Running a successful conference is not just about having the most up-to-date research presentations and exciting keynote speeches. It is also critical to consider the people behind the research and the audience that will be in attendance. With that in mind, how can you ensure that you are attracting the best talent to your academic conference, how can you engage them while they’re there, and how can you make sure that they come back next year?
Keep your audience in mind from the outset
When planning your conference, make sure to consider your attendees from the very beginning. Try to keep in mind things like major holidays and academic calendars when picking a date to ensure that you’ll have the widest possible pool of participants. Additionally, when putting together the program, go over some of the reasons why people would want to attend your conference. Things like research publication or indexing opportunities, networking sessions, and chances for collaboration and thought exchange are examples of ways to encourage potential participants to submit abstracts and sign up to your conference.
Attack marketing from multiple angles
Having a conference website is a good start, but don’t forget to leverage your previous attendees by sending out an invitation via email with a link to all of the relevant sign-up information. Further, enhance your marketing strategy by coming up with a unique hashtag in the lead up to the conference and encourage attendees to spread the word about their participation on social media. For instance, using Morressier’s digital poster platform attendees can easily tweet out when they upload a poster for your conference.
Do your best to ensure attendees spend their time at the event
Conferences can be exciting and engaging, but they can also be exhausting for participants. A tired participant is more likely to leave mid-conference to rest or explore a new city, meaning you have fewer opportunities to leave a positive impression. To counteract this, anticipate the needs of your attendees and try to provide amenities like open WiFi, snacks and drinks, and even quiet spaces to relax or get work done. Organizing off-site excursions can also keep participants engaged with your conference while simultaneously allowing them to see the sights and have new experiences.
Keep your audience entertained
An academic conference doesn’t need to consist solely of presentations and the formal exchange of scientific ideas. Come up with ways to encourage attendees to explore the conference and have fun while doing it. Activities like exhibitor scavenger hunts and Twitter or Instagram raffles with prize announcements at the conclusion of the day’s sessions are ways to make the most of down time and help keep attendees on site throughout the duration of your conference.
Use technology to engage your attendees
To avoid any stress while preparing for your conference it's essential that the entire abstract and poster submission process is seamless and enjoyable for your attendees. It's also important that your delegates have the best digital experience at the event itself and can easily discover all the research on display. Use software services such as Morressier to manage the content that's being shared at your event and provide attendees with digital access to posters both at the event and before, during, and after the conference. This way, you'll facilitate a discussion around early-stage research and increase the longevity of your conference.
Make people feel like their feedback matters
Acting on attendee feedback is the best way to ensure that your conference continues to improve and that it will draw an even larger crowd next year. However, it’s important to make sure that attendees know that you are listening to them. Providing opportunities for people to give feedback and receive a response during the conference in person (through staff positioned throughout the event or in designated areas) or online (via email or social media) can complement post-event feedback opportunities.
Start planning for next year before this year’s conference is over
Take advantage of your current audience by announcing the dates and, when possible, the theme for next year’s conference. An early announcement during the current event will get attendees excited in advance and have them looking forward to having another amazing experience. Don’t forget to refer back to previous conferences, including photos and blurbs, to remind invitees of the great presentations and events they enjoyed.By making sure that you take into account the needs and desires of your attendees before, during, and after your conference, you can ensure that your event will be on the calendars of more academics, researchers, and scientists year after year.
Image credit: Jaime Lopes