free sponsored coffee + water at several spots throughout the venue. Have signs telling people where to go. Have a central dashboard telling people what’s on where, what’s changed overnight and what’s popped up. Create small islands in a lobby or additional room with loads of power outlets (as seen at Reboot8+10).
  • Have converters ready. If it’s an international conference alert the foreign attendees that they can borrow converters and charge their devices.
  • Lunch with a surprise. Give people the option to opt in on a lunch bag they can grab and take with them to the lounge areas or outside (as seen on PdfEurope09). Put small sponsor stuff in there related to the food, so you again have a conversation starter delivered to you in your brown bag.
  • …All the tech stuff that just never seem to work. Should I suggest anything, it wouldbe to introduce the #podiumtechguy who appeared on stage and as a twitter hash tag throughout the DC Week Keynotes and core conference. And because of the tag, it became a meme and more of a humorous event when he came back on, than an enjoying moment. Maybe a sponsor is willing to donate something every time to you need to call for #podiumtechguy? You might as well gamify it a bit, it’s something that most conference deals with anyway – no matter where, when and how skilled #podiumtechguys and gals you have on the job.
  • Content wise? Well, heavy content presented with ease is good. Compelling case stories, data visualized for the stage and new key insights and research are always my favorites. The more specific the better. Sometimes panels spur magic and the people on the panel connect to each other as well as the audience – but that’s rare. There’s always someone who seems a little out of place, or a moderator who talks to much. It’s a truly tricky thing, incredibly dependent on the mood of the panelist, the moderator and the audience. And the stage, the microphones, the positioning of the slides and so on and so on. But that’s another blog post.
After such a list it’s only right to give a big thanks to all the volunteers who’s help organize and run many of the conferences I’ve attended so far, and the hardworking core organizers who’s conferences I’ve enjoyed participating in. Thanks!
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One Response to “Suggestions for an even better conference experience”

  1. Martin Launey december 7, 2011 at 10:12 #

    Hi Anna


    I would like to add/ask one thing that I have fresh in mind from the aftermath of our recent conference.

    There were a lot of good tweets at the conference that summed up the key arguments from the different speakers. They used our conference hashtag #smdetail2011. I wanted to collect all the good tweets and use them afterwards to send out to the participators in the conference and for those who were not able to be there. And also as a way to show people in the future what kind of action a conference can get on twitter.

    But then a week after the conference I find out that I can’t find any of the hashtags on twitter – they are gone/deleted(?). So my suggestion is that you after the conference copy/printscreen the stream of tweets with your hashtag if you want to save them for future use :-)

    If anybody knows that “my” hashtag tweets are still some where out there, I would be very happy to know :-)

    Thanks for really good list with some good conference suggestions.

    I’m sad that I did not see this list before we held our conference on “social media in retail” the 16/11 2011: (in danish)



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