What great events have in common – My Swarm conference overview part 3

So, I said that I would have a handful of posts about Swarm conference, and this is the last of them. In my first post I wrote about the great speaker line-up and what I took from the day. In my second post I observed the sense of community created by this online community conference, and that other events could benefit from the same. In this post I want to bring it back to basics, and talk about the elements which made this event, and others I have attended recently, great for me.

Unless you have organised event it can be easy to take for granted how much effort is involved. Good or even great events don’t just happen by accident, and certainly if you have attended a bad one, they don’t happen by accident either, there is always an underlying cause. Swarm Conference, UX Australia and Intranets2012 are the big events I have been to in the past year and where I draw my thoughts from.

Passionate organisers – Great events are run by people who are passionate about the subject matter. They know their audience, because they ARE their audience. They arrange fantastic relevant speakers who share that passion.

Great food – As someone with a funny list of food intollerances, conference food can be interesting. A great even caters to intollerances and has healthy food options (I have seen too many plates of scones, jam and cream thank you). Swarm was catered by the fabulous crew at Kinfolk Cafe with tasty healthy food that meant no need for an afternoon nanna nap.

Considerate of energy levels – Those pre-lunch and afternoon slots are a killer as energy begins to wane. I have seen this approached successfully in a few different ways. UX Australia had a series of “10 minute talks”, quicker sessions on snappy topics, at Intranets2o12 they had shorter sessions in the afternoon and at Swarm they ran group discussions that required everyone to move around the room, and finished the day with a panel.

Not overrun by vendors – Sure events can have sponsors, and certainly vendors can be present, but there is nothing worse than paying for an event and spending the whole time receiving a sales pitch.

Wired – Wi-Fi for attendees (one for phones and one for larger devices is great), charging stations and good advertisement of hashtags and @handles is a must for events where the audience is even remotely digitally savvy.

Seamless – If the tech runs smoothly and no speakers go overtime people aren’t going to notice. They will if it fails. You can’t avoid tech fails but at least prepare to recover as quickly as possible. As for speakers, there’s nothing wrong with the old 5 minute warning.

Facilitates Networking – I really love it when event make it easy for me to network, because I am so terrible at it. Helping people hook up outside of the event using tools like Twitter, Lanyrd and Crowdvine. After conference drinks are obvious but still popular and effective. UX Australia booked a pile of tables for dinner and invited attendees to sign on. Swarm had a secret handshake that everyone needed to learn. Intranets2012 had collectable cards which you traded with other attendees to get a set and go into the door prize draw.

So this post wasn’t all about Swarm, but it certainly hit all the right marks. Same to be said for UX Australia and Intranets2o12. I am sure there are other things they did right, and I am sure there are more things that went wrong. I think the point is that the overall impression is awesome. If I leave an event having absorbed fantastic information, in a fun enviroment, having networked with great people, that is a success for me (it’s all the little things that add up to make that happen).

Have you been to an awesome conference recently? Anything to add to my list? Let me know.

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