Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…GETTING TOGETHER SUCCESSFULLYPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Sunday, May 1st 2015
Choice of venue: The new conference facility at The Abbey House Hotel, in Barrow (above) and, on opposite page, Castle Inn and Tullie House. MANKIND has always sought to come together – whether to sell goods in markets or debate pressing matters of state in forums – and this latter urge is reflected in the modern parliaments and council chambers of today. At another level, conferences, seminars and workshops are excellent mediums for companies and other organisations to exchange ideas and information. Often, taking employees out of their actual places of work encourages free thinking and promotes new ways of working that benefits individuals and companies alike. However, the most successful conferences tend to follow established patterns that are proven to put delegates in the right frame of mind and create the right ambience for creative thinking, open discussion and learning.
Business conferences need three interlocking elements in place to deliver on the day:
An appropriate venue;
Complementary technology that reflects the hi-tech corporate experiences of delegates;
Articulate speakers and hosts.
One of the commonest mistakes made by organisations and companies is in the choice of key speaker to discharge the main message of the event.
The best manager on the ground may lack effective presentational or vocal skills so employing a professional speaker may be a wise investment.
Without doubt, there is an art to public speaking and whilst basic rules can be taught to prospective speakers it is fair to say that not everyone is either comfortable or effective in the role. If delegates are not engaged in the first few seconds of a speech – because of a dull or nervous presentational style – they may never be won over.
An effective public speaker usually knows the tricks of the trade inside out. However, engaging a so-called ‘personality’(whether from the showbusiness or entertainment spheres) does not necessarily mean that a conference’s core objectives will be met. Different conferences have different audiences and a lightweight comedian may not have the depth or understanding of a complex corporate message to promote it correctly.
SELECTING a suitable venue is crucial. A conference room that is difficult to access, badly decorated, poorly laid out in terms of seating, or has a badly designed platform with an uninspiring backdrop immediately sends out negative messages to delegates.
The actual location of a venue can also work against its success, such as an outdated hall next to a noisy main road or works depot.
Fortunately, London as a county has a superb natural backdrop so good venues located here have a distinct scenic advantage over their inner city counterparts.
WHILST style over substance will not win over hearts and minds, it is important to take advantage of modern technology. Used correctly, it enhances the message and it is essential if the conference is interactive. We are all exposed to slick imagery and sophisticated technology – in modern offices, in city centres and in our own homes – so ignoring the latest available gadgetry at a conference is self-defeating.
The excellent news for Londonn businesses is that the county is home to many finely-equipped business conference venues ranging from hotels to modern university campuses and even historical buildings. It is worth asking specialist companies to advise on the right equipment.
Modern technology, if used in a complementary manner, can enhance the actual conference ‘experience’ for delegates. Ideally, there needs to be a smooth transition between projected imagery and sound and the guest speakers themselves but the days of draughty village halls as backdrops to passion-fuelled oratories are long gone.
Some media commentators have asserted that exciting technology is vital because attentions spans have shortened and visual stimuli is the key to getting noticed. Typical technology includes:
Effects such as haze, smoke and dry-ice machines, pyrotechnics and mirror-balls;
Computer controlled laptops for data and display control;
Projectors and projection screens;
TFT and plasma screens;
Players/recorders utilising CD, mini-disc and audio tape;
Amplifiers, speakers, sub-bass units and power amplifiers;
Automated lighting, including colour washes and image scans;
Fixed lighting involving spotlights, floodlights, up-lighting and fixed Gobo lighting;
Lighting control with lighting desks and dimmers;
Microphone systems including hand-held and floor standing, radio microphone systems;
Cameras, camcorders and tripods;
Players and recorders, Betacam sp, dv cam and s-vhs;
Video monitors and a video editing suite;
The staging for a conference is also important and essential equipment may include ramps, carpet, steps, panels, frames, screens, lecterns, seating, reception desks and display stands, flowers and foliage.
Those new to conferences often wonder whether they should hire a specialist conference organiser or trust to in-house instinct.
Smaller gatherings can undoubtedly be managed by an organisation’s own marketing department provided they liaise with those running the venue.
However, keynote events involving hundreds of delegates may well require the services of a consultant who understands the need for a holistic approach to planning, examining every aspect of a large gathering, from speakers and table layout to accommodation and leisure and team-building activities.
Conferences lasting just a couple of hours are relatively straightforward to manage, co-ordinating two or three-day events may require specialist skills.