Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maximize Your Conference (Part 8 of 10) "Give Feedback To The Organizers"



Maximize Your Conference (Part 8)

"Give Feedback To The Organizers"
by Thom Singer

When you attend a conference you automatically become part of the community. The people who plan these events are not some distant bureaucrats working with a counter agenda, but instead you are all on the same team. It is in their best interest to know how the attendees feel about all aspects of the conference, because they want people to come back the following year. An industry convention cannot survive year over year without attendees returning, thus your opinion about what works and does not work matters to everyone.

Most events have paper and / or online surveys for the whole program and each individual session. Many people do not complete these requests for feedback or they do not fill them out with enough detail to help influence future planning decisions. Feedback from attendees is crucial to scheduling subsequent events, selecting speakers, cultivating topic ideas, and marketing.

More than checking the rating boxes, write a sentence or two that says what you liked or did not like, and give ideas on how to make it better (do not just complain).

Your feedback matters for the keynote speakers and breakout presenters, too. The speaking business is a competitive industry. If someone is really good, your praise of their program could lead them to being brought back for future events. On the flip side, if the speakers are dull or off point, you must let the organizers know so that they will put more effort into speaker selection. Too many people forget that just because someone is smart or has accomplished something cool, it does not mean they belong on the stage. Conference attendees should not be subjected to awful speakers, and the organizers must be educated as to what you liked and did not like in the individual presentations. If you do not share your thoughts, some planners will continue to just "fill the slots" without vetting the experience level of each speaker.

The most effective way to give feedback is to get to know the people in charge of the conference. Filling out the forms is important, but being able to share your observations face-to-face where you have an existing relationship will have more impact.

Getting to know the people in charge is not that difficult if you are paying attention to the correspondence that begins long before the conference. The names and contact information of the organizers is all often all over the marketing materials. Reaching out in advance and letting them know you are looking forward to the event will get you noticed. Your ability to contact them via email or phone before you arrive will depend on the type of event, your personality, and other factors, but knowing who you want to meet before you arrive will make it much easier to find them once you arrive.

Introducing yourself to those in charge of planning is simple. Doing this will put you farther ahead than almost everyone else at the event. Too many people only find the organizers to complain, so if you seek them out wanting to volunteer to help or just say hello, they will remember you.

Thanking those who organize the event is a key way to establish the first steps of creating a relationship. Organizing a large meeting is hard work, and almost always under appreciated by those in attendance. When you recognize how much they did to make the event a success, you will be on their radar...forever (trust me, few people ever thank the organizer). Later when you share feedback, they will pay more attention. If you enjoyed the event and plan to return the following year, make sure that is expressed, as nothing is more important to an event organizer than return attendance.

When giving feedback do not only point out the negative. If all you do is complain, your input will be dismissed and you will become branded as someone who whines too much. Look for the amazing parts of the event and include them along side the areas you believe could be improved. Every event has good and back parts, and you owe it to yourself, and everyone else, to make sure the planners know both!

When you give good feedback, everyone wins!.

Have A Great Day

thom


Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". He regularly speaks at industry conventions and trade shows where he inspires the audience (and vendors) to maximize their participation at the event. One of the top reasons people attend business conferences is for the "Networking Opportunities", and yet once there they fail to create connections that will have any meaningful impact on their career. Thom sets the tone for the culture of the conference which becomes the foundation for a more meaningful set of interactions.

2 comments:

smallbizdesign said...

Thom—

Thank you for posting this! It could not be truer that the people putting on the conference are just ordinary people too. They need feedback to make sure that they give you what you need.

Joel Bush said...

Good call. Empathy for organizers and the work they do helps all.

For instance, Chris Pirillo and Andrew Hyde organize many events. Check this post and tweet for a sense of what they confront:
http://chris.pirillo.com/the-future-of-gnomedex/
http://twitter.com/andrewhyde/status/22383812926