As a PCO-agency (Professional Congress Organiser) with over 17 years of experience, here are just a few tips when planning, executing and evaluating congresses. Today, we publish part 2.
Negotiating a good price is vital – we all know that. But don’t stop your negotiations there.
Equally negotiate extras. Such as complimentary water in the hotel rooms, free access to a small, extra meeting room that can be used as a pop-up office, extra catering staff, additional decoration of the meeting room tables, …
And if you are closing bigger deals, negotiate a minimal commitment to flexibility when it comes to smaller matters. For example, agree with your venue-supplier that if you find yourself in a position where you have to cancel the booking of a smaller meeting room at short notice, you will not be charged for this last-minute cancellation. Bear in mind that transparency is crucial here. Always clearly communicate why you make a certain request – for example, explain that the likelihood of needing an additional smaller meeting room is dependent upon the final number of sponsors.
“In business as in life – you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”
Chester L. Karrass
2. The magic word
Another crucial “do” is to take the time it takes to elaborately thank people. And not only in writing – as you would on posters, mails and roll-ups – but equally so by expressing your appreciation in person, both at the start of your congress and at the end.
So, thank your speakers. Thank your Committee. Thank your suppliers behind the scenes – they tend to appreciate this enormously, resulting in the fact that you are setting the right tone for a smooth, future cooperation. Thank your audience – after all, they are the ones setting the time and energy aside to show up at your congress, in spite of the extremely digital world we live in. And, last but not least, thank your sponsors – because without sponsors, no congress!
And if then, at the end of the day, you can equally seize this opportunity to let everybody know when, where and on which topic your next edition will take place, you are really on the right track.
“Don't forget, a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.”
H. Jackson Brown Jr.
1. “Mismanage” your budget
In a nutshell, when it comes to your budget: be realistic and upfront with your suppliers. If you are faced with a limited budget, then try to at least proportionally divide it. What often tends to happen is that when the budget is tight, the first thing to be skimped on is catering. Bad move, because people will definitely remember that soggy sandwich they were served for lunch. We couldn’t think of a more telling example to illustrate the importance of this “don’t”…
“Money is such an amazing teacher: what you choose to do with your money shows whether you are truly powerful or powerless.” – Suze Orman
2. Run late
Time management is crucial. And although sticking to a congress agenda seems to be straightforward, we all know that – even with a well-planned timeline! – keeping a close check on time onsite can be a real challenge.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to prevent running late.
> Make sure the signal announcing the (re-)start of your congress is rung 10-5 minutes before the scheduled and actual time of (re-)start.
> Let the hostesses accompany your participants to their seats: this is a tremendous help in “getting the show on the road” and smoothens the process of everyone (re-)finding their seats, thus minimizing the amount of precious time that is often lost here.
> When it comes to your speakers, make sure to brief them clearly! Send them a copy of the congress agenda well in advance so they have ample time to run through it, clearly communicate how much time will be allotted to every speaker and inform them of the visual cues that will be used to indicate time (such as, for example, a timer tracking the remaining minutes on a monitor or a signal that will be used towards the end of their speaking session).
And should you find yourself in the position where you are nevertheless running behind on schedule, don’t hesitate to intervene as necessary by, for example, ad hoc shortening coffee or lunch breaks… although, obviously, without overlooking the fact that it is also these breaks that make for perfect networking moments or consist of time initially set aside for sponsors! So, if you are really running late, first and foremost consider what you as a host can do to redirect the course of your congress by for example shortening (or even dropping) your own session.
“Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves” – Lord Chesterfield