Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Six

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference".  Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

End it with a Shebango!
by Jessica Pettitt

After working for years as an event planner and now as a speaker and facilitator I gotta share a secret.  Conference attendees don’t usually think about the months of hard work that go into planning an event.  An event is more than a theme, a list of programs, and meals at a good venue.  The secret though, is that on the last day of the event, the planning team are often stressed, underfed, and lacking sleep.  The final speaker takes the stage and there is an exhale – it is over – we did it – yeah!  We get to sleep again soon.  However, this is a big mistake – I mean you do get to sleep soon, but don’t miss the opportunity to end your event the best way possible!

A few ways to determine if a conference has ended badly…

  • Finding piles of dusty business cards from conferences
  • Conference resources that hasn't inspired me from inside the filing cabinet
  • Calls to action that have piled up under an unread reading pile
  • Reams of paper of notes of great ideas and best practices
  • Renewal notices for organizations I don’t remember I belong to
The final program of a conference is an often overlooked opportunity for the planning committee – not on purpose necessarily – but overlooked nonetheless… Here are a few things you can do to wrap up your event with not just a bang, but a SHEBANGO!

A few ways to determine if a conference has ended with a SheBang…

  • There is a distinct difference in your posture and attitude
  • You have multiple dates set up to continue conversations with folks from the event
  • Next year’s event is already in your calendar
  • Participants have a list of folks to encourage attending the next event and renewing their membership
  • Meeting Planners and Event Committee look like superheroes to attendees!
  • Conference mishaps are overlooked and the theme is restated over and over again
The closing speaker’s job is to make attendees feel good or better yet, inspired.  Once motivated, participants head out the door and back to reality where they quickly forget what they just learned, who they just met, and why they are part of the association.  This isn't a blame worthy element of event planning – just happens.  Ideally, events should end in the exact opposite way – and it doesn't even cost more money!

As a closing speaker, it is my job to make the meeting planner and committee look AMAZING, assist all attendees in really internalizing everything they just learned and apply it to their regular lives, support participants’ new network of contacts, and block their schedules with the next event’s dates.  Moreover, an event attendee is the best marketing tool for the next event, and also for the organization itself.  Ending with a SHEBANGO increases member retention and recruitment and makes all of the hard work to plan, present, and share worth it.

It is a HUGE responsibility to smooth over the unexpected happenings at an event, be it fire alarms, broken elevators, rubber chicken, or presenters who don’t deliver, threading together the mission and vision of the hosting organization and event theme, and inspiring attendees to take the messages home.  Lastly, motivating the participants long after the event to support the organization throughout the year and bring in new faces, information, and maybe even serve on the next planning team.  That is ending it right – with a SHEBANGO!

Jessica Pettitt stirs up conversations using humor and history.  Get the Whole Shebango! at, email,  or call 917-543-0966.

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