How To Plan A Conference For 100+ Attendees
Staging a conference is one thing. Hosting one for 100+ attendees is quite another.
You may not think it, but a change in attendance can greatly impact the planning of an event.
Increased capacity brings with it increased responsibility, not to mention a host of additional requirements. Yet if you hope to both draw and impress a crowd, you must satisfy each of these in turn.
Lane End specialise in conferences for large groups, utilising our Pavilion building to assist in the running of seminars, workshops, roundtables and more.
In this blog, we’ll outline the secrets behind a super (sized) event.
When preparing a conference for 100 or more delegates it serves to split focuses into two distinct categories: content and location. We’ll start with the former…
Inspired surroundings matter little if the subject matter itself is lacking.
The best way to guard against disappointment here is to plan an agenda. Moreover, a compelling agenda.
Any itinerary should capture the imagination of your audience whilst covering the key objectives for yourself as an organiser.
If possible, it should be distributed in advance of the conference, so as to let attendees know what to expect and ratchet up anticipation.
Big conferences are no different to big shows in that they require a headline act. That’s why it’s important to secure a keynote speaker, or two.
The presence of an industry leading figure, with a stellar reputation, will help attract big numbers. It will also set the expectation that you’re looking to inspire, as opposed to sell. This is never a bad thing.
It’s not unusual for presentation materials to be overlooked or rather treated as an after-thought. This constitutes poor preparation if you’re expecting 100+ attendees.
Any collateral you intend to issue should be well designed, professionally printed and teeming with insight.
If budget allows, acquire polypropylene folders that enable delegates to enclose all paperwork in one place. If you want them to remain engaged after the conference itself, make sure your material is easily recovered.
Factor in all of the above and you’ll lay the groundwork for a successful conference. Content alone however is not enough. An event is only ever as good as its location…
Much like a boxer, it’s no guarantee a conference centre can punch above its weight. Indeed, some locations may excel for events involving 25-50 guests only to be found wanting when dealing with larger crowds.
This makes preparation all the more important. Let’s turn our attention to some must haves from a site perspective.
Where your chosen conference centre is based matters a great deal.
If yours is an event designed to attract people from across the country, you want to ensure its easily navigable.
That means researching travel links and access by road, rail and even plane if your reach spans countries as well as counties.
The harsh reality is very few people will inconvenience themselves to attend a conference, however important.
When planning a large-scale equivalent, ensure it’s easy to find.
A large conference necessitates ample parking. Inviting 100 guests but only supplying 20 spaces is poor management and something that is likely to irritate or even infuriate latecomers.
That’s why it’s essential to book a conference centre with an expansive car park and – if necessary - an overflow area.
If space is of a premium, be sure to provide directions to nearby NCPs and enquire as to discounts so as to limit the cost passed on to attendees.
When anticipating large crowds it’s important to consider access to the conference centre itself. How easy is it to direct visitors from the car park and reception to their designated conference hall? Will there be a registration process in place and will this be handled by conference staff or be entirely automated?
Just as importantly, does the venue have disabled access? A crowd numbering 100 or more will almost certainly include wheelchair users, who should be guaranteed comfortable passage into the meeting room.
A venue that fails to cater for those attendees is bad for conferences generally, whatever the size.
The ‘try you before you buy’ principle is one that should be applied to the events industry. There is no substitute for visiting a potential site yourself and gauging the layout of a conference building/room.
Key questions to consider are:
- How easily can the room be configured?
- Will sound carry to the back of the room?
- Is there enough natural light?
- How is the ventilation?
- Are enough power sockets available for dozens of laptops?
Event organisers will have a clear vision of how they see a room being laid out for an event on this scale.
This may involve rows of seating similar to a lecture hall or a number of desks spread across the room that assist in creating small breakout teams.
The best venues are those that offer versatility in this regard. You want room for manoeuvre in more ways than one.
On that very topic, large scale events should still allow for participation and collaboration.
More often than not this is aided by breakout rooms, whereby attendees can be split into small groups and assigned tasks or topics to debate. These are not always a given, with many venues offering a main hall and little else.
If your event is one built around interaction, be sure to secure a conference centre that comes complete with additional, overflow space.
Also be on the lookout for external areas.
Lengthy sessions are made that bit more productive when intervals are built in for attendees to enjoy some fresh air. Outdoor space – set apart from traffic, construction, big crowds and the like – is always preferred.
For that reason, it’s encouraged to scout conference centres with their own grounds, set apart from unwelcome distractions.
All conferences – no matter their size – rely on technical equipment. This is 2021, after all. That said, the requirements differ somewhat for those aimed at 100+ delegates.
In this scenario there is an obvious need to go bigger and better.
That is to say several screens may have to be in situ, along with multiple speakers, an array of microphones, seemingly limitless stationary, not one but ten whiteboards… you get the idea.
Underpinning all of this of course is a reliable, high-speed internet connection. WIFI is a must, with many presentations accessed from the digital cloud. It also enables guests to connect and complete any in-session activities on laptops or mobile devices.
And simply put, free internet access is simply expected in the modern era.
With visual and audio equipment aplenty, there is always the danger of something malfunctioning. That’s why event organisers should get assurances that a technical wizard will be on hand to avert such crises and spare embarrassment. This person will nearly always be an employee of the centre itself. If their not, make certain they’re familiar with all devices present.
Sustenance is as much a part of a conference experience as PowerPoint presentations. But while the likes of sandwiches and crisps may suffice at a small event, larger meetings demand a better quality of cuisine. Or more specifically, attendees do.
When browsing the market for a suitable venue then, it’s advisable to reserve a centre boasting a fully-fledged restaurant, cooking a varied menu to a high standard.
This allows organisers to build in lunch and dinner breaks for all day sessions… and even breakfast for early risers. And as with access to the building, its important to factor in all dietary requirements.
The bigger your audience, the more people there are to cater for. Literally.
There’s every chance a conference attracting 100 or so guests will span several days. In that scenario, factoring in nearby or better still, on-site accommodation is recommended.
Those residing in the local area can easily return home for respite. Those travelling from further afield don’t have that luxury and instead face the prospect of hunting affordable hotels… where availability is scare.
The best venues for large conferences are those that come complete with overnight stays.
Evidently, identifying a suitable conference centre is about more than Googling ‘large meeting venues near me’.
Any number of sites can host 100+ attendees but only a handful are purpose built for such numbers. If you want to attract but moreover impress the masses, be sure to cover everything in this, our complete checklist.
Do that, and you won’t go far wrong.