Summer is convention season and as you close out your tour of this year’s offerings, it’s good to take notes on what you will and will not do for your own event next year. For instance—maybe at your convention, you’ll increase the diversity of your talent pool or panel selection. Or maybe you’ll reduce your booth rates so that your vendor’s hall can be more robust. There are lots of things to think about as you get a feel for what others are doing.
That said, there are a few things that every convention or conference—regardless of size, niche or genre—needs to have.
Most local cellular towers are not built to accommodate the flood of extra people who start trying to tap into their signals when a big convention rolls through town. Furthermore, convention centers and hotels are notorious for blocking cellular signals because they want guests and attendees to use their Wi-Fi instead (for a fee of course). Yes, using the center’s Wi-Fi is likely to be expensive, but your attendees are reliant upon those signals for communication with each other. If you’re worried about cost, there are two things you can do:
· Increase admission cost slightly—a few dollars per attendee, depending on the attendance size you expect, is usually enough to cover it (though, expect some people to be mad about even a tiny increase in ticket cost).
· Charge a separate fee to access the Wi-Fi. People who pay for access are given an exclusive password to the event specific Wi-Fi connection. PAX usually does this and it works out well for them.
Yes, you’ll want to have a printed program—that’s a given. You’ll also want to make sure that you have a really great conference app. A good mobile conference app accomplishes several goals at once:
· Attendees can set up alerts for the panels and events they most want to attend, which increase their enjoyment of your con.
· The app gives you some additional advertising space (which means more of a profit for your event).
· Most apps offer users the chance to send feedback directly to vendors and panel presenters. Most vendors and presenters appreciate this feedback because it helps them figure out how to tweak and improve their offerings for their next convention (and build their customer bases at the same time).
Your audience is more diverse than you might think and it is important to acknowledge that by making sure that your content and presenters are just as diverse as they are. Sure, you might want to focus on a singular theme but having a few offshoot and only tangentially related content panels will always be appreciated.
More importantly, you definitely want to offer at least a few panels that actively talk about diversity in your genre (in a positive way of course). Most importantly—remember that your audience is more diverse than you realize and your panel presenters should reflect that. Never ever let a panel be only straight white males. People of color, members of the LGBTQ community and both genders should all be represented in your panels.
You must have a strict and plainly stated harassment policy and you must make sure that it is widely available and easy to find. Harassment is a real problem at conventions of every stripe. Make sure that your audience knows it won’t be tolerated at your event. Period.
Oh: and allow off site/non-sanctioned and ninja events! People love them and they will make your convention even more popular. It worked for TEDx, SXSW and SDCC. It’ll work for you!
Did we miss anything? What are some other “must haves” at conventions?
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