On Conferences

Last weekend I volunteered as a conference associate for Meaningful Play. In general, it was a positive experience for attendees–personally, I heard several rave reviews. And honestly, as one of the registration desk people, things could have gone a lot worse. I am, however, generating a running list of things I’d do if I ever hosted a conference:

    • I admit, customized laptop bags are pretty sweet. But several people commented that they get free laptop bags at every conference they attend. Suggestion: Customized reusable grocery bags. You’ll be promoting environmentalism while also giving attendees something they’ll feel good about using again!
    • On the subject of customizable materials, sure, it’s pretty sweet to have the conference and year on, say, laptop bags, lanyards, or pens. But that limits their lifespan to that particular event. If it’s a recurring event, the best thing to do would be to just use the name of the conference. Otherwise, use the logo of the originating group (in this case, Michigan State University).
    • By the end of the conference, we had pillaged at least two dozen laptop bags for the program inside. People lose them, or just want the program, etc. Make sure you have a few dozen spare programs on hand.
    • VIP presenters were supposed to get a laser pointer. Unfortunately, the only indicator was a tiny “vip” on their nametag. It made it incredibly hard to remember to hand the laser pointers out. All graphic indicators should be blatantly obvious.
    • If you know you’re going to offer t-shirts, why not ask for sizes on the registration form? The default conference size mode is to order lots of large and X-large shirts and fewer small, medium, and XX-large. This alienates men on the fringe of sizes (S, M, and XXL) and pretty much every woman conference attender. HINT: a woman who normally wears WOMEN’s S shirts who is left with the choice between a MEN’s L or XL shirt will not actually WEAR your shirt. Ever. For real. Thus, you’ve just wasted a shirt! This is especially true for your conference volunteers–you should have a relatively easy time tracking them down and making sure they get their correct shirt size.

      These, again, are just some preliminary ideas. So–what am I forgetting?