11 Lessons Learned From Organizing a Global Conference Tour
GetResponse has hosted global conferences across the world. In this post, the GetResponse events team shares some of their biggest event management takeaways.
In the 20-year history of the company, GetResponse has been a sponsor of many leading MarTech conferences, including ad:tech, MarketingSherpa Summit, dmexco and Digital Summit. In 2017 our experience led us to the idea of ResponseCon—a series of worldwide events focused on the ins and outs of integrated online marketing for SMBs.
Running a global conference tour is a huge challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity to learn. And we learned many lessons when organizing the ResponseCon events. For this article, I compiled 11 of our greatest findings from from our global events team, and turned them into practical tips that will help you with organizing your next event. Dive in!
1. Find Partners
Partner up with similar companies, communities, and organizations to support or sponsor your event and make sure to leverage their community for event promotion.
Use local communities to promote your event. Find local partners, forums, meet-ups, and Facebook or LinkedIn groups to find your potential attendees. Make sure to post there regularly and offer a nice discount to the locals.
“Try co-branding – especially when you’re going for terra incognita. Co-marketing comes with nice perks, like a free venue and access to interesting audiences.”
—Justyna Bakker-Rakowska, GetResponse International Marketing Coordinator2. Mobilize Your Assets
Create exclusive landing pages for your event with all the necessary information (e.g., dates, tickets, speakers, workshops, venue, map.) If you start the promotion early and are not ready to share all the details yet, you can create a landing page with basic information and a web form, so that the people who are interested can sign up and receive regular updates.
ResponseCon Boston landing page with basic information and a subscription form
Plan an email marketing cycle reminding about the event and gradually revealing the information to your audience.
"If you don't want to get flooded with phone calls just before the event, use your online assets to provide your audience with information. The more information you put on your website and send via email, the fewer phone calls you'll receive the day before the event.”
—Natalia Paczóska, Head of Marketing, GetResponse Poland
3. Start Registration as Soon as Possible
Open event registration from the get-go. You can reveal the details (speakers, agenda, workshops, etc.) along the way. You can actually use the information to spark interest and engage your audience. Offer some discount for people who register early.
“Start registration as soon as possible. Make sure to announce your event a few months before to build awareness, yet expect that 50% of your tickets will sell 2 weeks before the event."
—Natalia Dwórznik, GetResponse Marketing Manager
4. Keep Tabs on Everything
If possible, visit the venue in-person before booking. This will give you the opportunity to get a better feel of the space that a virtual tour won't be able to provide. During your trip, check if:
- The venue is as nice as it looks in the pictures
- The venue is easily accessible for everyone
- There’s enough parking space
- There’s tech support that knows how to operate the equipment
- You can arrange the conference space according to your preferences
- There’s flawless Wi-Fi connection
- There’s any other conference organized at the same time (which might result in people waiting in long lines to the cloakroom, toilet, or buffet)
Meanwhile, it take a village to produce an event. Don’t just assume that other people will take care of everything on their own. Communication throughout is key:
- Have a clear action plan for everything that needs to be done before the event
- Write down all the contact details to suppliers, caterers, speakers, etc.
- Confirm all arrangements via email
- Confirm the email arrangements on the phone
- Remind everyone of the deadlines
You are responsible for the overall success of the event, so the buck stops with you.
Screen your speakers! Just because a speaker is affiliated with a recognized brand does not mean that they’re going to engage your crowd. Make sure that the speakers have the right domain knowledge and fit within the scope of your conference.
If possible, try to arrange individual presentations to build a complete story with each one building up towards one another.
“Collect the presentation from your speakers a few days before the event. Make sure that they are in the right format and that the information on the slides is easily visible from a distance. Download and keep the presentations on a designated computer and make sure that everybody knows how to use the equipment.”
—Daria Love, GetResponse B2B Marketing Manager5. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Food
Pay special attention to the meals served during the event. Even the best speakers won’t make up for bad food. Run a survey among attendees about their food allergies, intolerances, and preferences. Make sure that the food is excellent and there’s enough for everyone.
Tip: Go with local food—it’s fresh, tastes better, and is going to be a treat for people who travelled to your event. Offering local food you also support the local economy and enhance the overall experience of the event.
Great food facilitates great conversations – the lunch area during a ResponseCon event in Warsaw, Poland
6. Assemble an Amazing Crew
Build a crew of people who care for the attendees. You need people who observe the situation and proactively tackle issues that might arise during the event.
Make sure that your front desk crew knows:
- Where all the strategic places are (like cloakrooms and toilets)
- If (and when) you will send slide decks and video recordings from presentations
- The Wi-Fi network and password
- Where individual conference tracks take place
From our experience, for a 300-person event, you need at least 5 front desk crew in order to provide five-star service.7. Choose the Right Event Host
You'll want an MC who knows the audience—this is especially important when local habits play a huge role in setting up your event schedule or communicating with your audience while you’re on stage.
Jamie Turner hosting a ResponseCon event in Denver
A charismatic MC will engage and energize the crowd, keep the event on schedule, and react to any changes if they arise.8. Put Practice Over Theory
“Choose case studies for keynote presentations. Use as many real-life examples, customer stories, statistics and campaign results to make sure your keynotes are appealing to the public.”
– Natalia Dwórznik, GetResponse Marketing Manager
Offer skill development and hands-on experience, e.g., labs, workshops, 1:1 consultations, coaching clinics, roundtable discussion—anything to engage your audience more than with just a lecture.
Hands-on approach during ResponseCon Malaysia
Segment your audience and offer them workshop-like activities—or else, they’re going to get bored. If you can offer enough challenge and added value, workshops are the way to go.
For example, during the ResponseCon events we offer workshops and roundtable discussions focused on the attendees’ case studies. We show them how they can use our product to achieve their goals.9. You Should Probably Use That Microphone
If you run an event for more than 100 people, you’d better amp it up with a microphone system. Trust me, the people in the last rows will appreciate it.10. Keep in Touch with Attendees and Stakeholders
Stay in touch with people who took part in your events. Send them links to presentations video recordings. Offer them a special ticket price for future events and ask them to invite their friends.
Use social media to build a vibrant community around your events. In order to stay in touch with ResponseCon attendees, we’ve created the ResponseCon community group on Facebook. Groups are not only a great way to spark connections between the organizer and attendees, they also allow people to network and build relationships during and after the event (or even before it.)
11. Always Have a Backup Plan
And one more thing…remember to prepare for the unexpected. Let me close with a tip from my friend Daria, who has a lot of experience with organizing corporate events: “Always have a backup plan. For everything!”
Wrapping Up: Planning Your Global Event
When it comes to great events—preparation is everything. To recap, here are the top things to keep in mind when preparing for your next global event
- Start Early and Go Hard: The sooner your event website is up, the sooner you can start accepting submissions.
- Make It Practical: In curating your event agenda, schedule sessions that give practical advice or even hands-on training for attendees.
- Communicate, Elaborate, Delegate: There are a lot of balls in the air with an event—from house and AV staff to speakers and sponsors. Communicate clearly with all of your stakeholders.
- Don’t Forget the Little Things: From having the right food to the right MC, the little details can go a long way to providing attendees with a good experience.
- Always Have a Plan B: Always.
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