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What makes a good conference?

Everyone I have spoken to enjoyed the conference I attended in July and that got me wondering why – and thinking about other conferences I’ve been to and heard of. So I want to know what makes a good conference?

Knowing what makes a good conference is very useful if you ever have to plan one, but it can also be useful in deciding whether or not to invest your time and money into a particular conference. Business events can be a great resource – but they can also be a waste of time and money if you don’t choose carefully.

Some of the features that I think helped make this particular conference good are:

  • It was fully catered (morning tea, afternoon tea and lunch) so no one had to leave the venue to find food. That meant we all stayed together, had networking opportunities and time to visit the expo stalls
  • Sessions went for about 75 minutes each which was long enough to get useful information but not so long everyone was restless and loosing concentration. Longer sessions also means more people get up and leave the room which is distracting
  • more than one session was run at a time for most of the conference – everyone was together for plenary and forum sessions – so we had choice. That meant I didn’t have to attend any workshops aimed at beginners and no one had to struggle with irrelevant or overly advanced topics if they didn’t want to
  • we got a handbook which included notes from all presentations – so I can read about the sessions I missed as well as not gathering single handouts that are easily lost
  • the presenters covered a variety of topics which seems appropriate for small business owners (as we have to know about so many topics to succeed!) Of course, a conference may not be as varied and still be good depending on the overall topic of the conference
  • all presentations included practical ways to use the information so it was easy to implement it straight away – and we all know that if you don’t use new information quickly, the chances of benefiting from it later are much less. This was actually promoted as part of the conference which wouldn’t always be the case

What features have you particularly appreciated about a conference or business event?  Do you agree with the features I listed as being valuable (especially if you were at this conference!)?

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