How to Arrange Activities for a Conference or Event
Distractions and Diversions
You want your conference/event to go off without a hitch, of course, so you don’t want any unnecessary complications. And if team building activities and/or entertainments are not included as part of your event, then surely there’s less to go wrong?
It is certainly true that arranging entertainments and activities can be time consuming and sometimes stressful. On the other hand, there are reasons why you might consider doing it nonetheless.
To start with, you do want people to attend your event, and if it’s one that will recur year after year, then you want them to keep coming back. Clearly you would hope that there are good and sufficient professional reasons for people to do this, but sometimes a little extra motivation doesn’t go amiss.
And if your event is in an out-of-the-way place, there is even more reason to provide something to occupy for your attendees during ‘down-time’, especially when the event is to continue for more than a couple of days
Lastly, leaving the customary cynicism aside for a moment, many team-building exercises do just that, they team-build: promoting a sense of camaraderie at the very least. They don’t have to be directly to do with your professional activities to achieve this.
Given that you do have a reason for ‘laying on’ something, what activities might you consider? It is difficult to put together a fully comprehensive list, but the following general headings might be of some help.
(1) Sports. Many large golf clubs are conferencing venues as well; also, there are a number of venues with leisure centres attached. Guests attending conferences are usually given access to these facilities on one basis or another. This is a good, relatively trouble free option providing that most of your attendees will see the sports focus as a positive thing, and will not feel excluded by it.
(2) Sightseeing, visits locally. Obviously this is only relevant in locations where sightseeing is tenable. If the event is in London for instance, it may be better to arrange such a trip yourself, rather than have people ‘slope off’ unofficially.
(3) Specifically designed ‘team-building’ exercises. These can vary, from management/sales training activities (which many may not consider ‘entertaining’ as such) to things like wine-tasting, unusual sports such as archery, and circus-skills workshops, casino nights, etc.
(4) Social evenings, perhaps with music. In fact, though it might seem as if it’s stretching a point, these also can be thought of as team-building, and can, given the right circumstances and ‘atmosphere’, be successful as such. Certainly they are networking opportunities. As with sports, care should be taken not to exclude particular groups, older people and so on.
So, how do you go about arranging these entertainments/activities? This can seem a daunting task if you’ve had no prior experience of it.
Sometimes an activity is part and parcel of the venue you have chosen, it’s then simply a matter of negotiating with the management of the facility. Issues requiring discussion are the extent to which, and the times at which, these facilities can be made available to your attendees (and of course the costs involved)
Also, if you are in a major city centre, and there is some attraction which you think might be of interest to a majority of your guests, then it is not an impossible undertaking simply to arrange a block-booking.
Otherwise, for more involved activities, especially if you have no experience of dealing with these things, it may be advisable to engage the services of a corporate activities agency. Of course, they come at a cost, but there are many agencies around with good track records, which can provide what you need at industry standard rates. Your chosen venue may have one which they use, or can recommend.
Activities which might be considered a little ‘off theme’ can, nevertheless, contribute positively to the success of a conference. A little time and thought devoted to what the most appropriate such activities are, and how to go about arranging them, will certainly pay dividends.