In the last year I have had the pleasure of attending many speaking events both as a presenter and an attendee. To that extent I would like to point out some tips that may be helpful to other people planning events.
Note that I have never planned an event myself. This is just my outside view of things.
Do have wireless access for everyone. I have never heard more complaints than events that don’t have Internet access.
Do provide lunch. Especially when in a remote area where it is not easy to find lunch.
Do not order in a hot lunch. Getting that much hot food co-coordinated could possibly fail. Having something like sandwiches or wraps is easy to have pre-made and less prone to having issues
Do have a map to the facility. People like to know where they are going
Do have the building the event is in clearly marked. If it is in a non obvious area have signage directing attendees through the building
Do have feedback sheets for the presenters. These help presenters improve there talks and are also required for some funding and awards.
Do not change the schedule a lot. If there are going to be lots of changes do not release it until it is mostly stable
Do pre-release the schedule to speakers before the general public. Many speakers will need to re-arrange their times due to flights or wanting to attend other speakers talks.
Do have backup speakers. There will always be a few speakers that need to withdraw from the event so having people lined up to fill in is essential.
Do not change the schedule the night before the talk. I would recommend having it set in stone one week before the event.
Do get all the speakers contact information before the talk. If there is some last minute change you can then contact them.
Do give out your contact information to speakers in case they need to notify you of a last minute change.
Do try to get a group rate at a hotel if you are expecting speakers/attendees from out of town.
Do not have an event at unseasonable times. Extremely hot/cold times of the year will discourage speakers/attendees. Also avoid times when lots of people are on vacation.
Do have someone that ensures speakers get hooked up to the projectors and running in a timely manner. Having technical delays can be a pain for all so having someone who can quickly get a speaker up and going is great.
Do have someone go into the presentations and give a five minute warning. This is great for keeping speakers and the event on time.
Do have a green room for speakers that is locked/guarded at all times. Having a place where speakers or even attendees can leave there valuables is a great feature to have. Also being able to work on last minute talk changes/fixes in a quiet place is great.
Do have an event for the speakers. Going out for dinner/drinks after the event is a great way to reflect on your event and is a nice way to thank the speakers for their time.
Do not expect an event to go off without a hitch. Lots of things can go wrong and something always will. Try to plan for things and adapt.
Do have an army of volunteers. Many hands make light work sure is true. If things go wrong it is easy enough to have 5 people try to find an extension cord than just yourself.
Do have swag to give away. Everyone likes to win something.
Do have at least the grand prize draw picked from evaluations. This encourages attendees to fill them out.
Maybe have tickets for other swag draws. This cuts down on trying to read someone’s name off a sheet that may be hard to read or pronounce.
Do get feedback for not only the speakers but the event itself so it can be improved for the next time.
Do keep the standard format for talks. For code camps these are 1 hour and 15 minutes and user groups are 2 hours. Most speakers craft their talks for these durations. If your sessions are going to be shorter make sure everyone knows well in advance.
Do not start your event at a time that is hard for people to make. Weekday events should start 1 hour after 5pm (or later if people have to make long commutes). Code Camps should start as late as possible as it is weekend time and we all like to sleep in a bit on weekends.
Maybe have a keynote. This can be good for explaining the happenings for the day or to introduce something that everyone will want to see. If there is something everyone wants to see no one else will want to speak in that time slot.
Do ensure that all session materials are available to attendees.
Do have the schedule printed out and available to all attendees as they come in the door.
Do mark the rooms so they correlate to the schedule.