Creating an engaging conference programme

A speaker addressing an audience at Harcourts Conference at the TSB Arena in Wellington.

The programme is always at the heart of your event and the key to creating an engaging one is to ensure it flows.

Whether it’s a simple webinar, a fully virtual conference experience or an in-person meeting with a hybrid component, Rachel Cook of Conference Innovators shares her top tips to ensure your programme comes together flawlessly on the day.

How to build a successful conference programme

Building a programme requires extra consideration for online delivery, but when done right it can be just as exciting and engaging for attendees as an in-person event.

Keep the audience in mind

Encourage speakers to think about the audience when designing a presentation. If it’s a hybrid event, consider those online. Feedback shows virtual attendees prefer natural, unscripted talks, which feel more like a conversation between two or more speakers.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

The most natural, flowing talks are often the most rehearsed. Rehearsals and pre-event audio-visual testing allow any issues to be ironed out early, giving speakers confidence the technology will work on the day. Make sure speakers know to factor these rehearsals into their preparation timelines. Or, consider pre-recorded videos.

Optimise the structure

Speakers must consider the audience when presenting and think of the audience when structuring the programme itself. People spend a lot of time in front of screens — think about a shorter programme, such as a morning or afternoon, rather than a whole day. Mix up session formats, ensure plenty of well-timed breaks and discourage long presentations. Consider an MC, who is key in creating a sense of continuity in an online event programme, and for a hybrid event.

Partner with an expert

Partnering with an audio-visual provider experienced in the delivery of online events is crucial. For virtual events, the programme delivery is like a TV production — every aspect is cued down to the minute, ensuring the delivery is slick and there are no awkward silences for people watching online.  Hybrid events need seamless coordination between the in-person and the online platform/livestream.