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Hosting a Successful Conference Dinner

By Adrian Parrott, Technical Director of Delegant.

I’ve had the absolute pleasure over the last few years to host an increasing number of conference dinners at the annual conferences of many of the membership associations we manage at Delegant. I am often asked what the key factors are I consider when hosting such events to make them both successful and memorable. Here are my top 5 considerations:

  1. Know the audience, know the people and know why they are there

This is the key factor. “Reading the room” is fine as a guide to how it is going on the night, but that doesn’t allow you to structure the evening and content. Knowing the profile of the attendees, knowing what they do as a job, and knowing who is in the room, allows me to set the right tone and bring in the correct level of formalities. Because we manage the events at which I host the dinner, I have the benefit of having spent a day or two with the attendees. I get to see old faces, got to know new people, visit the exhibition stands, and pick up a lot of “material” that can be used during the Conference Dinner. 

  1. Structure vs Spontaneity 

I have an outline of what makes a successful evening. I’m not there to do a stand-up routine or an after dinner talk, it isn’t about me, instead it is about facilitating a seamless evening. It isn’t scripted, it isn’t timed to the second, but there is a schedule for the evening. However, sometimes the schedule goes out of the window if something happens, and we react to spontaneity. 

  1. Surprise

I love surprising an audience. To pull off a surprise takes a lot of planning at big events. My two favourites were singing waiters at an event in Wales, and a bagpiper at an event in Scotland. Sometimes it takes months to choreograph a surprise such as these, as in some cases it comes down to split second timing. 

  1. Segue 

With large conference dinners, the difference in time between the table served first finishing and the table served last finishing can be a fair few minutes. Most of the role of hosting occurs after dinner has finished. At this point, there is always the chance that some people will move away from their table and maybe head to the bar which may be outside of the main room. This is when it is important to make the evening flow with effective segues between parts of the evening, so it is seamless.

  1. Props

I’m always on the lookout for something visual that can be used in the evening. It is even better if this is from the event itself. I’ve been known to use giveaways from exhibition stands (woolly hat, sunglasses), I’ve walked on stage with a giant teddy bear, I’ve had inflatable trophies, it doesn’t matter what it is, but props can have numerous benefits and maybe some of these are completely unexpected.

Hosting the conference dinners is often the highlight of an event for me. The next morning it is back to organising the event, but that is so rewarding when you interact with the people who were the audience last night. 

Please contact us today to discuss how Delegant can help you deliver your event.

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