Are your conferences designed by a planning committee? Is the committee adding value to the conference or are they just satisfying personal interests?
Many organizations, especially in the non-profit sector, have planning committees that are responsible for “designing” conferences and training programs. In some cases these groups are well versed in the needs of participants; other times, these volunteers are not in-tune with the audience and frequently have not experienced the education sessions to adequately critique programs from year to year.
Consider developing new guidelines for planning committee members to refresh the process:
1. Be sure committee members understand adult learning theory: adults prefer to be self-directed; like to participate through discussion or group, prefer hands on activities, want immediate application and relevance; learn from peers
2. Leave the logistics to a meeting professional. Committees should understand and address critical industry issues or those major topics facing an association; they don’t need to be concerned about having pencils on the table.
3. Committees should identify 2-4 topics for an education program to focus on rather than identifying specific sessions or facilitators. What is the goal of the conference? What learning should take place?
4. Ensure planning committee meetings have a clear purpose and defined agenda; agenda items should present issues and ask for decisions; assign tasks and deadlines; and identifies next steps.
A meeting professional can help you with more ideas to improve the event planning stage.