Ever been to a conference or retreat that seemed to drag on forever? Where you spent way too much time sitting in a chair listening to a speaker drone on and on and not enough time interacting with other participants? Where you thought one part of the schedule was too long and another too short? I know I have…and it drives me crazy!
Much of the success of an event has to do with the schedule. A well balanced schedule helps to ensure your attendees stay alert and engaged, while a poorly scheduled event will lead to one or more of the examples noted above. Definitely not what you want to have happen! To help ensure a well balanced event, here are 3 principles to keep in mind when creating the schedule:
- Schedule ample breaks – Bathroom breaks. Food breaks. Stretch your arms breaks. Your guests need these so they can stay focused. Constantly sitting, with minimum breaks, will lead to attendees who are tired, bored, and restless. Circumstances that make it very difficult to pay attention and learn. I discovered early in my training career that the mind can only absorb what the rear end can endure. Something you should always remember!
- Schedule ample networking time - In between speakers and/or activities, give your attendees networking time to build relationships. This networking time can include some icebreakers, guided questions, or just be free time. I’ve always found that at least half the benefit I get from attending a conference or retreat comes from the discussions I have outside the meeting room. Sometimes people go to conferences just to build new relationships. Be sure to give them plenty of opportunities.
- Don’t start too early or end too late. - Every year the world and technology and life get bigger, our attention spans get smaller. Starting a conference at 8am and ending it at 9pm, with each speaker speaking for 90 minutes, isn’t appealing to most people (unless a lot of breaks and networking time are scheduled in!). Keep things to the point and don’t jam pack the schedule; leaving a little breathing room will calm everyone down, including you.
What other scheduling tips have worked for you? Please share below.