More recently, all sorts of business conferences, seminars and trainings were fashionable rarity, and people sought to get to them. The events were organized with the aim of promoting their services and finding customers, and most often were a great success. However, gradually, too many people learned about this tool, and today all kinds of posters and special event aggregators are overflowing with invitations. Attendance fell, to increase it, you have to invest efforts and means, make treats, invite celebrities, come up with creative ways to attract people. At the same time, most of the visitors leave early with boring faces and consider time wasted.
Let’s think about how to organize a truly successful event that will help you to establish communication with partners and customers, make a memorable educational event, and not just spend resources. The main thing is thorough preparation according to the principle: very deep knowledge should be able to be taught even to people without any knowledge. At the same time, you need to have an alternative plan in case you see an audience with an unexpected level of training or unexpected requests.
Based on this article, you can create a checklist for your event. It should consist of three sections: preparation, one day before the event and after the event.
Start planning an event with this very question. It is generally worth starting with this question planning any activity. What do you want your audience to leave? How does this inspire them? It is from this that all the rest of the planning should “dance”. Do not gather people just to gather. After that put down key points. These can be topics or questions to be covered. Think about how they will be connected, but do not overload people with unnecessary information, focus on the main thing.
Clearly state the purpose of the event and the thematic plan in its description. Include in the description the format, the reason for the event, the project team and their qualifications, and, of course, the place and time. Use challenging questions. Find a catchy image. And most importantly: do not deceive the participants: conform. Each topic should be disclosed, should not be superfluous. It is difficult to think of a situation worse than when a person comes to your event and does not get what he wanted. He will never return. Publish advertising no later than two weeks before the event, use free posters.
When the goal is clear, it is important to identify the audience. What audience do you want to achieve from this goal? What unites them? Whom do you not want to waste your time on?
Decide immediately how you will evaluate the effectiveness of your event. Ideally, for this you need to collect feedback (any short form or online form) before and after the event. You can also get feedback before the event at the registration stage or a short oral discussion at the start. Before the event, it is important for you to understand:
what brought people here
what information are they waiting for
what they already know about this topic so that you do not repeat,
what you have to give them so that they find the event useful.
After the event it is important for you to find out:
what are the main ideas that people have learned from him, that they are ready to apply right tomorrow in their real life or what they will think about tonight
how satisfied are they with the event (for example, on a 10-point scale),
what they didn’t like – yes, that’s the most important thing.
Remember: the worst feedback is positive feedback. It does not develop you, and shows that people do not care about you. Use feedback to improve your events in the future.
And most importantly: answer people on their feedback. Thank and tell how you plan to improve, improve with the help of their advice. They will appreciate it.
Lectures and presentations have long ceased to be the only way to hold an event. Try new options. Such formats will allow you to generate interest.
Panel. Here the moderator asks a group of 2-6 experts questions on the topic. The purpose of such an event is to widely address the complex problem from various sides. The audience can be of any size, and the moderator must be very well prepared. He is the chief and controls the flight of thought. As a rule, first each expert is asked the same question. Ideal if they demonstrate examples and cases. And, of course, the public should understand what relation the panel member has to the topic, so it must be presented. You should not invite a lot of speakers and give them too much time for remarks, more than 20 minutes in general and 10 minutes at a time is impossible. Speakers should be different, homogeneous panels uninteresting. At the same time, make sure that your speakers are preparing for the panel and do not plan to improvise the performance on stage: ask them to send their plan of answers in advance. Start the event by warming up the audience: ask everyone to turn to their neighbor and tell them what brought him here. Those interested can share their answer with the whole hall. Give participants a form to write questions so that they can quietly pass them on to you in the process and do not forget to ask anything. One place in the second part of the panel can be made open: anyone from the audience can perform within the timekeeping framework. The panel can be completed with a discussion in groups subject to the rule: there is no more than one expert in one group.
Round table. This is a discussion of equals. She also needs a prepared moderator. The goal is to initiate a discussion of professionals on a complex topic. There should be no more than 10 participants, more than 100 viewers. Prepare the questions and discussion plan in advance, notify the participants about them. Do not invite people who are not involved in the topic.
Workshop. This is an interactive event, anyway. If not – this is not a workshop, do not disappoint the public, call it different. His goal is to give participants new skills, so they should all be involved. The goal should be named to the participants in advance: you can not come to learn that, I do not know what. There is a limit on the size of the audience: no more than 50, and preferably less. Decorate your event with maximum interactive. In the end, conclusions and results must be formulated: what have we learned today? This event needs a trained facilitator. You should not talk too much with the participants, ignore their current requests, forget to control the time and not give people rest. Also ensure that individual members do not dominate the group. This approach is suitable: if a group or a person speaks too much, ask him to take a step back, to correct something, borrow it to fix it. If a group or person is participating little, on the contrary, help move forward.
Hackathon. At this event, a group of people working together for a certain long time (several hours or even days) to solve a complex problem. Often the result is a new technical solution, but this is not necessary. They have many varieties, for example, marathons or design tones. The purpose of the event is to combine a variety of approaches to create something new to solve the current problem. Audience size is limited only by room size and resources. On the hackathon, it is important to clearly formulate a goal: what product, solution do we want to see at the end? What criteria apply to it? How will the winner be determined? You should not set a task too large for a given time and invite people who are not compatible to work in a team according to their skills. However, the teams should be quite diverse in skills and their level among the participants.
Innovative sprint. This is a mixture of a workshop and a hackathon, in which there are always several rounds of rapid product prototyping. The goal is to create a new product (problem solving) or give deep feedback to an existing one. Here the audience is limited to 20-60 people, divided into groups. It makes sense to invite different people, as well as hakaton. It is better to send materials in advance so that participants can prepare. Clearly control the timing of the rounds. Do not allow one group member to dominate, this is not leadership training. Provide participants with colored stickers and a board for recording and grouping ideas.
BBL / Brown bag lecture / Lunch and learns. This is an informal presentation at lunch. You can come to her with your lunch or make an order on the spot, if it is a cafe. The goal is to inform people about the new product, service, ideas and get honest feedback. As a rule, it is organized in large offices during a working lunch. The audience is usually up to 30 people. It is very important to maintain an informal atmosphere and to allow even to interrupt with questions. You should not do an event longer than 1-1.5 hours, because you distract people from work.
Demo. A short presentation where you can immediately try a product or service and give feedback. The goal is to get feedback on the product under development or improvement. The audience can be any. It is better to prepare questions for the audience in advance and make at the same time several demos to avoid the queue. Do not stop people from testing your product, but limit them to 5 minutes. Do not forget to repeat the event at the next stage of development.
Debate. At this event two or more parties collide against each other. The discussion goes in rounds, each stage ends with a counter-argumenting block. The goal is to reveal conflicting positions and allow the audience to decide who to join. Viewers may not be limited. Determine the questions, the order of argumentation and counter-arguments and the timing before the event. Debate is ideal to hold on those topics where there are clear conflicting positions.
Knowledge Cafe / Intelligent Cafe. The audience is divided into groups for open discussion on key issues on the topic. At each table, his master, he takes notes. One common facilitator reads out the main ideas of each table throughout the room. The goal is to engender a broad discussion with deep individual participation. Give necessarily everyone to speak and at the same time equal. The size of the audience is 50+, it should be divided into groups of 4-12 people. Give 20 minutes of time to discuss each question, then mix the participants between the tables and give them a new or the same question. Groups must share the findings with the entire audience, do not forget to set time for this. The process does not make sense to repeat more than 2-3 times: there will be repetitions.
Town hall. This is a collection of a large group of people to seek consensus, public hearings. It is important to invite all members of the community who are affected by this issue and give them a call. There can be up to 500 participants. It is important to prepare in advance questions for discussion and to establish contacts with small groups that will state their position. The event needs a secretary who will record everything. Do not confuse this event with the presentation of a decision that is not being discussed.
Fishbowl. This is also an event to discuss the issue in a large group. To conduct it, you need to form two circles – external and internal. In the inner circle (it starts with 2-4 experts) an open discussion is formed with the participation of the facilitator. Then the facilitator invites people from the outer circle to join the discussion in turn, taking the so-called “hot seat”. The goal is to create an interactive discussion with the leadership of experts and with the participation of the entire public. The audience must feel heard. Number of people: 25-200. It is necessary to write in advance 5 key questions and the final goal, but to be ready to adapt to the discussion. The idea / topic of discussion should be one. Rules of the hot seat need to explain to all in advance. Do not invite too many experts to dominate.
1-2-4-All. First, one minute is given for reflection on the issue individually, then 2 minutes for discussion in pairs, 4 minutes for discussion in groups of 4 people, 5 minutes for each group to share with 3-4 conclusions with everyone without repeating. Do not supervise the process unnecessarily, here everyone must speak as he can. It is very important to maintain silence in the first minute. Use the call for timing. The discussion on the method “9 Why” is very well suited for this format. Its meaning is that for every person’s response, his partner asks him a question: why is this important to you? Why are you doing this? Why it happens? And so as to deepen the problem. Another technique is called “Yes, but.” The partner agrees with the speaker, but immediately gives a counter-argument. The third technique is “Stop.” The partner asks a question: what needs to be done today to prevent this from happening? Do not forget to change the roles of participants. In fact, there are a great many such methods.
Ignite talks. A very popular new format like TED. These are dynamic, speedy presentations of new ideas or knowledge. 5 minutes are allotted to one presentation, exactly 20 slides, 15 seconds each. Not more. The goal is to quickly and concisely share a new idea, experience, thought, success story, or even failure. The number of viewers is not limited. You can give in the record, for this there are online resources. Use a minimum of words on the slide and practice before the event, because the pace is really lightning. Do not try to highlight more than one idea in one speech and do not violate the timing, because it is the essence of the idea.
Unconference. A large gathering of people on whom they define a plan and rules right in the process The goal is learning, the architecture of which is determined by the participants themselves. An audience of 50 people. Here it is important to give participants the opportunity to organize themselves, but at the same time bring together ideas that can be shared with everyone at the end of each session. Do not overdo the structuring of the format: it is determined by the participants.
High-speed networking / Speed networking. Two or several small groups of 5–10 minutes discuss a specific issue, for example, the main difficulties and challenges of the theme of the event. The best ideas are recorded. When time runs out, people mix up according to a certain rule in order to communicate with other groups. The event ends with a large group discussion. At the end you need to decide: what are we going to do with this next? Another option: put two rows of chairs opposite each other. Give a minute to each pair to discuss the issue. After a minute, one of the rows moves to one chair. A new question is being discussed. In general, different options are permissible here. The goal is an informal way to introduce people and make acquaintance structured. Works well at the beginning of events of a different format for stress relief. The more diverse groups you create and the more you mix people, the better the result.
Open space. At this event there are many chairs, a blackboard on which participants’ ideas are recorded, brief breaks to familiarize themselves with this board and many questions in the framework of the discussion topic. A discussion plan is created in the process. This format is used when the topic is complex and it is important to hear completely different opinions of different people. The group should be big. The structure needs to be kept active all the time, but one cannot overdo the moderation of the discussion. The format is not suitable for boring everyday topics.
People are overwhelmed by the flow of information, and their brain automatically filters incoming noises and texts. Add more interactive. He is more like and remembered better. It is not necessary to strictly adhere to the types listed above. You need to create a space in which the audience will consciously participate in what is happening, rather than rummaging through the smartphone, creating an effect of presence. Now it has become very popular, for example, to arrange joint viewing of films followed by discussion. In addition, many send short videos to participants before the event instead of standard texts and ask to see them in advance. People will feel heard if you let them choose one of the additional topics of the event by voting.
The first thing to start is the so-called icebreakers. This is any short activity that relieves the primary tension between people. Ask everyone to tell why they came here, a ridiculous fact about themselves, to ask the most, in their opinion, stupid question on the topic of the event. When people stop being afraid to look stupid or ridiculous, because they know that this is the essence of the task, and that is how all will look, they relax very easily.
If you have time, you can go further. Ask participants to prepare in advance cuts from magazines, newspapers and pictures to create illustrations of any part of the problem. As a result, you get a visual logical model. It may seem funny to work with puzzles. People are divided into groups and must assemble a pre-prepared puzzle for you on a given topic. But they are in for a surprise that they don’t know about: one part of the puzzle is always with another group. This allows people to establish primary communication.
A good way to involve people is to break them up into pairs or small groups for discussion on a specific subject matter of the event. At a minimum, people will get to know each other and will feel freer. As a maximum, they can really share with the audience good thoughts on the topic.
It also always works well for everyone to write on the stickers the answers to the same question. The collective grouping of ideas involves, on the one hand, and allows you to see different points of view and even group them. Your task is to clearly explain the rules and help if necessary. Do not forget about the possibility of conducting the discussion in two circles. For example, the inner circle discusses the problem, and the outer one listens, and then they change in turn.
Discuss with the group of people their past experience on the topic: available resources and the successes and victories obtained. Aggregation of successful experience of different groups will allow formulating hypotheses about how it is possible to achieve a positive result in the future. This will be practically applicable advice. A technique in which each participant in a discussion group retells another group the success story of another person, preferably one whom he did not know before, can help very well. So you need to do several times.
An excellent variant of the interactive is practical group work on cases or simulations of real events in roles according to a given scenario. At the end, it is very important to discuss why participants made such decisions, behaved in this way or played their part in this way.
When discussing ambiguous issues the social spectrogram method helps a lot. All participants stand in a row and move forward or backward a few steps, depending on the answer given by the moderator. If they agree, then step forward. The more agree, the more steps. If you do not agree, then step back in the same way. When everyone makes their choice, according to the arrangement of people in the room, it will be seen how opinions on this issue are distributed in society or this social group.
The following method is called Dear Abby. People anonymously ask questions on a piece of paper. Then they are all placed in the public domain, for example, on a board and grouped by proximity to topics, or choose a question randomly. Then people record their answers to these questions side by side or discuss it out loud. Such an event is quite possible to organize online. A similar method is “One thing I would change.” It is important to collect as many comments as possible on questions from the participants.
The technique of 15% decisions is based on the fact that there is always a gap between what a person wants and to do and what he can really do. Small groups of 4 people are created. In each group, two people are selected who will have a short time for the presentation. They present the problem and the initial 15% of its solution. The presentation is given 3 minutes, you can not interrupt. Then 5 minutes the group asks clarifying questions, the person quickly responds. After that, a group of 10 minutes gives the person ideas and advice, while the presenter is silent, only writes. The remaining two minutes are spent on summing up, then a new presenter speaks.
More ideas can be found on the English-language resources Kagan Structures, PlayFactile, EventBrite, WeareSparks, LeadStrat and Liberating Structures. The first of them, although it is intended for planning children’s lessons, may well be suitable for adult activities. The second resource is devoted to games and helps to create them. Believe me, adults also want to play and have fun. And, of course, humor. He should be at events, just make sure that he is not offensive.
Always use visuals. The properties of human memory are such that the information that came not only in audio format, but also visually and interactively, is better remembered. Is it important for you to be remembered? It is very important that the visualization correlates with the main series, and not distract attention. Visualization should be bright, legible and memorable. Use bright colors, shapes, large sizes, do not overload with text (3 short phrases on the slide maximum). The turnaround of slides should be intense: people should have time to get acquainted with them, but do not have time to distract from them. Do not allow at the same time intersection of the audio sequence of the presentation or video with the speech of the speaker. Now they are trying, as a rule, to move away from presentations and switch to video or even work with posters. At the same time participants can create posters themselves in the process of your speech.
Before the event, you need to think about how the participants will take notes. Easy distribution of notes for notes to all is a valid option, but hardly effective. Divide the sheets in these notebooks by topic in advance. Title the blocks, write down the questions there in advance, push the visitor on what exactly he should write. Do not hand out empty sheets, this is a waste of paper to the detriment of the environment, make full-fledged workbooks.
For example, it is a good idea to make each page in a notebook divided into two parts: a question is pre-recorded in the left small column, and a person makes notes in the right. It’s great if a piece of the page with the second column can be bent or closed. Then a person will see only questions and recall their records. In any case, it is recommended to take note of the lectures at Cornell University. In Russia, 2019 is scheduled to publish the book Bullet Journal Method, do not advertise, but it can inspire. Many of the recommendations are available for free online.
Another good idea is to ask the assistant to fill out one large workbook in the public domain, for example, with a display on the side screen. It motivates people to repeat after him. In general, the principle of “show by example, try, apply” should be applied throughout the event. And remember: the design should be simple, not overloaded. Use symbols, arrows, signs, colors, but so that they can be seen.
Prepare a separate lot for useful ideas off-topic. Such can come during the event, and they can not be thrown away. These are ideas for new events and discussions.
Give people cards or stickers in advance to write down ideas and questions they want to share. So you reduce the time for interrupting, you can pre-group questions, while giving everyone the opportunity to speak.
Write down the moderation rules in advance. The first thing to start with is the timing of each type of activity. Lay some time on pauses, networking issues. Write down how long the audience will have to answer the question, and how long the speaker has to answer. Consider what to do if the participant of the event deviates from the topic, instead of formulating the question, begins a long story, behaves inappropriately. Feel free to pick off people who violate the timing or theme. Time – the most valuable resource of a person, do not download it too much. It is better to let the person leave with the remaining questions and return to you later than he is bored.
At the same time, a constructive discussion on the topic will greatly decorate your evening. Different opinions make people think. Do not interrupt the discussion, let your guests think about it the next day and remember you. Remember: discussion and dialogue are not the same thing. Do not let people talk in vain, but let them be heard – this is the main secret of engagement. Stir people as much as possible, unite them in different groups, motivate to communicate. The main rule of groups: do not make them more than 10-12 people, preferably 6-8. And start with larger groups, because at first people find it harder to say something, and end the event with the work of small groups or couples. Although sometimes they do and vice versa.
Announce the rules of the event in advance so that the guests have no offense: how open the conversation is, how much time and what questions will be allotted, how much time each person has on his cue. And the most important and modern: limit the use of gadgets, ask to postpone phones to the maximum. Specify to guests also whether photo, audio, video recording are acceptable, what rules should be followed when publishing such content later (obligatory reference to the author, hashtags, etc.).
If the event is open, provide high-quality video and photos, as well as online streaming yourself. A professional approach to this issue is significantly better than the blurred photos taken from the last row. If your event is part of a larger one (for example, a session at a conference), use the hashtag of the main event is mandatory. This will increase your audience.
On each topic, if we are talking about round tables, panels, lectures, you must have your own speaker, expert. Speak with him in advance clear topics, the presence of a presentation or an interactive, potential issues, time, rider and fee. It is very important that the speaker not only understands the topic, but also knows how to give it well, it is interesting to tell. If there is no interesting speaker on the topic, it is better to abandon it than to close formally. Ideally, if you have experts from different points of view, representatives of different trends, organizations, and social groups. Even if the purpose of your event is to convince people of a particular point of view, inviting different experts will create the feeling that this is not the opinion of one person or one group and will make you more convincing. This will give you a much broader view of the problem, make people think. But do not overdo it with the number of speakers: a situation where they do not have time to say anything is also unacceptable.
At the end of the event, it is important to consolidate the main ideas, explain what the participants have learned today, and provide the public with key findings, so-called takeaways. This will allow them to think again, and precisely in the vein in which you need, and also to fill the gap if they missed something. In addition, it is in this form that people are likely to spread information about your event. E-mailing the conclusions of the event to one page in a couple of days works very well. It can be done not only by participants, but also by those who did not come by heading the letter “In Case You Missed It …”