Conference planning, like all jobs, comes with its own stressors. Depending on the size of the conference, a conference planner might have anywhere from 50 to 6,000 attendees. And regardless of size, it’s always a struggle to balance that pesky budget.
Compared to twenty, ten, or even five years ago, there is an increasing number of challenges that planners must face in conference management. New technologies, greater social awareness, and a call for greater transparency are core considerations for the conference planner of today.
But despite these intimidating factors, the advance of event technology means that there are new ways to alleviate the challenges of conference management. Tailored mobile solutions, the advance of cloud software, and others, are only some of the ways that conference planners are overcoming these challenges and situating the conference industry on the cutting edge of modern technology.New event technologies create new ways to alleviate the challenges of conference management Click To Tweet
Let’s take a look at three core conference management challenges, as well as some ways that we can overcome them:
Time and Budget Constraints
Although there is an increasing number of considerations that a conference planner must be responsible for, the general consensus is that conference budgets are staying stagnant, with a less than 1 percent change in North America overall.
This type of constraint may create conference management challenges as strained relationships develop between planners and vendors. The Incentive Research Foundation recently presented some research about the growing tension between planners and hoteliers.
Although the two are mutually supportive industries, conference planners require lengthy consideration before finalizing venue options, which is at odds with a hotelier’s more pressurized booking schedule. This can create tension between the two parties, particularly when high turnover rates can mean misfired communications that don’t always successfully reach the intended party.
A two-pronged solution to time and budget constraints involves consolidating conference tools and creating all-inclusive strategies to ease the burden of time and budget on planners.Ease time and budget constraints by using multi-use tools suitable for multiple events Click To Tweet
For example, a conference planner who faces several upcoming conferences will benefit from optimizing a multi-event tool whose basic container and set-up can be duplicated and adapted from event to event. This cuts down on the amount of time and budget spent testing different options. A tool that can take on multiple roles is a crucial asset, particularly in the flooded field of event tech where there are specialized tools for each particular niche.
Instead of buying into (and buying) a different tool or app for surveys, and scheduling, and networking, it would be prudent to use one dedicated conference app that can cover all the bases. This will also ensure that the attendee’s tools for communication and engagement are focused in one place.
Corporate Social Responsibility
A particularly strong question that has come into general perception in the last few years is the question of corporate social responsibility. To what extent should an organization be socially responsible and accountable? And how? Over the years, general opinion is that organizations do need to demonstrate and act on some element of social responsibility.
Because conferences and other corporate events are the most publicly visible aspects of an organization’s corporate culture, it becomes more and more important for a conference planner to consider and incorporate CSR into their event strategy. This means that conference management increasingly encapsulates an awareness of and an ability to enter into a larger conversation about social responsibility.
Technology can make it easier for conference planners to incorporate CSR by creating new opportunities for attendees to contribute to the larger corporate objectives, as well as creating the space to have those conversations.Social responsibility initiatives help organizations situate themselves as industry leaders Click To Tweet
For example, if you want to highlight the organization’s philanthropy efforts over the year, ask attendees to nominate each other over social media or through a mobile survey, and present awards of recognition. To bring awareness to attendees, you can set up dedicated forums where they can discuss the issues in a secure internal channel.
CSR initiatives can be massively effective at conferences, opening ways for organizations to give back as well as situate themselves as industry leaders. Years ago, Unbounce took to their online community to source female speakers for their conference. This eventually became their much praised and publicized commitment to the “50/50 Pledge”, and grew into the ongoing #PresentHER Twitter conversation, which focuses on promoting gender diversity in speakers at conferences.
With increasing global concern over carbon emissions and the negative effects of changing climate, the average conference planner is now expected to be aware of the environmental impact of their events. Conferences, concerts, conventions, and other large gatherings are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and it becomes increasingly the responsibility of conference management to create sustainable or carbon neutral events.
The wide range of factors in creating sustainable conferences offer a variety of challenges to conference management. From travel solutions to food and waste practices, sustainable conferences can seem complex—and expensive—to create.
Some of the easiest ways to achieve sustainable meetings stem from the beginning of the conference management process, with venue and catering choice. There are LEEDs certified venues that guarantee environmentally-friendly design and day to day capabilities, as well as caterers that source food only from local or sustainable farms. These are great ways to get a head start, but not always possible.There are many methods to sustainable conferences, from initial strategy to floor-level initiatives Click To Tweet
There are a lot of ways that a conference planner can incorporate sustainable practices on the ground level. One simple way is to make the switch to digital documents and schedules to avoid printing, or make efforts to recycle when printing is unavoidable. Some events have dedicated staffers at the recycling bins to help direct the recycling, but it’s also effective to spread the word to attendees and encourage them to pay attention to how much waste they could avoid generating. You can also eliminate business cards by providing attendees with online networking tools that help them cut out the paper middleman.
There are unavoidable challenges in conference management, but increasingly, conference planners are taking the creative and technological steps that pave the way towards better, smoother, more streamlined conferences.
Have you encountered any of these conference challenges, or do you have other ones in mind? Leave a comment below or tweet us @QuickMobile to share your thoughts!