Hosting a Conference: Pt 5 – It’s a wrap!
Bringing an event to a successful close is just as important a part of hosting a conference as all the work that goes into preparation and delivery. There are four areas to consider: A summing up (usually including a call to action), thank-yous, a look ahead to future events – and finally the follow-ups – which take place when you get home!
a) Summing up: while it is the norm for a senior person from the organisation to make some concluding remarks, the host should also be prepared to comment on what has been discussed at the event, and mention any salient points that have been made by the speakers. All it takes is to be an “active listener” and to make some notes – jotting down any key phrases or sound bytes which can be incorporated in your closing remarks, as well as reinforcing any “calls to action” that have been made by any of the speakers.
b) Thank-yous: while long lists of thank-yous can be tedious – it is essential that key people are mentioned and thanked – these would typically include the conference “team” who have put the event together, the speakers, the venue staff – and crucially the a/v crew! I always like to give them a special mention – as they are the unsung heroes who ensure the smooth running of the show – and are often overlooked by the delegates as their job is done “behind the scenes”.
c) Future events: very often there are other events in the calendar which will involve the delegates – it is important to remember to include a reminder of these – and mention any “diary dates” for everyone to note.
d) Follow-ups: When it’s all over – is that it? Not at all! There is plenty to do before you can safely consider the event “put to bed”.
For a start there are your own personal “thank-yous” to be sent to the organisers and others you have been involved with – normally by email – but I sometimes like to surprise key people with a hand-written “letter”! (Remember them?) This makes an impression way beyond the extra time it takes – compared to a generic email CCd to several people!
Another crucial part of the follow-up process is to file away my notes, introductions and general information for “future reference”! If you do a good job (no – make that a “great ” job) it is highly likely you will be invited back. Knowing what was covered last year and who people are will often be attributed to you having a good memory – more often than not it is down to good record keeping. I also try and jot down any personal information about any of the people I have met, including things like hobbies, interests and anything that has cropped up in conversation! If I have collected business cards I go through them all and jot down the information on the back – and include a memory jogger as to what they look like – size/hair/glasses etc. If possible I write “a.k.a” (“as known as”) and then the name of a celebrity or a personal acquaintance of mine that they resemble. While it is not always possible to get a perfect match – very often “close enough” is good enough to remind me who they are when checking my notes 12 months down the line!
One of the best tools for keeping track of those you have had contact with is Linked-In – especially as most people include a thumbnail portrait on their profile! I usually spend a morning after a conference looking up people I have met and sending them a notification to connect. This helps build your network and enhances your engagement with the audience the next time you are invited to host their conference! I am careful not to over-do this – restricting my requests only to those I have had more than a fleeting connection with.
Of course – in the final analysis it’s not just about sending out thank-yous – but also receiving them! Comments like this make all the hard work worthwhile! “Wow, what a fabulous contribution and impact you made to our EMEA conference in Lisbon! Without exception everyone has said what a brilliant job you did! You truly were the glue that made everything stick together, keeping energy levels high and the momentum going!” Read full testimonial …
In my next post I will take a look at how I learnt the names of all the delegates at the above conference – before I had met them – thanks to the example of Scottish rugby commentator Bill McLaren! It’s here: How I learnt 120 names
In conclusion – what this series of posts has shown is that hosting a conference involves far more than just “introducing speakers”! If you are looking for someone to ensure the success of your next event – please get in touch!
(If you are a conference host – what else do you consider an important part of the “wrapping up” process? I’d love to know! Send me an email – or post a comment below!)