Hack 1: Send a Pre-Survey
Everyone surveys afterward, but by then it's too late! Learn what people want before they come. In fact, at Zappos Insights we found that participants actually get more out of an event when they think in advance about what they want to get out of it. And they show up excited!
Consider questions such as:
- What would make this an amazing experience?
- What are you most interested in learning?
- What was your favorite part of the last conference you attended?
- What do you need to do to make sure you get the most value out of this experience?
Hack 2: Upgrade the Coffee
Don't cheap out! It's so tempting to simply go with whatever the stock brand the caterer offers, but coffee fuels ideas and innovations. In fact, in Steve Jobs' days, Apple had a weekly Wednesday innovation meeting that was fueled by a very high-end coffee maker. When I go into companies, I always see a connection between horrible coffee and dead cultures. This is an easy hack that will have people talking.
Consider options such as:
- A local roaster you could show off
- Bringing an espresso machine
- Try bottles of cold brew coffees
Action Step! Check out companies such as Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and High Brew. Ask your venue for upgrade options.
Hack 3: Coach the Company Speakers
It doesn't matter how brilliant your leaders are. If they can't give a dynamic, engaging speech, they will put the audience to sleep (and you won't even know it). You are already spending so much time and money investing in your audience. Why not make sure they have a great experience and retain all the information?
Consider improving by:
- Hiring a speech coach
- Holding rehearsals with feedback prior to as well as at the venue
- Eliminating slides that are heavy with text
Action Step! Ask National Speakers Bureau to recommend speech coaches--which include Robert Richman.
Hack 4: Put Up a Tweet Wall
Everyone loves live, dynamic conversation. Plus it's a real time feedback tool for you to see what's going on at the conference. A tweet wall (or text based instant message wall) allows people to communicate with each other, broadcast the event and share questions and feedback.
- Asking your social media people for help
- Checking out tweetwall.com
- Getting an interactive display that's dedicated for the wall.
Action Step! Check out the link above or talk to your venue's event planner or production company about tweet wall options.
Hack 5: Run an Open Space
Here's a secret for you: You don't have to plan an event in advance! You can reserve a period of time for the attendees to set the agenda and run the meeting! They can even create a report of all the insights and action steps. It's called "open space," and I have used it at Zappos, Capital One, and Inuit with great success. It is the MOST ENGAGING format because everyone is active and they choose what they want to talk about.
Look into it:
- Research "open space technology"
- Check out the video at: http://tinyurl.com/easyconference
Action Step! Talk to National Speakers Bureau about hiring a speaker such as Robert Richman to facilitate the event. (You can do it on your own but we highly advise having a skilled trainer for the first one!)
Hack 6: Close with a Call to Action
Ever learned so much at a conference that your head might explode? People get overwhelmed and leaders get upset when a day-long event doesn't turn into action. The best way to move from information to action is to have a closing speaker who can drive people to think, commit, and drive action immediately.
Look into it:
- Who in your organization can do this?
- Who is a facilitator you can hire?
- What are the actions you want people to take?
Action Step! Talk to National Speakers Bureau about hiring a closer or find someone in-house.
Hack 7: Track Action
What happens after the conference? Kanban (whether on a board or on the web) is a visual organization method that can bring people together as they see what ideas people are putting into action. It's a dynamic way to assign accountability, track progress, and encourage transparency and team work.
Look into it:
- Research "kanban"
- Check out trello.com for an online kanban
- Make sure it's integrated into the closer's speech
Action Step! Plan how you will use a work board such as kanban to track actions after the event.