Putting together conferences for the public

Posted by Jo Kelly

The conferences your business holds don’t just have to be for your clients, key customers, employees or people from potential new business.

There are many benefits to holding a conference as a public event, from demonstrating a new product to promoting your whole business.

But there are different things to consider than your typical business conference to make a public event successful. This article aims to help and looks at what to consider when putting together conferences for the public.

What is your conference for?

When organising a conference for the public, you should first think about what your event is for and what you’re trying to achieve. For instance, you might want to:

  • Promote your latest products
  • Push your services
  • Showcase your technology
  • Promote your company

Knowing this can help give you objectives and goals, and keep your conference focussed and within your budget. This can also help you determine what type of public conference you should hold. Will it be a standalone event or include an exhibition, for instance? When doing this you should think about adding value and giving people a more engaging experience.

For example, if one of your objectives is to promote your customer services, you can show how helping people is important to you and include a relevant workshop. If your key aim is to showcase your latest products and technology, you could centre them around an exhibition. This could include stands and exhibits from your clients and product demonstrations from relevant businesses and suppliers.

Who will attend your event?

Knowing the target audience for your event is crucial to your conference planning and its success. Although your conference is for the public, meaning that anyone can attend, you should think about who specifically you want to attend and have an audience in mind. This could be:

  • Men, women or families
  • Younger or older people
  • Professional, self-employed or unemployed people
  • People with a specific interest, like in computers or design
  • People with disposable income

Determining your target audience can help you decide what to include in your conference to encourage people to attend, as well as things like when and where to hold it.

See our conference ideas

When to hold your conference

Deciding when you hold your conference is important to ensure a decent number people can attend. So, you should think about a date that is suitable for your target audience. For instance, if you want families to attend, a day on the weekend is probably best when children are not at school and many parents aren’t at work. It also probably wouldn’t be wise to pick a day in the school summer holidays, as many families will have booked time away.

Other things to consider are that many people probably won’t book a day off from work to attend a conference, unless it was for something particularly special or unique. Many people probably wouldn’t attend if it took place during the run up to a busy period, like Christmas. Some might also not attend an evening event in the working week if they had work to go to the next day. With all this in mind, whichever date you choose, you should advertise your conference well in advance. The sooner your audience know about it, the more likely they are to attend.

Where to hold your conference

When considering where to hold your conference, it’s a good idea to aim to do three things:

  • Make things easy for your attendees by selecting a location that’s easy to reach
  • Find a venue that caters for the type of conference you want to hold
  • Entice your audience by choosing an impressive, awe-inspiring venue

With this in mind, you should choose a location that’s well-connected to transport links, via rail and road, such as a big city. Ensuring there is good parking at the venue or nearby is also essential.

You should also think about the space and facilities you’ll need to set up key aspects of your event. This could include space for a large exhibition, rooms that can be used for workshops, and a stage for your entertainment. It’s wise to also choose a venue with high-quality conference facilities, like a good sound system, visual equipment and catering.

Using a popular or attractive venue, which will appeal to your audience, can also add to the reasons why people should attend. It’s a good idea to choose one that’s well known for its design or being a good space for holding successful events.

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Enticing with your agenda and speakers

When it comes to your agenda and speakers, this is where you can really entice your audience to attend. Firstly, your agenda should include activities that will make people feel they’ll get out a lot out of attending your conference. For instance, things that allow them to:

  • Learn something new
  • See something impressive
  • Do something exciting
  • Be part of something relatable
  • Speak out about their views and opinions

It’s a good idea to have a theme to tie your conference together and make it more visually engaging. You should include speeches and talks on topics, which you think will interest your audience the most, with good Q&A sessions. You should also consider having workshops, so people can learn about something, or be taught a new skill, and discussion groups so they can express their views.

The people you choose to speak at your conference can also increase your event attendance rate. If you include engaging speakers who are famous or idolised by your target audience, for instance, more people are likely to attend your event, especially to see and hear those people. Finding experienced speakers who are also celebrities, or highly regarded in their area of expertise, can be a good way to draw in the crowds.

Making use of engaging technology

It’s wise to also make technology a big part of your event, which will help capture’s people’s attention and deliver it in the most fascinating and exciting way. For instance, you could use projection mapping or spatial augmented reality to project 3D images on to backdrops during presentations and product demonstrations.

You could also make use of the growing popularity of social media and set up Twitter and Instagram wall, so attendees can post messages about the event and see them displayed on big screens. You can learn more about how you can use technology at a conference in our blog, How technology can transform your partner summit.

Exciting entertainment to hold attendees’ interest

Finally, providing great entertainment isn’t just a way to draw people to your conference, but keep them there till it ends. If you close your event with a gig from a famous pop group, for instance, people will be more likely to stay till the end so they can watch them perform. There are different types of entertainment you could provide, such as a famous:

  • Singer or musician
  • Comedy act, such as a stand-up comedian
  • Novelty act, like an acrobatics group or magician

You can also find other ways to entertain the crowds during the day. This could include gaming or interactive areas, like with virtual reality headsets or the latest consoles, as well as competitions and quizzes. You could also add fun and entertaining elements to the snacks and foods you sell, like themed popcorn stands, cake stalls and chocolate fountains. All this can add to the overall conference experience you create. 

Helping you plan effective conferences – whatever your audience

Whether you hold a conference for the public or one for your clients or potential new business, there’s a lot to think about to make sure it’s successful – from choosing a venue to entice people to your event, to providing entertainment to keep them there till the end. We offer a range of conference services that can help, whether your need a full event service or just help with a particular area, like registration management.

We’d love to excite, engage and inspire you with our effective conference services. To speak to a member of our team:

Jo has worked at CR Worldwide as Events Operations Director since 2004. She is responsible for scoping and delivering all types of events, for clients of all sizes, globally. She manages the division’s team who organise and execute award-winning events – ranging from one-off sales floor days, corporate hospitality events and incentive travel trips, to annual conferences and partner summits.