Managing and catering events
A few weeks ago I ran a 3 day event at Vistaprint. We had many engineers fly into our organization. These engineers are from both other countries, and even other companies. We essentially had a mini 3 day conference, and I had to run it! I learned quite a bit about running a conference.
The biggest thing you need to do is communicate with your attendees early. Depending on the size of the population, and attendees you might consider having weekly conference calls where people can listen in, and ask questions. You should consider making a slack group. That way people can coordinate meetups, and get announcements.
Google docs, or some other shareable pages are very important. Make sure attendees can find, and view relevant information. Things to make sure you communicate early, and often.
- Address of venue
- Instructions how to get to the venue, or what to do when the attendees arrive
- Schedule of event
- Even if you just have placeholder text, get it out early!
- Make sure you include addresses of any off site places you may go. People have loved ones, and they want to keep them updated
- Whom is running the event, and other staff they can contact
- An email address to contact
- Make sure you encourage people to reach out to you if they have special needs
- What hotels you recommend
- Any any discounts if you can partner with a hotel.
Organizing events is tough enough, but even harder if you are going to have speakers. Consider pairing up speakers with conference staff. See if you can preview the talks early, and let the speakers know if you are shooting for a specific theme. Don't force people into your theme too much, but you should try to couple the talks somehow to improve cohesion.
Ok, food is good. Your attendees will like having food. Your attendees will probably have special needs. At minimum you should have vegetarian options for all meals. Most people that eat meat won't mind eating vegetables, but vegetarians will definitely not want to eat meat.
You should vet your caterers a little. Ask any event coordinators for your venue if they have recommended, reliable companies. Read reviews, caterers will always over deliver. If you say you are hosting a party for 20 people, usually you get food for 23. For every 10 people you have attending, only ask for food for 9. So you have 20 people coming, buy for 18.
You should ask your attendees to communicate with you incase they have special dietary restrictions. Typically you don't have to worry about Gluten free, Vegan, allergies, etc, unless someone lets you know. You should, make them feel comfortable to speak up, but try to get that info in advance.
You are going to have to figure out which rooms you are in. Round rooms are great for round table discussions, rectangles are great for speaking. Not to say you need to pick one or the other. However you should consider U shaped seating for presentations, and oval, or circular for talks. If you plan on letting people have beverages, consider having tables in the room with some drinks. You should clearly mark, or let people know where the bathrooms are.
Ok, Audio/Video is hard! You are going to probably book an event that has A/V. Your first mission is to find the aspect ratio for the AV system, and communicate that outward to your speakers. Their slides should hopefully be the same aspect ratio.
Next is dongles aka adapters. You need to find out from your AV vendor, what video connector they have. They probably have either HDMI, or VGA. You should make sure you have a bunch of dongles that adapt the AV system's video in, to your laptop's video out. You should have the following covered
Prayer rooms, and spaces
Ok, not everyone has the same faiths and beliefs. Not everyone is you, sometimes people need quite places to sit. Some people get overwhelmed easily. First off, don't judge, just provide. You should find a small quite space where people can go pray. Where people can go meditate. You don't need anything other than a room. Find a room where people can go. You can call it a
reflection room, say its open to all faiths, and all people. Make sure your words convey that its not just for prayer, but for all people that need a small quiet space.