Goodnight! the art of the residential conference
Conferences are getting more and more ambitious, not just in their frequency, but also in content and structure. Although teleconferencing and online events are extremely popular, they cannot totally replace the many advantages of physically getting people together in one place. Throw in an overnight stay at or near the conference venue, and these advantages increase exponentially. The chance to relax after the day’s work is done without having to worry about travelling home, plus the novelty of staying somewhere new can reinvigorate delegates and encourage team bonding.
So how can you make sure your next residential conference, team development or team training session goes without a hitch?
Set the right scene from the off with efficient, understandable and welcoming administration and booking details. Make sure people know the dates, times, agenda and meeting venue as soon as possible, and that they know how and when to book accommodation and any extra costs involved. Keep in touch via post, email or social media, with clear confirmation of what delegates have booked and any updates or changes to the schedule. When people start booking, keep track of their responses and note when they have paid, whether they need any special arrangements, such as taxi bookings, babysitters etc.
When your delegates arrive at the conference centre, make sure they are greeted warmly and given everything they need, including business papers and badges etc., but also details on how and where to book in for their overnight accommodation. Delegates may well prefer to book into their hotel and freshen up before having to think about the conference agenda, so factor in plenty of time for them to do this if they wish.
Thinking about the food and drink you are going to serve is very important, especially when it involves additional meals such as breakfast and supper. Many conference venues will provide these meals for your delegates as part of the deal, or there are packages you can order at nearby hotels. If you are planning a special conference dinner, make sure you allocate adequate budget to make it truly memorable, and enlist the help of your venue’s event organiser to ensure everything goes smoothly. Above all, make sure your guests’ dietary requirements are catered for, including allergies, health conditions and cultural or religious requirements.
If you are expecting your delegates to stay overnight, you will need to give some thought as to the entertainment you are going to provide. Are they expected to do their own thing, or will you lay on a meal and cabaret? Make sure everyone knows what will be expected of them well in advance, as well as what the dress code will be and a rough idea of timings. If you are not planning a formal programme, it is a nice idea to list a few local options for eating out and entertainment, such as nearby theatres, cinemas and interesting walks or tourist attractions. This can also help encourager team building. Other useful information includes numbers for taxi firms and bus or train timetables.
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