Most of us spent a lot of our work (and out of work) hours attending events such as conferences, competitions, meet-ups and networking events. When an event goes well you are blessed with relevant speakers, thought-provoking presentations, tasty food and drink and some fantastic networking. But it’s when events go wrong that people are most vocal. Here’s some of the most common things people complain about during events and how to avoid them:

Can’t find the organisers

I went to a meet and greet session this week at a startup incubator. I was chatting with a number of VC’s who wanted to meet the people behind the incubator, the only problem was, we had no idea who they were! We asked a few people and they didn’t know either. The only way I was able to identify a couple of the program’s participants was that they were wearing the incubator’s brand t-shirts.

  • Make sure you have plenty of staff on hand to help greet attendees and direct people where to go. These greeters can help answer questions and make the attendees feel welcome.
  • People would much rather talk to a person affiliated with the conference than just an employee of the venue who has no idea what is going on.
  • Tech is not a sector adverse to branding so take advantage of it. Get people in matching t-shirts or name badges or something obvious.
  • If you have a few staff on hand, encourage them to introduce themselves to people or make introductions to others, it’s a practice that is always welcomed.

People are left floundering

Attending a lot of international events, I get interesting insights into the pain points of event management. Last week I was in Lviv and I went to a side event at a conference at a local university. All was well until we want to leave-it’s hard to book an uber when you don’t know where the pickup point is (Universities are big places) and the taxi apps were difficult to convert from Ukrainisch to English. Luckily we were able to get some assistance from a local but it was a stressful half hour!

A good test of the success of an event is to ask someone who has attended not knowing anyone or without visiting the venue previously. Ask them for their feedback:

  • Was it easy to find the event (were there even signs?)
  • Were they welcomed upon entry?
  • Did they meet anyone interesting?
  • At the end of the event, did someone offer directions/instructions for transport-(especially important if transport ends early)?

No one has any idea what is going on

There’s nothing worse than going to an event where people are herded around like sheep and told to sit down to wait and have no idea what is going on.  I usually end up chatting to people around me or reading my kindle if it’s too early for polite conversation.

  • Have an agenda. You can even post it on the Eventbrite ticketing.
  • If you are using volunteers are greeters upon entry, make sure they are clear of the schedule as people will be asking them.
  • Either factor in networking over coffee/drinks at the start of the event or start on time, people get pissed off having to wait for the latecomers-it implies that their time is more valuable than everyone else.
  • Don’t run overtime, people will be leaving while presenters are still speaking.

Food and drink are a miss

Ever been to an event where the food runs out in the first half hour or the only drinks on offer are some god awful energy drinks and a few cases of cheap beer? It’s not fun.

  • If you can’t afford food and drinks, hold your event at a bar or hire food trucks. Be clear if food and drink are covered as part of ticketing or needs to be bought. Advise where the nearest cash machine is located- and make sure it works, especially if the event is in the middle of nowhere.
  • Putting £200 on the bar means a whole bunch of pissed people who bought double g&ts and the rest of attendees pissed off because they couldn’t get a free drink. Use drink tokens instead.
  • There will always be vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free people in attendance. Request this information upon booking and keep their food separate to the rest-or other people will eat it.
  • Clearly label food and drink in the language of the event (important outside the UK as the servers may not speak English).
  • Have multiple serving points of food/drink over several tables around the room to avoid a huge line snaking the room.

The tech doesn’t work

There’s nothing quite putting a dampener on the evening like the powerpoint demo that doesn’t work and the audience spends 10 minutes watching the presenter awkwardly shuffling their feet or trying to overcompensate by talking really fast, trying to remember what was on the slides.

  • Get presentations emailed to the organisers before the event so you don’t have to faff around with changing laptops on a tiny lectern.
  • Have a backup plan for when the wifi goes down-you know it will.
  • If your event is a conference, print out the agenda (especially if it has changed from what was advertised on the website).
  • Accept that the event app is probably crap and thus people won’t use it.
  • Test the slide clicker and make sure the microphones work.

Your afterparty is just meh

It’s inevitable that after a day of conferencing, people will want to let loose in their own way. Most afterparties come across as an afterthought or try too hard

  • Think about time and distance. That laser show with a DJ in an old abattoir might sound like a great idea, but be less appealing if you having to take three buses to get there from the conference venue.
  •  Not everyone wants to hang out in a nightclub. Offer a list of great restaurants/bars for those who prefer sitting down and being able to hold a conversation.
  • A gap between the end of the conference day and the after event acts as a disincentive to many who’ll opt for drinks and dinner closer to where they are staying rather than attend your party.
  • If the following day involves a 9 am start and the party the night before finishes at 4 am, you’re going to have a lot of empty seats when the keynote speakers are scheduled. Not a good look.

Attendees don’t make an effort

I like to think that the success of an event is in part, the responsibility of everyone. We can all play a part of contributing to this:

  • Be encouraging of presenters, especially when it’s obvious they aren’t accustomed to public speaking.
  • Ask actual questions rather than making comments to show off how clever you think you are.
  • Don’t only talk to people you know, make an effort to move outside your comfort zone.
  • Don’t treat the venue like you’re at home-don’t drop food on the floor and leave a mess when bins are accessible.
  • Appreciate that conference organisers will include volunteers who are working hard to create an event for you, for nothing. Give thanks for this.

 Been to a particularly memorable event lately? Tell us about it in the comments below or join us on facebook or twitter to discuss.