Monthly Archives: April 2014

Conference & Seminar Tips: On-Site Management – Delegates Registration Desk

Delegate Registration area

For a large conference – If delegates need to register on site you will typically need one member of staff per 50 expected guests as it is important to reduce queuing time on the first day. Allow for some extra staff to be unassigned and available to answer any questions.

  • Always run through the registration process with all the staff involved on-site and have regular team meeting to go through the process during the set up and when live so every one knows what is expected of them. Regularly communicate with your staff – sort out any issues before they become a real problem. Remind staff to be welcoming and helpful to the delegates.
  • Make sure that you are in communication with staff who are co-ordinating the transport logistics. If any large groups are arriving by coach make sure there are enough staff on duty. As first impressions are so important it is always best to be prepared to ensure the registration run smoothly.
  • Make sure that you have registration desks divided alphabetically and clearly signed so that delegates can sort themselves before arriving at the desk.
  • Put out roped divides if expecting large numbers of people at one time.
  • Before the event you should have a list of attendees sorted in alphabetical and maybe company order. Delegate badges should be checked and sorted in surname alphabetical order. Lay out the badges facing the conference staff. The bags or any documentation for the delegates should be accessible so they can be easily given to the delegates. Note the names of any delegates you need to give special instructions to or collect information from, such as speakers, VIPS etc.
  • Depending on the size or type of conference you may have a separate area for registering VIP, speakers, exhibition vendors etc. Some conference programmes require that the badges to be of different colours so that specific attendees can quickly be recognised.
  • Have a separate area to deal with misspelt or missing badges so that those waiting to register are not held up, make sure you have a badge maker on site.
  • With large groups try and open the reception at least an hour before the conference starts. Have an area open for networking where coffee and tea is being served – this is often in the exhibition area adjoining the conference.
  • Some conferences open with a pre conference reception in the evening to allow for delegates to register the night before. This can be of benefit by reducing the numbers of delegates registering on the first day.
  • Some conferences may use pre-registration badges with bar codes so that delegates can walk through a defined entrance to conference. Make sure that adequate personnel are on hand to swipe badges and to direct delegates to an area where they can collect their delegate bags.
  • Make sure you keep a list of those who have not arrived in case you need to find out why they have not attended after the event.
  • If the conference is running over several days there may not be so many people to register after the first day. In this case you can make the registration area smaller after the first day depending on the number of delegates still to register.

For a smaller conference –

  • You may be able to have just one or two trestle tables covered with cloth for the registration area. The principal of delegate flow will be the same as above. It is useful to use the venue wall as a back wall and have a table against this for delegate bags or other material to be given out.
  • If you are sharing a venue with other companies use corporate branding, such as a logo or conference name, on a popup banner to indicate where the company conference registration area is. Remember to have good directional signs.

During all the registration process you need to keep the hotel or venue informed of the running order of the programme. They will need to know the main conference staff contacts with their specific duties.

Good communication, and keeping everyone who needs to know informed of what is happening, is paramount.

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Conference and Seminar Tips: On-site Management – Requirements of a Conference Office

Depending on the size of conference you may have a back office specially built and adjoining the registration desk. For smaller conferences you may have a room at the venue specifically hired to be the conference office.

Important things to consider

  • Size of area is dependent on how many staff will be using the office and for what purpose e.g. if it is a small event with just two staff you should have an office with 2 desks and chairs, communication facilities, PC and network connections, printing and photocopying facilities. Optional trestle tables may be used for storage. It is important to keep the area clean and clear of clutter.
  • If you have quite a few people using the conference office make sure they have sufficient work space for their related duties. Suggest that a large meeting table is made available as this can be used for putting material together as well as an area to put and eat food.
  • Remember to have plenty of waste bins as well as a place for coats.
  • Do not allow other staff to use the office as a dumping ground for their bags and coats. Instead direct them to the cloak room.
  • If you are having an office built be aware of noise created by people in the office. Make sure the office is not too noisy whilst working.
  • The wall outside the registration area can be used for branding.
  • If there is the possibility of delegates being able to view the interior of the office from a higher level in the venue make sure you have a gauze or temporary roof over the area.
  • Use racking for storage if required.
  •  Make sure you can lock the conference office.

Conference and Seminar Planning Tip 6E: Banqueting – Food and Drink

The banqueting side of an event is most important as it is often the food quality and quantity that delegates will remember about an event or venue.  This is an important time during the event for informality and attendees being able to network and mingle with other attendees and the company hosting the event.

It is important to liaise with the banqueting manager at the venue in the early planning stages of the event. This enables him to understand your event objectives and type of audience attending, the lengths of event in order to be able to give advise on menu and services to offer.  The catering professional will have an idea of a balanced diet especially if you the delegates are on a 24 hour rate and the event continues for several days, you want to make sure that there is plenty of variety in the food on offer.

When your delegates register you should have a pre-event diet questionnaire where the guest can advise on any allergies or special diet, vegetarian, Halal only food etc…  Knowing your delegates will enable you to discuss menu options best for the group.

Decide on the catering package you require, this will depend on the type of event you are holding  as well as the duration of the event and whether accommodation is included.  If you have the event at a hotel you can chose for either day delegate rate, 24 hour delegate rate if residential or on an itemised basis you will have a choice of food and beverage.  If your event is a one day conference and people are travelling some distance arrival you may wish to organise coffee and tea with pastries or bacon rolls on arrival or during registration.

You need to consider your programme agenda and where best to fit in the coffee break, type of lunch whether a standing fork buffet which is good for networking, sit down buffet or a seated plate service.  Each service will give a different ambience and require different length of time to serve.  You will have an idea of the time allocated for the lunch breaks during the days programme.  Times for breaks need to be flexible as sometimes sessions can over run or the programme changed.  Continuous consultation and working with the venue producing a running order of the event will give the venue a good idea of timings for their banqueting staff preparation and service, if rooms need to have their set up turned around in which breaks.

Booking the right function room for meals and refreshments

  • You may decide to have a private lunch for your group and if this important you will need to make sure that the room size will fit the type of meal you are intending to have.  Seated buffet will require a larger room than standing buffet they will need 0.8sq meter per delegate for a standing buffer and for seated plated food they will need 1 Sq meter per delegate.  Make sure that there are plenty of service stations for the number of guests attending to stop long queues forming.
  • If it is an evening dinner make sure that there is enough room for the cabaret entertainer, dance floor, after dinner speaker, or moveable bar as necessary.
  • Check the table capacities this is important is you are doing seating plans as some banqueting tables can be laid out of 8, 10 or 12 seated guests.
  • Check what the function rooms are being used on either side as a loud disco could ruin a speech.
  • If using outside terrace for pre dinner drinks have a back up plan for inclement weather.

Drinks

Check with the client if alcoholic drinks should be served, as certain religions do not allow alcohol.  Always have plenty of soft drinks available.  It is usually recommended not to serve alcohol during lunch as some delegate might find it difficult to concentrate in the afternoon in the grave yard slot.  Cocktail reception along with soft drinks is quite often used both at the finish to a day conference before leaving or after a break as pre dinner drinks for those events that are 24 hour delegate .

Decide on how much drink you are going to offer per delegate. This may be on a drinks package option on a consumption basis.   If it is a cocktail drink then normally 2 glasses of wine per delegates or equivalent in soft drinks or small bottles of beer is fine for a half an hour drinks reception. Agree with the banqueting manager to let you know if the capacity of drinks ordered is getting near to the end so that you as the event organiser have the option to increase the amount if needs be.  It is also best to make sure when you are dealing with the venue that the  bar staff know that you or a designated person are the only ones authorised to  alter/increase  the allocation of food and beverage once agreed on the contract.  This is to stop anyone else in the company deciding to order more alcohol and suddenly finding the extra charges on the main account.

At dinner the normal rule of thumb is half a bottle of wine per person with water available at the table.  Also establish whether you are going to leave the bottles on the table or have a waiter serve, usually the latter serves less alcohol. As a general rule more white wine that red is drunk at gala dinners usually in a ratio 3:1.  Ask to be able to see the empty bottles used at the end of the evening before signing the drinks bill chit.   Always inform the venue as to whether you are going to have digestives served whether these are charged to the main account or whether guest will be paying for this themselves.

After dinner bar service, decide if this is going to be a cash bar or open bar, if the latter establish a limit to the spend, and have in place an agreed specific policy for overspend authorisation

Reference reading: 

John G Fisher – How to run a Successful Conference

Conference & Seminar Planning Tip 6D: Liaison with the Venue and Conference room set up

Liaison with the Conference or Seminar venue

We have already discusses in Tips part 5 the topic “Finding the right venue”, the importance of choosing the right the meeting space for your event and what needs to consider. In this section we will discuss what you need to plan for in the main meeting room.

It is important to make sure that the meeting room is large enough for the capacity of expected audience, the production area required for staging and the audio visual equipment (AV) and control. This should already have been discussed and verified with the venue before signing the contract.

  • Production Requirements – you need to consider the space that you will need for the stage and presentation, the projection AV and power outlets, and where to place the screen and top table in relation to the room orientation and entrance doors – you need to minimize disruption from possible late comers. Certain conference rooms already have inbuilt stage, screen etc, which makes the room setup easier to plan.
    • For front projection you need to allow the front row to be at least no closer than twice the screen height, and the bottom of the screen should be no lower than 1.2 meter from the ground. Allow for optimum viewing angles and if necessary in a large room you may require two screens or large LCD projectors for those seated at an angle and who are not looking directly at the screen. If using back projection you may require one third the length of the room to project a clear rear image. A minimum of 3 meter ceiling height is required for a clear image to be projected above the audience head.
    • It is important for the production company that is working with you to do their own site visit to the venue to clarify all the technical logistical issues. These may include staging position, power capacity, main power points, ambient lighting switches, where best to run cables, and where to put translation booths if required. If possible it is always advisable to have the meeting room on the ground floor room with easy access for the crew to unload equipment for set up and de-rig.

Conference Room lay out

How you lay out the conference room depends on the type of meeting as well as the number of people attending and the room’s capacity. Check the room’s exact measurements carefully with hotel floor plan as the hotel estimation of capacity audience may be different to your event’s requirement.

There are several different layouts commonly used that you can consider for your meeting depending on its type:

  • Classroom – useful for workshop type environment where delegates face the screen behind rows of desks usually with a central aisle for access.
  • Theatre – front facing rows no desks, some specific rooms will have racked or auditorium seating, others may have tablets for writing that can fold down for delegates to use. This setting is useful for presentations and you are more restricted on space.
  • Cabaret or Half Moon – where delegates sit on half table facing towards the screen and speaker. This is a good layout to use for training classes where you need a bit of collaboration between delegates. If the room is larger than anticipated attendees the cabaret style tends to take up more space than theatre seating.
  • Hollow Square – seating with delegates facing each other on 4 sides of a square this is good for meetings where delegates will be having discussions with each other and need to see all the participants.
  •  U-shape or Open Square – where delegates sit on three sides of the square normally with the screen of presenter in the open side. This is good for workshops and training sessions where there is presentation but where delegates also need to be able to discuss topics.
  • Boardroom – used for the smaller meeting groups where seating is around a long table with one or two people at either end.

Hotels will have an indication of the room capacity for your type of set up, however it is always best to check and allowed for plenty of space for people to move around. You know your programme: you might need extra space at the side depending on the activities planned and depending on whether refreshments or lunch are going to be served in the meeting room.

You need to be prepared if more people register to attend the meeting and you need to make adjustments to the staging to make more room: it is important to discuss these possibilities with your production company and to have layout of the floor plan to hand.

During all the planning of the conference or seminar you need to keep the hotel informed of the running order of the programme and what facilities and services are required from the hotel or what you will be using from outside suppliers.