Tackling a continuing education conference is no easy feat. It requires months of planning, preparation, and resources to pull it off successfully. But how do you lead your conference management team to success? We are here to help answer that exact question for you. Below you will find a comprehensive breakdown of everything you need to know before launching your continuing education conference.
What is a continuing education conference?
As you may know, a conference is a formal gathering of people to learn and engage about a topic of shared interest. A continuing education conference is similar in concept, except that it adds educational requirements to its core. These educational requirements can be organization or association-based, state or board-governed, or simply refresher courses.
These conferences come in varying formats, from in-person, virtual to hybrid style events. Each association is different, so be sure to discern which format will best serve your audience. In-person events are perfect for smaller associations, subjects that require hands-on training, or associations that are locally based. Virtual events are well suited for associations with widespread audiences or for educational topics that do not require hands-on training. Hybrid events offer a “best of both worlds” approach that can be helpful in instances where you have in-person attendees but also want to extend the experience to those who cannot travel. Consequently, hybrid events have been an especially helpful format for addressing post-pandemic concerns.
What is conference management?
Conference management is the way in which your team organizes, assembles, and tracks the goals and outcomes of the event. Conference management comes in many different shapes and sizes depending on your association’s needs. For example, your management team can consist of in-house members, contracted partners or vendors, or even outside management.
What does a conference management team look like?
Managers and team leads can make or break your team’s ability to thrive. Selecting the right management requires a keen understanding of your event’s needs. Would it be helpful to employ management that also has industry or association-specific backgrounds that would facilitate the event? Taking the time to evaluate these qualities will ensure your event can run smoothly and effortlessly.
Also consider any specialized training that might be necessary leading up to your conference. Your event staff must know any and all expectations of their job functions. In addition to specific backgrounds or training, a well-organized team engages in open communication. Open communication means that both parties should feel comfortable expressing needs, creating solutions, expressing concerns, and so forth. This two-way communication leads to staff feeling more valued and motivated, which will in turn lead to better results for your event.
In short, a conference management team should look like a systemized group of individuals working towards your conference’s success. This will be accomplished through the application of their strengths, open communication, and the tools necessary to execute their roles.
What is conference management software?
Event technology is a quintessential tool for optimizing your conference and streamlining future or continuing events. The goal of conference management software is to streamline the planning, promoting, and hosting of your event. This includes areas like logistics, sponsor management, content creation, credit issuance, and more. Having the right event technology can play a significant role in your event management and streamline your administrative tasks.
What can conference management software do for your CE (Continuing Education) needs?
The right conference management software can turn your CE event from a headache of manual planning processes to a sleek, hassle-free experience. Your conference management software should offer these types of features for continuing education:
- CE management
- Credit claiming
- Certificate statement capabilities
- Accreditation collection
- Board or license issuance reporting
- Personalized user portals
- Joint accreditation management
These features will allow your organization to properly track each attendees’ progress, completion, and scores during the conference. Moreover, you can track these items throughout the year via automated reports and analytics features.
What else can conference management software do?
Your software should be able to streamline administrative tasks, optimize data and reporting, and enhance the overall experience of your conference for attendees. In addition to the CE capabilities listed above, conference management platforms should also include:
- Speaker and session management
- Content creation
- Multiple conference/event support
- Function requests
- Space diary
- Staff time grid
- Financial management
- Budget and expense tracking
- Staff management
- Report builder
- Vendor center
These are just a few key features that conference management software can provide. If your current software platform lacks these capabilities, it may be time to think about upgrading your technology.
What should attendees expect from a CE conference?
Attendees should expect, at the very least, to satisfy the necessary educational requirements outlined by the conference. Moving beyond that bare minimum, attendees should expect to encounter their learning materials in a constructive and engaging manner. Furthermore, attendees should expect a streamlined experience that provides resources throughout the conference and keeps those materials available beyond the close of the event.
Your attendees’ experience of the conference should be a top priority for your organization. Be sure you are keeping their perspective in mind when planning each aspect of the event. Other areas to consider for your attendees’ experience include:
- Networking opportunities
- Encourage peer and colleague networking to add more value to your events.
- Further course options
- There is always more learning to be done! Be sure to offer information on where additional courses or resources may be found.
- Career development information
- The ultimate goal of CE is to help advance professional development. Provide industry-specific career information resources for attendees.
- Learning from experts in the field
- Carefully select speakers for your event to ensure they are fully vetted and qualified to be leading course materials.
What are some best practices for a CE conference in 2022?
Everything from new technologies, industry trends, and current events can affect the way the events industry operates as well as what attendees expect to experience. Here are some examples of the best practices to include in your next continuing education conference based on today’s current landscape.
If your conference will be held in an in-person or hybrid format, keep your attendees’ safety and comfort a priority. Floor plans should include social distancing measures and hand sanitation stations should be available throughout the venue.
If your budget allows, offer tests and masks to those who request them. Although the CDC may have downgraded masking standards, large gatherings indoors still present concerns to some attendees. Keep your attendance numbers up by offering these precautions
Lastly, develop a COVID contingency plan in place that is communicated amongst all conference staff. This proactive move will ensure that proper procedures are followed in the event of a positive case. As a result, it will prevent any confusion or panic that would otherwise distract from the event.
Boost engagement through interactive course materials
Ensure the course content is presented in a way that boosts engagement and retention levels. Include interactive content, videos, animations, or other digital formats to keep attendees involved.
Utilizing conference management software not only enhances administrative tasks; it also makes an impression on attendees. Find a software solution that offers easy content creation including templates, customizable options, and an experienced support team to help you along the way.
Streamline event logistics
Streamline your event timeline, vendor lists, room specs, and more. Leverage your c to execute seamless events and eliminate manual organization. Work smarter with solutions for multiple conference/event support, function requests, financial management, staff management and more.
Eliminate attendee stress by offering simple registration built into your user platform. Take this a step further by also offering fast and safe event check-in with on demand badge printing. This technology speeds the check-in process and eliminates long lines.
Consider using a mobile event app that allows attendees to network, manage their agendas and engage with content through their smartphone.
AV production is another logistical need that can be easily solved by the right management system. Make sure you can be assisted by a team of experts to guide you in the best AV practices for your specific conference needs.
Craft a narrative into your conference
Storytelling is a proven strategy for improving learner engagement. Remember learner engagement is the measure of whether or not someone has been given sufficient motivation to fully invest themselves in learning. True “investment” is mirroring a learner’s interaction and cooperation with co-learners and instructors.
Get creative with how the content is delivered. Imagine taking your attendees on an educational journey rather than a series of dull pit stops for information. This allows attendees to take in information in a more dynamic manner that often leads to higher retention rates.
When managing your speakers and their session materials, consider using learner personas to utilize during instruction. Learner personas are hypothetical student examples with highly specific backgrounds that match a major demographic of your industry. This allows your audience to connect more deeply with any given examples during speaker sessions.
The key to a successful conference is building on the success of the last one. Measure your event performance to make better-informed decisions for future events. Do this with analytics like attendee tracking, which tracks session attendance and engagement throughout the conference. If you’re using a mobile app or other event software, take advantage of all the digital touchpoints that provide analytical insights.
Of course, you’ll want to gain your attendees’ perspectives as well. In addition to all the digital insights you might have access to, be sure to survey your attendees (and staff and vendors as well) after the conference. These post-event surveys aim to capture the genuine experiences and opinions of your guests so you can plan accordingly in the future.
Your sponsors have a vested interest in the quality of your continuing education conference. A more engaged audience directly translates to higher leads. Make sure you offer your sponsors as much data as possible to increase the value in your partnership. It is a terrific way to secure repeat sponsorships.
Conference management software can cover areas like exhibitor management and lead retrieval, both of which add high value for your sponsors. Lead retrieval is a way to gather, save, and access key contact information from interested prospects. Exhibitor management allows you to organize registration, payment, participation, and assets of event exhibitors or other stakeholders.
Now that you have these resources and best practice tips, you can confidently venture forward with planning your continuing education conference. The demands of producing a CE conference are high, but when you’re equipped with the right tools, you can rest assured that your event will be a success.
For more help and resources to achieve a highly successful event, be sure to check out Attendee Interactive’s conference management and continuing education capabilities, all-in-one centralized platform.