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Offer an Unforgettable Conference Experience—6 Practical Tips

With today’s tech, associations can easily host meetings online. Yet face-to-face conferences continue to be popular. Why? It’s about the experience. A conference can transport attendees to new locations and offer extraordinary activities and opportunities.

If you want to host a successful conference, focus on the attendee’s experience. Here are six practical ways to make your next event unforgettable.

1. Right-Size the Venue

The venue you choose can make for a great experience or just an average one. A good strategy is to pick a hotel that’s big enough to accommodate your group and no others. This will make your members feel a sense of ownership, as if the whole property is just for them. In short, they’ll feel special. Of course, this isn’t always possible due to location and cost considerations. But on the whole, if you choose a venue where your association feels like a “big fish in the sea,” you’ll be setting your members up for a great experience.

2. Host an Unconventional Opening Reception

For many association conferences, the opening reception is an important time to set the tone for the entire event. If you want to kick the conference off with a bang—one that attendees will remember for years to come—try an unconventional location or set-up for the opening event. Think about your locale: is there a mountain or other spectacular site nearby that could accommodate a reception? Can you structure the event in an interesting way? Maybe offer dessert first! Do something that will wow attendees and make them realize they’re in for a special experience.

3. Whip Up a Signature Association Cocktail

This one will make your attendees feel extra special. Ask the venue’s event staff to create an exclusive cocktail for your association. The “ABC Society Spritzer” will be a hit! Set up a special station near the bar that will only offer the cocktail. The bartender could even talk about the tasting notes or inspiration behind the recipe. If they use local ingredients, even better for immersing attendees in the culture.

4. Gamify the Conference

People love games, and healthy competition can be exhilarating. See what you can do to make different aspects of your next event into a game. Mobile event apps offer many opportunities. Most have a game function where attendees earn points for doing certain things like uploading a photo or visiting exhibitions. Those with the most points are featured on a scoreboard in the app. And don’t forget to offer a great prize to the winner. Help boost engagement and provide a fun experience by getting attendees involved in a game.

5. Offer a Local Giveaway

Associations typically offer a of giveaway to each conference attendee. In many cases, this might be a logoed t-shirt or mug. Boring! Instead, give them something undeniably local. Heading to Baltimore? Offer a blue crab pendant. Off to the New England? Think maple syrup. Not only will the giveaway offer attendees a new cultural experience, they can keep the gift as a reminder of the excellent conference they attended.

6. Give an Exclusive Tour

Another option is to arrange exclusive site or attraction tours for your members. If your venue is associated with a theme park, try to get an afterhours tour or special ride for your group. Or you could rent out a museum after it closes for the day. Have a reception or dinner in the facility and then allow the members to wander through the exhibits. If your conferences offer experiences your members can get nowhere else, why wouldn’t they keep coming back?

Good luck hosting an event for the ages! And of you need some assistance, our event-planning team is happy to help.

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