First a huge thanks to all organizers of conferences, but especially for those that organize not-for-profit conferences. I do understand its a great amount of work, and in nearly all cases have greatly appreciated the experience made available by the work they put into it.
As for some guidance. I’ve been on nearly all sides of the conference with the exception of organizing, so again organizers please don’t take offense to the feedback.
First on timeline
Please publish this early on your site and on lanyrd
- Deadline for CFP
- Deadline for Call for Sponsorship
- Publish speaker list
- Early bird registration ends
- Regular registration ends
As a sponsor
Early dates and times
As a sponsor please give very early notice of your conference times. As an attendee I can determine within a couple months or even sometimes a few weeks if I’m able to make it to the conference. As a sponsor unfortunately I’m more restricted by budgets and timelines.
Give me options on sponsorship
A prospectus is great, and often times I’m completely happy with it. Other times there’s things I may want to sponsor that are not on the list. If videos aren’t already being recorded I’d love to see the content live on, and this is an immediate place that jumps out as valuable to sponsor. Often times flexibility doesn’t cause me to sponsor or not, but it does leave a clear reminder of my experience.
Location of exhibit hall
Sometimes the exhibit hall is hidden away and only visited by attendees that really seek it out. Obviously this is less than ideal for a sponsor with a booth. The obvious solution is a central expo hall, but many conferences can go one further and put lunch and the expo hall in the same area. Having foot traffic near and through the expo hall gives slightly more exposure, letting sponsors get a better value.
As a speaker
Have previous years talks available
If you are interested in attracting new speakers to your conference, please include last years talks. As a speaker there’s often a new conference I’d be interested in attending, if I’d not attended or spoken I may not know appropriate context. Keeping last years speaker list and talk topics helps me elect whether it might be a fit.
Publish the CFP
This is especially key to have on lanyrd, above all the other timelines. There’s currently no better place for me to look today to get an idea of when CFPs are coming up. As a tip for others looking to submit talks to conferences check out their list of upcoming calls.
Bonus if you give me a signup form to get notified via email when the CFP is open
I understand there’s a lot to do when organizing a conference. As much as possible keep the turnaround fast on these. There’s a lot of effort involved in reviewing talk submissions, so I understand that its not a 1 day activity. However, far too often I’ve reviewed talks for conferences and given feedback, and seen most of the activity occur in a mad sprint at the end of the planned time. If this is going to occur at least compress that time.
As a speaker, I’ll be missing a few talks as I prep for mine and of course give mine. Additionally there’s a lot in common with other speakers at the conference often. A good speakers dinner with an opportunity to connect with them can be what sets the conference apart for me. Of course good food and drinks always helps this, but most importantly it does a good job of bringing all the speakers together.
If your CFP is well in advance of the conference, advertise it early and often.
As an attendee
Power and Internet
Power any and everywhere. Internet that works. I understand its hard, but everyone remember when it works well, so its one straight forward way to make your conference stand out.
If you really want to deliver a great experience, have a charging valet, let attendees drop off a device and pick it up an hour later.
Talks are awesome, but give opportunity to connect with everyone there. Many of the people at a conference I see once at year at that particular conference. If my choice is between a talk and catching up with an old friend, the old friend may win out. Give me the opportunity to do both.
I don’t want to get into the debate about drinking (coffee or alcohol), but evening events encourage socialization. Adobe’s MAX conference was a great example of this, while there was beer, I never saw over the top drinking at the after conference event. To keep it fun there were Xboxes, PS3s, Segway obstacle courses and much more. If this isn’t something the conference wants to condone or organize itself, there’s likely an event happening somewhere, help with the publicity of those. With any luck the non-conference evening events are well done, and the conference spirit continues into the evening.