At Microsoft’s 2016 Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, Angela King, senior event marketing manager at Microsoft, rolled out a new program that all meeting planners should note.
Experienced delegates knew their way around and could attend break-outs and presentations without missing the networking opportunities that abound at the conference. Ms. King realized, however, that first-time attendees (who make up 40% of the delegates) were at a decided disadvantage. The vast conference offered so many learning opportunities that new attendees were often overwhelmed and unable to take advantage of all the conference had to offer. She decided to try to remedy that.
- Ms. King created a panel that new attendees could attend before the conference kicked- off to review best practices in time management at the conference in order to get the most value out of the education being offered.
- “We also added a post-event workshop to help first-time attendees make the most of what they learned by walking them through what they should do next with the knowledge they acquired,” Ms. King said.
- Finally, King added a staffed “help desk” on site where first-time attendees could ask immediate questions or get directions and guidance.
When I read about Ms. King’s innovations at the Microsoft conference, I immediately thought of the meeting planners responsible for new product introductions, trainings, continuing medical education, and pharmaceutical company product updates. The assistance she offered first-time Microsoft attendees would be well received by first-time attendees at technical conferences and trainings of all types. Meeting planners might consider the following meeting planning tips for conferences and workshops:
- Begin by asking yourself what percentage of the attendees coming to your training or product introduction are first-timers.
- Recognize the complexity of the technical information about to be communicated and design a primer meeting for first-timers before the training kicks off.
- Staff a separate “help desk” at the training with product and technical experts who can act as real-time tutors for first-time attendees.
- Hold a post-training refresher meeting for first-timers to review the technical information covered at the main conference.
Most companies evaluate trainings and product introductions on the basis of how well the product information was communicated and how much attendees learned. In the past, trainers have rarely distinguished between experienced and inexperienced attendees. Everyone was left to fend for themselves and most newcomers and junior associates subsequently tested below the curve. I believe Ms. King’s innovations would correct this deficiency in all types of trainings and give all first-timers the assistance they require. What’s more, the effectiveness quotient at all technical trainings and product introductions will soar.