There is no doubt that most of the readers of this blog will have attended a huge variety of events at all stages of their lives. These will of course span a huge variety of formats and interests – from hobbies through to professional conferences. It doesn’t matter how varied your experience of events is; there will be a few key things that stuck with you from each one, whether they be good or bad.

Clearly, the aim is to be remembered for all the right reasons. As a show organiser, you will never please everyone, yet the vast majority of needs will be able to be met with relative ease. The devil really is in the detail. Some details are large and obvious, while others are smaller and barely noticeable.

It’s a bit like baking a cake – they all use basically the same foundation ingredients, just in different ways. Each result is unique with its own flavour but all are delicious. If you forget an ingredient the results will become either “just average” or a catastrophic flop. As consumers, do we all like each type and flavour of cake? No, of course, we don’t – but we know which flavours, sizes and formats work for our needs at any given time.

This blog will explore the top 10 of these key ingredients to enable you to develop your best event recipe yet.

Event format

Understanding what your audience wants or is best suited to your event concept is key. From the largest national exhibition venues down to a small, focused technical conference held in a hotel-based space, ensuring that your audience will be in tune with your plans is vital to getting good attendance figures.

In order to decide this, there are many factors to consider such as the size of your target market (for exhibitors, speakers and attendees alike), what your audience tends to prefer and what you want attendees to gain from the event.

For any technical B2B event for example, a strong technical agenda is key. This audience type is among the most time-poor and will not easily be tempted away from their desks. By ensuring the day is as educational and technical as possible, you will give yourself the best chance of attracting a good-sized crowd.


The agenda is absolutely key. Each slot should be filled by an expert in their particular field who can talk about their topic enthusiastically and with good background knowledge for responding to questions. This is the foundation of a good event. Without an interesting and varied agenda, delegates are likely to become disengaged and start to drift away after lunch.

It should also be noted that unless you have very good reason to run an extended day, the agenda times should run from around 9.30am to 4.30pm. This is to facilitate easy travel and also to avoid over-loading your delegates with too much information. There is only so much a human brain can take on board in one day.

Running on time is also greatly appreciated. By making use of an MC or host in both the exhibition and conference rooms will keep the flow of the day on time and stress-free for those who have trains to catch or bedtime stories to read to their young children.

Content is king

Minimal sales pitches are vital. It does not matter what your subject focus is for this point – no-one wants to feel like they have been bombarded by a gang of double-glazing sales hounds all day. Make it a selling point of your event that there will be minimal sales pitches in the conference, but give your speakers the chance to back their talks up with an exhibition space. This is where they can sell to their hearts content!

The content of the exhibition is also important. For larger events, this becomes about arranging zones of similar exhibitors together, whilst for a smaller, table-top style exhibition the focus needs to be on a balanced profile of exhibitors. Obviously, the majority of the exhibitors will also be speakers, but inviting other exhibitors to add variety to the day will encourage relevant networking and facilitate those all-important lead-generation-type conversations.

Keynote speakers

The opening and closing keynote talks are the most powerful slots you have available, so allocate them wisely! For example, opening with an industry-leading personality will encourage your attendees to arrive on time and by closing with a different industry figure it becomes far more likely that the majority of your delegates will stay all day.


Do not scrimp on the food. I cannot emphasise that enough. From the minute delegates arrive, ensure they have access to a steady supply of drinks, and snacks plus a really good lunch. How often have you attended somewhere and looked at the beige food on offer and sighed to yourself…? Hot breakfast sandwiches, pastries at morning break, a decent lunch, cake in the afternoon… I can guarantee you are either smiling at reading that list or at least thinking “wow that does sound good”. Obviously, work to your budget but think outside the (lunch) box.

It is also of utmost importance to be aware of allergies and dietary requirements. When your delegates register gather any dietary information required. Whatever the reason for someone having a specific need, make sure you cater for it. Discuss those options with as much – if not more – detail and care as the main menu. It could literally be a case of life and death.

If you have ever spent time with anyone who needs to be on a restricted diet you will know how disheartening they find it when everyone else in the room is tucking into a sumptuous spread, and you have something really minimal which looks like an afterthought.

Location, location, location

It is also considered good practice to chose venues that are not too far from major transport links. Don’t choose somewhere that is impossible to reach by public transport, and equally don’t add an extra hour of travel down winding country lanes without very good reason. Convenience and minimal logistical effort for all parties will ensure everyone arrives smiling rather than stressed.


Who doesn’t love a freebie? By allowing each exhibitor to place a few good quality items in a goody bag which is distributed at the end of the day, not only do delegates have another reason to stay to the end, but those brands get taken straight back to the desks of those potential new customers. Encourage items that are more exciting than a pen. Note pads, car window scrapers, frisbees, travel mugs, china mugs, mouse mats… the possibilities really are endless. A useful giveaway will be kept.

If the bag also contains some literature that is fine, but balance that by providing the conference content on a memory stick – preferably branded with your event details.

If the next date for your event has been set, include a save the date postcard and include an Outlook and Google calendar file on the same memory stick as the conference content as a reminder to come back next year…

Parking and accessibility

Free parking is always welcome. Be aware of disabled access in case anyone requires it and be able to communicate that clearly ahead of the event if asked. With the ever-increasing numbers of electric vehicles, it is also important to find a venue that provides charge points.

For exhibitors who need to set up displays, ensure that they have an easy load in and out and arrange extended access hours for them, preferably the evening before.


Make sure everyone knows what is happening, when it is happening and how it will happen. This must remain a top priority from the moment you start planning. Give your exhibitors, speakers and registered delegates regular updates. For those submitting papers, content and other information, ensure they have clear and realistic deadlines.

Delegates will ask the daftest questions. Communicating every last detail regularly will hopefully minimise the number of questions asked, but it won’t get rid of them completely. Equally, building that rapport with your delegates and contributors is absolutely key to creating the right atmosphere.


It goes without saying that the attention to detail must filter down to the lowest level. Neatly produced name badges, clear and well-presented delegate information, agendas displayed in prominent places throughout the venue, a tidy exhibition room when delegates arrive and many other tiny details will add up to a successful day. Thoughtful touches such as a bottle of water on each chair in the conference room, a pack of branded sweets after the last break or simply checking in with any delegates who need any kind of assistance at any time makes all the difference. These are the final tiny ingredients that will ensure your event rises to the occasion. To return to the baking analogy – those small ingredients such as baking powder prevent anyone from feeling deflated.

Asking delegates to attend an event, whether online or in person, requires them to sacrifice one of their most precious commodities: their time. This investment must be proved to be worthwhile – particularly if your goal is to encourage them to re-book for other events in the future.

By respecting that investment made by every person attending, no matter how large or small their role, you will ensure everyone feels appreciated and welcomed – and that is the icing on the cake.