Planning and conducting a successful corporate conference is an enormous and important task. Huge sums of money are usually invested. Huge amounts of time, too!
Here are twelve quick tips that adopt customer service skills to help make your big event an even bigger success.
1. Use BIG, CLEAR names on nametags.
Use a bold, sans-serif typeface with the largest possible letter size. Nametags should be easy to read from at least 12 feet (3 meters) away. The whole purpose of a nametag is to make it easy for people to meet, mingle and say “Hello!” No sense giving out nametags that require your conference participants to squint and stare. Exercise good customer service skills here to benefit everyone.
2. Keep participants hot by keeping the room cool.
Keep your conference room temperature set toward cool to exercise good customer service skills. Studies show people are most alert at 62–64° Fahrenheit (16–17° Celsius).
Have participants move and stay active during the conference. If necessary, advise them in advance to wear a suit, light jacket or sweater.
This approach to room temperature is much better than looking out over an audience that is too warm, too cozy and too, too close to sleep!
3. Distribute a participants’ networking sheet.
Gather names and complete contact information of all conference delegates. Assemble them in a user-friendly networking sheet for during and after your conference. Exercising customer service skills like this can have a big impact on participants.
Use a digital camera to include head-and-shoulders portraits of each conference delegate. This makes it easy for participants to find each other during the event, and easier still to remember each other after the conference is over. Participants will appreciate these customer service skills.
4. Use a variety of activities.
Keep your conference engaging and unique to demonstrate exceptional customer service skills. Employ a wide range of conference activities: speeches; conference games; interactive workshops; exhibitions; panel discussions; question-and-answer sessions with presenters, customers and suppliers; themed meals; social events, etc.
5. Pick your theme and promote it.
Use good customer service skills and give your conference a distinctive theme and title. If your event is already known as “The 3rd Annual Manufacturer’s Convention” (or similar), then add a sub-title to the event to distinguish this year’s event from the ones before and after.
Here are some examples of conference events I have helped design and conduct: “Thriving in the Future,” “Riding the Waves of Change,” “New Opportunities, New Challenges,” “Putting Our Strategy to Work,” “Putting Our Customers on Top.”
When appropriate, couple your theme with an attractive logo to illustrates the key idea or message and adds to your exercise of good customer service skills. Repeat the theme throughout your conference. Ask presenters to link their content and conclusions to your chosen theme, providing continuity and ongoing reinforcement.
Repeat the theme and/or logo on all your conference decorations and take-home material: folders, notebooks, nametags, banners, shirts, etc. This is just a great use of customer service skills.
6. Set the look of conference presentations.
Once you decide on a theme and logo or illustration for your event, encourage presenters and exhibitors to use them in all their displays, take-home materials and presentation graphics. This continuity is a great way to carry customer service skills forward.
Use good customer service skills and provide presenters and exhibitors with camera-ready images in hard copy, on CD, or by direct download from your website. Send these out early so there is plenty of time for everyone to customize their material, making your conference look good.
7. Begin before the conference.
Get your audience participating in the conference even before they arrive on-site. Send out advance mailings with selected readings, “think-about” assignments, information-gathering responsibilities, a detailed program agenda, etc.
8. Continue the conference after it’s over.
Extend and prolong conference value and use of good customer service skills by sending out selected materials after the conference is over. Send a follow-up article, newsletter, results of a survey, printed version of action plans or decisions made during the conference, etc. Put your own cover letter on top of the package with thanks and congratulations to the delegates, and an invitation to your next conference event.
Put a page on your website with photographs from the conference, key ideas and articles presented at the event, survey results, etc. Promote the post-conference website during the conference itself.
9. Triple check all audio-visual equipment.
If the first thing your audience hears is “Can you hear me in the back?”, you have failed on this key point.
If the speaker says, “Can we have the lights down please?” and the lights don’t come down right away, you have failed on this key point of delivering with good customer service skills.
To make your conference a success, triple check all microphones, projectors, screens, computers, music sources, lights, air-conditioning controls, etc.
And just in case, have back-ups ready to go if needed.
10. If you start with tea and coffee, schedule a ‘bio-break’ early.
Offering coffee and tea during conference registration is a very nice touch, especially if you include pastries and fresh fruit. But if your conference begins at 8:30 a.m., don’t wait until 10:30 a.m. to schedule the first break! This is just a poor demonstration of customer service skills.
11. Begin with a bang.
Start your conference with a powerful video, captivating slides, stirring presentation, strong first speech, dramatic performance, multi-media extravaganza – or just about anything else that gets the audience interested and involved. When you start strong, your conference is off to a good start and your customer service skills will shine. When you start with a boring lecture from the CEO about last quarter’s financial results, you will be trying to recover all day.
12. End with a memorable finale.
Make your final impression a lasting one by using great customer service skills. Close your conference with an amazing speaker, tear-jerking song, major award presentation, multi-media event or anything else that gets the audience motivated and reminds them why they came in the first place.
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