Putting on a conference is significant investment so you will want to be sure you are getting the most you possibly can out of it whatever your objectives.
An important part of that is ensuring that your delegates are fully engaged and ready to learn. As well as planning the right number of breaks there are things that you can do during your sessions to engage your audience and measure the outcomes of your event.
1. Crowd Source Questions
Don't wait until the end of a presentation to ask the audience if they have any questions. This inevitably ends up in an awkward silence until someone speaks up and, even then, the shyer members of your audience are unlikely to contribute.
Crowd sourcing questions can be something as simple as allowing delegates to send a text message to a specific phone number with their question or by using an app like sli.do.
2. Red for Fired, Green for Hired
Live polls are a great way to focus your delegates at the start of the day, understand their expectations and get their feedback at the end of the day.
During presentations, live polls are a great way to provide a short break, engage the audience and make sure they are understanding the content.
There are a wide range of audience response and interactive voting systems available from dedicated handsets to apps like sli.do. Of course, if you're using apps like sli.do you will need to ensure you have good internet connectivity in the venue (don't just assume hotel wifi or mobile signal will be sufficient). We'd recommend engaging a professional event network supplier like MaxWifi.
Of course there are much more low-tech solutions. Think about the "green for hired, red for fired" cards used in the BBC show The Apprentice You're Fired. Give each delegate a double sided card with one side printed red and one side printed green then ask them to hold up "green for yes, and red for no".
3. Breakout with Purpose
Be direct and strong when setting goals for breakout sessions or round table discussions. Ensure that you provide a clear question or goal for discussion. Ensure that the question or goal is displayed on screen as a reminder during this time. Remember it's the responsibility of the presenter to engage with each group during the breakout session to ignite further discussion.
4.Do something different
Ideas are everything and are often no expensive to achieve. No matter how good your presenters and content, your delegates will start get get tired towards the end of the day.
What could you do that would make them laugh? Is there a funny video that you could include in a presentation? Could you have a live competition between members of your team? What about booking some entertainment?
5. Make it personal
Personal stories that the audience can empathise with are a great way to keep your delegates engaged. Whether it pulls on heart strings or is a funny anecdote people like to hear about other people's real stories and experiences.