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How to succeed in the summer conferencing season

May 29, 2008 | Blog

The guest speaker phones from Paris to say he won't be able to make it as his plane is delayed; delegates slipping out of the back door in the middle of the afternoon to check up on the latest football or tennis scores; morale-sapped employees jostling for shelter under a gazebo as the rain falls on the garden-part AGM: organising a corporate conference can be challenging and stressful enough, but in the summer months, the potential pitfalls are magnified and only military-like planning can ensure a successful and memorable event.

It is hardly surprising that a significant number of companies or organisations opt to play host when the weather improves. Indeed, as delegates due to head to California for the Apple's sold-out worldwide developers conference (WWDC) would testify, the prospect of heading out of a meeting or seminar to network or socialise in the sun is an appealing one, certainly more so than enduring a weekend in a rainy coastal town in the middle of winter.

However, for many, regardless of how enthused they are about their line of work, the summer olds [holds] many competing temptations, from family holidays to lazy weeks at home or watching a major sporting event.

While some businesses could simply enforce compulsory attendance for their staff, far better for conference organisers to make their event stand out and become the highlight of the professional summer.

Key to this, as always with conferencing and events, is forward planning.

Timing is, of course, crucial, with days around Bank holidays or major sports competitions to be avoided if possible to ensure absenteeism is kept to a minimum.

Once the date has been agreed upon, there should be no delay in booking a venue – and indeed, forward planning in this respect can often open the door to possible negotiation over costs, especially when multiple bookings are made.

So wrapped up in organising their own event some professionals are that they neglect to think that it is not just themselves or their guests and delegates who would maybe wish to get away on holiday over the summer. Stationers, drivers, caterers all may head off for a week or two at the very time they are needed, placing those who have left the details of their conference to the last minute in serious jeopardy.

Likewise, given the extent to which transportation costs soar in the summer, informing delegates of the precise details of an event as far in advance as possible can save a lot of grief and empty seats – even the most fascinating of events with a stellar guest list may seem unappealing should a delegate be made to book a long-haul flight at the last-minute.

In comparison, with plenty of notice, guests can save considerable amounts on travel costs and may even incorporate a conference into their holiday plans, as no doubt many European technology professionals will when they attend Apple's annual event in San Francisco.

And lastly, but by no means least, the weather must be taken into consideration when it comes to planning a summer conference.

Here organisers face something of a dilemma: guests or employees won't leave with fond memories should an event be held outdoors and the famed unreliability of the British weather strikes, but neither are they likely to be completely focused on a seminar or speech should the weather be glorious outside and the organiser has erred on the side of caution and chosen an indoors venue.

The ideal solution is to find a compromise and, with thousands of events venues to choose from all over the UK, it is perfectly possible to book a conference hall which would also offer guests a place to relax and network out of doors, with converted stately homes and riverside locations particularly popular for the season.

Of course, since every other corporate events organiser will be after the same type of location, once again, success is largely dependent on planning ahead.

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