Screening Steps To Improve Your Conference’s Health

Terry Cordrey undergoes a free skin screening

How healthy is your conference? Is it time for your conference to have a thorough physical exam?

Is your conference experience in need of a health check-up? Is it in a state of dis-ease?

Why Your Conference Needs A Checkup

Here are three reasons why your conference needs a health checkup:

1. Avoid Dr. Fix-it from coming in to do a chronic overhaul.

You want to avoid a complete re-do of your conference strategy by your orgnaization’s executives.

2. An ounce of prevention is worth a conference cure.

It’s better to prevent an illness or disorder before it occurs.

3. Early detection is the best protection.

Your conference is never too young to start health screenings. The sooner you are able to diagnose bad habits and conditions, the more likely you are to treat and beat it.

The Outdated Conference Checkup Checklist

Most conference organizers use the following monitors to check the strength of their conference:

1. Attendance

Comparing annual attendance numbers.

2. Number of exhibitors and/or net square footage sold

Similar to attendance, comparing the number of exhibitors or amount of space purchased from year to year.

3. Expenses and revenue

How much did it cost this year as compared to last? How much did we make this year as compared to last? What’s our five-, ten- or twenty-year trend in expenses and revenue?

4. Sponsors

How much money did we receive in sponsorships this year as compared to last year? How many sponsors did we have? What are the past five-year trends in sponsorships?

The 21st Century Updated Healthy Conferences Checklist

Today, those four monitors are not enough. You need a more stringent checklist to monitor the fitness and wellbeing of your conference.

Here’s what you should monitor for a vibrant, in-shape, healthy conference in addition to the previous four monitors.

1. Loyalty and Repeat Attendance of 70% or more

What is the repeat attendance from year to year for your event? What is the repeat attendance for every three years? Can you find any trends in that repeat attendance?

If you don’t have a repeat attendance of 70% or higher, you are spending a lot of resources to reach new attendees each year. Why are people not returning? Have you surveyed them to find out why they didn’t register again?

2. Exhibitor re-signs of 80% or more

If you have a tradeshow, you should be re-signing exhibitors for next year’s event before they ever leave this year’s. If you can’t get 80% or more to sign up again, what’s the barrier? What don’t they like? What didn’t meet their needs?

If you don’t have a re-sign rate of 80% or more, you are expending a lot of time and resources to fill open spaces with new exhibitors.

3. Speakers receive an overall average of 80% favorable or higher

Your audience should be evaluating each of your speakers on six to ten criteria. Then average those criteria together to receive an overall average for each speaker. Next average all the speakers’ scores together for an overall average.

If you are receiving a 70% or less overall average, the quality of your conference content is severely suffering. 70% is only one point above failure!

4. Content is problem-centric

The education you offer should help your participants solve their problems. It should help them do their jobs better.

If you are going too wide with your content, you’re being too shallow and trying to offer too many subjects. Focus on those core things that keep the majority of your participants up at night.

5. Adult White Space

Is your conference schedule packed with something every moment? Build in time for people to congregate in the hallways. Intentionally schedule some adult white space to allow attendees to network and learn informally.

6. 20% Risk Taking

How much of your conference schedule is experimenting and trying new things? You should aim for at least 20% of the schedule to be new trials. Anything less and your schedule becomes stale, boring and status quo quickly.

Consider repeating about 20%-30% of your top sessions from the previous conference. 50% of your content should be new offerings. Add the 20% new experiments and you’ve got a conference mix that appeal to new participants and veterans alike.

Here’s the PPT from my PCMA Education Conference 2011 What Keeps You Up At Night TED-Style presentation

What other monitors would you add to the healthy conference checklist? What’s missing from this list?



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