Shdlr provides a painless way to create your conference schedules but there is a lot more to a conference than that…
The logistic behind the organisation of a conference is a major task and shouldn’t be left to the last moment! Planning ahead is absolutely crucial, and excellent attention to detail is key to the success of an event.
All conference attendees expect the best from an event organizer, and they usually have very little patience or indulgence for little delays and organisation glitches. Participants must be able to enjoy stress-free conferences, and it starts with a professional organisation of the registration desk.
Indeed, the registration desk, and especially front-desk people have a crucial role in the running of the event as they are usually the very first people to greet and interact with the newly-arrived participants, hence the need for an outstanding organisation.
Here is a thorough list of the key steps that must be followed to ensure that the front desk organisation goes as smoothly as possible during a conference.
First of all, let’s start with the obvious; the registration desk itself. Participants entering the conference should be able to see it immediately. Having the desk strategically placed—usually by the entrance—will ensure that conference attendees entering the conference hall won’t have to search for it. This is the ultimate pre-requisite and something you should consider as an absolute MUST. Participants are usually pressed for time and won’t appreciate wasting their time looking for the registration desk upon their arrival. It’s also a good idea to put up signs to indicate exactly where the registration desk is located. Not all conference halls are the same, and in some cases, organizers won’t be able to place the desk by the entrance or in a very strategic area, hence the need for signs and clear indications to help the participants find it.
Most conference organizers have guides/volunteers ready to help people find their way inside and around the conference hall. This is a very wise way of ensuring that people are attended to as best as possible. Organizers usually hire volunteers that are required to wear designated T-shirts or suits representing the conference organisation. This helps participants find them amongst the crowd, and volunteers in conferences are usually greatly appreciated for their professionalism and willingness to help.
One of the most important thing to do before the official opening of the conference is to make the registration desk available one afternoon or possibly even one evening before the event starts. The reason for this is simple. As explained above, participants are usually pressed for time and most certainly stressed-out and like taking a look at the venue and asking all the necessary questions before the actual opening of the conference.
Furthermore, opening the registration desk one day ahead of the conference will help reduce the crowds of stressful participants. Opening the desk prior to the day of the conference is also a test run that will not only help you collect information and questions from participants, but also give you pointers about what might be improved before the conference gets underway. Needless to say that opening early will, in most cases, ensure that the conference schedule is met and can start on time.
Conference participants usually leave the event with swag bags filled up with all marketing and advertising goodies ranging from pens to business cards or even discount vouchers. Organizers must be prepared to hand out the swags on time and by packing the bags early you can ensure that at the end of the conference, the participants won’t have to wait in line to receive their swag.
Remember that filling up promotional bags can take time and since some of them are going to be personalised, you can’t leave it to the last minute. Good conference organizers will look at the number of attendees and check out for any shortfall, should there be some so that there is enough time to sort out this possible little hurdle.
The name tags of the participants are usually printed and placed days before the start of the conference as this can be a time-consuming task, especially when you have a few hundred participants registered to attend the conference. It’s also advised to arrange the name tags alphabetically, preferably by name, surname or possibly ID, depending on the instructions given by the delegates or the participants. This, in fact, is one of the biggest time-saver especially when the crowds start arriving.
As far as payment is concerned, and particularly if participants have not yet paid their fees, you must be ready to deal with all sorts of payment methods. Not everyone will want to pay by credit card for instance. Indeed, some will pay by cash only, so having some change is always a good idea to avoid stressing situations. Also, make sure you know where the nearest bank or cash point withdrawals (ATM) is located as some participants will want to withdraw their money on the spot.
If you happen to have to the prepaid delegate list ready, make sure that these delegates are directed to a separate counter to ensure that they can be cleared faster and don’t have to queue up unnecessarily. First of all, it wouldn’t be fair on them since they made the effort of paying in advance and secondly, it will make dealing with the payment process a lot easier.
Volunteers must be able to direct participants with ease and answer all of the questions featured on the conference leaflets. Ensure that volunteers are kept updated about any possible change in the planning or the venue and that they know their way around the conference hall as participants will undoubtedly ask about everything ranging from the network access to the bathrooms, telephone booths, etc.
There are a few practical things that can go a long way in making a big difference and securing further events. Participants will enjoy finding extra city guides and schedules. Leave any such leaflet on the registration desk. You should also be in possession of any back up information concerning the participants as well as a list of all the major organizers including their mobile phones, names and full address.
Finally, computer network is crucial to a conference and potential issues with the Internet access inside the conference hall can be prevented by separating the registration desk network from the ones used by the participants. The participants and registration desk sharing a common local area network and internet connection can dramatically slow down its speed leading to delays at the registration desk and that is preventable by separating both networks. A printed backup list of participants would also come in useful in situations of a network failure and save precious time.