What’s the best way for event planners to discover inspiration for their events? By attending events!

Sched regularly attends events to uncover the latest and greatest event planning practices and share our findings with our community of event planners. 

In November 2022, we attended the Pendomonium EMEA 2022 conference in London. Like any conference we attend, we found a lot to love and a few things that could have been done better. Here are Sched’s takeaways for event planners. 

What contributed to the event’s success?

Targeted session content 

The conference did a good job of developing targeted event session content for their intended audience: existing and potential customers. More than just a clinical approach to knowledge transfer, this conference did a good job of humanizing the enterprise while also showcasing their software. 

The event schedule also featured topics that were not necessarily software specific but discussed broader topics that were relevant and interesting to the target market. For example, many sessions discussed product-led growth and how to capitalize on current industry trends.

Topical industry topics 

The event content felt fresh as it included intentionally timely subjects that were relevant to the conference’s attendees. For example, some discussions touched on controversies such as Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter, the Tech Industry Firings, Trolls, etc. 

Diverse speaker lineup  

There was a diverse range of voices included in the event program. Men, women, black, white, Indian, and Asian voices delivered the content and presentations. It was still skewed towards white males though, which heavily reflected the audience demographic.

How could the attendee experience have been improved?

Session formats that promote interaction

While the topics were well-crafted, the session formats could have been improved to better engage attendees. For example, the sessions could have included small breakouts so attendees could collaborate and discuss ideas. To increase the value of your event, design your event strategy with facilitated participant interaction in mind. 

Participants would also have benefited from having more opportunities to ask questions and interact with the presenters. This could have been achieved by: 

  • Dedicating more time to a Q&A section.
  • Requesting (pre-submitted) questions via Social Media (not everyone likes to talk in a big room with hundreds of people).
  • Coaching speakers to engage with attendees during their sessions.  

Event schedules built with attendee comfort in mind

The event agenda could have been optimized to include built-in breaks. Some speakers went over time, and scheduled breaks may have encouraged better timekeeping. Nothing reduces engagement like a caffeine-deprived attendee fantasizing about using the bathroom. Attendees don’t want wall-to-wall schedules and prefer built-in breaks.

Fabricated networking opportunities

Networking opportunities were limited; some event planning choices even actively discouraged attendee interaction. For example, the cocktail hour featured an excessively loud DJ and live music, which hindered conversation. While networking can happen spontaneously, the best events design networking opportunities by facilitating interactions.

While networking was encouraged, no active steps were taken to nudge participants in the right direction. Some simple suggestions that event planners could implement include:

  • Putting signs on tables that indicate a specific topic or interest point for attendees to gather around and discuss. 
  • Including pertinent communication information on conference name tags such as social media handles. 
  • Inspiring attendees to engage with virtual communities before the event by running polls, creating topic-matchmaking posts, and posting quizzes about the event. 
  • Using large round tables for dining to facilitate networking.

Better prepared speakers

The speakers were somewhat prepared, but there was room for improvement. Many presentations included too much text, graphs and charts. While these would have been great for handouts, post-event materials were not provided. Research says that event attendees crave post-event content

All speakers benefit from rehearsal and coaching prior to the event. Despite being extremely knowledgeable on their subject, the presentations were marred by poor presentation skills. Speakers that read off a prompter and don’t speak to their audience inhibit their ability to connect with the audience and dilute the content. Events are performance art and the smartest people don’t necessarily possess the communication skills they need.

In today’s world of professional streaming media, audiences have high standards for presenters. Requiring a pre-session rehearsal with an event planner is a great way to refine presentations before they reach their audience.

Give your speakers control 

During his presentation, one speaker remarked that the slides were not the latest version he sent the organizing team. Technical hiccups could have been avoided by: 

What event swag did attendees receive?

Swag that went home

  • Branded canvas tote bag
  • Umbrella
  • Hot chocolate lollipop (although it magically disappeared during the event…) 

Swag went in the trash

  • Stickers
  • Flyers

An old advertising adage suggests that half of all advertising is wasted, but it can be difficult to figure out which half. In the world of events, it’s easy to determine which event giveaways or swag are wasted by looking in the trash cans. 

Generally, good swag is stuff that lives beyond the event. For example, when used, a branded pen can remind people of the event they attended. 

How accessible was the venue?

Pendomonium EMEA 2022 was conveniently hosted at Kings Place. Just a 5-minute walk from one of London’s largest train stations, the venue’s proximity to major transport links made it easy for attendees to find the event. The event planners also used plenty of signage outside the venue to direct attendees. 

The venue itself was easy to navigate. Pendomonium EMEA 2022 consisted of two rooms and a single conference track. The first room was for registration, meals, and entertainment. The other room was used for the speakers. 

How sustainable was the event?

Some mindful efforts were made to decrease the ecological impact of the event. For example:

  • Food was served on compostable plates.
  • Name badges doubled up as the event schedule to reduce printing.

Printing could have been cut entirely by using an event scheduling software tool, though. The swag also included printed materials that could have been replaced with sustainable options.  

Key event planning takeaways from Pendomonium EMEA 2022

  • Craft topical and attendee-targeted event content
  • Select an accessible venue that’s close to public transport hubs.
  • Give functional, branded swag that attendees actually want to use (or eat!). 
  • Rethink your session formats so that you promote interaction.
  • Include breaks in your event schedule to increase attendee comfort and engagement.
  • Actively create networking scenarios for attendees and speakers. 
  • Provide post-event content. 
  • Prepare your speakers with coaching and pre-event check ins. 
  • Ensure your speaker selection is diverse to provide richer content. 
  • Make sustainable event planning choices. 
  • Avoid technical hiccups with rehearsals and event management software.