Company Director Denise Broeren has been in conference management for more than 15 years. Building professional relationships is her favourite part of being a PCO and she loves getting her teeth into the adventure of a new conference. She shares her tips and advice here on how to deliver a successful conference and tell us how technology has changed the conference landscape.
Hi Denise, as the Company Director and Conference Manager at Think Business Events what are you responsible for?
I see my primary responsibility as creating and nurturing client relationships. It’s a process of managing client visions of what they want out of their conference and delivering a successful working conference while building a strong ongoing partnership.
What do you consider the most important aspect when managing relationships and conferences?
For relationship success it’s about building trust and open communication. It’s really important to us we become trusted partners known to have their client’s best interests in mind in everything we do for their conference.
For conference success it’s about identifying what is most important to the client. This involves identifying the objectives of the conference so we can best plan how to work with the committee to achieve their goals.
What are client’s biggest fears when they find themselves responsible for a conference?
The unknown! How many people will come? Will the budget stretch to cover costs? Will there be a surplus?
Our forte is our experience. We know how to make it work and bring all the ideas together to deliver a successful conference. We aim to build confidence in the process through achieving milestones along the way that’ll point to ultimate positive outcomes.
What is the biggest mistake most conference committees make?
Not allowing enough time.
It takes time to prepare and plan a successful conference. Booking a venue and organising the AV is not what takes the time, but rather human nature. It takes time for people to become aware of a conference, to think about submitting a paper, to get around to registering before their diary becomes too full.
Getting the word out there about your conference, reaching your audience and convincing them to participate has to be done in a timely, well planned and engaging process.
Many of your clients often say both you and Kim both have a remarkable ability to stay calm under pressure. What’s the secret?
We’ve both been taught there is always a solution for every problem. We constantly work under that premise, so when a curly one presents itself, we know we can find a solution that’ll minimise any issues.
But most importantly we plan to not fail. You don’t spend 6 months building a house to find the walls don’t support the ceiling! We work on building a solid foundation, so that any issues that do occur will have minimal impact.
It’s also reassuring we work with trusted suppliers, so when we do need to pull a rabbit out of a hat, we have the means to do so.
What do you love most about conference management?
The dynamic nature of it. Every client and every conference is different.
I love the challenge and change of it. Even for clients for whom we’ve been working with for ten plus years – every year we look together at what we can do better, streamlining, introducing new technology, new ideas, responding to delegate feedback.
Recently at an initial meeting for a regular clients conference, we brainstormed the ‘desired outcomes’ for the conference, and one of them was implementing at least two new innovations for the program. What a fun thing to get your teeth into – to get the mind exploring. Every conference is an adventure.
What would you say has been the biggest change in the industry?
Introduction of technology. I was in the industry when abstracts used to be submitted via fax, so you can image the arduous process of documenting, circulating hard copies to reviewers etc. Everything is so much more streamlined these days. Also technology is moving so fast, there are many interesting ways to get delegate connecting and interacting more than ever.
What would be your top tip to someone organising a conference for the first time?
Appoint a PCO! You need someone to guide you through all the challenges, but also to show you ways to bring your conference alive with ideas, innovation and technology. It can be such an exhilarating ride to organise and host a conference, as long as you have the right people riding with you.
And lastly, what do you do when you are not conferencing?
Trekking by night. It’s my favourite thing. Once a week, rain hail or shine, heading out into the bush by night to trek the tracks and leave the worries of the day behind