Having organized a large conference for three years in addition to several smaller community-based meetups, one of my most valuable tools was my last-minute “Don’t Forget!!” list for each.
These lists were seldom very different, resulting in the reuse of this same list for years across various events. The type of list that was crafted through trial and error and jumping out of bed in the middle of the night in a cold sweat to write down and account for a potential “gotcha!” that could be headed my way.
Here’s the tried and true list that I hope proves as handy for you as it has for me. If you prefer a literal checklist that you can hold in your hands and take everywhere with you I also put together a simplified grayscale TL;DR checklist that can be printed.
There are two types of slides to consider:
- Event kick-off slideshow
- Speaker slide templates
There will always be speakers that ask whether or not there is a slide template to use and it will feel so good to be able to say “HECK YES!”, saving them loads of time. So while speakers are not required to use this template it can be such an appreciated relief to have them supplied since slide design can be an especially time consuming task for individuals already giving so much of themselves to the event’s mission.
Try to account for a title slide and various text and image-based slide combinations, in both a dark and light background option.
Event Kick-Off Slideshow Content
Some important details to consider adding to the event kick-off slideshow:
- Organizer list with photos
- Volunteer list with photos and note of thanks
- MC introduction
- Event phone number, local emergency numbers
- List and note of thanks to sponsors
- WiFi login details
- Lost and found strategy
- Nearby stores: groceries, drugstore, coffee, etc, with map
- Incident reporting and action plan summary with link to Code of Conduct
- List of ways to stay connected throughout the year
- Afterparty details
These slides also help keep things a bit less awkward for attendees, providing something to focus on as everyone files in and gets settled.
Handy Restroom Items
Having helpful drugstore toiletries and tools available in the restroom is a fairly low-cost way to have a huge and positive impact on the experience of your event for attendees.
Some example items include:
- Mints and gum
- Mouthwash with tiny paper cups
- Pads, liners, and tampons
- Face blotting paper
- Individually wrapped Tylenol/pain killers
- A light, essential oil based body spray
- Imodium and antacids
- Hand lotion
- Hand sanitizer
- Cough drops
- Baby powder
- Bobby pins and rubberbands
- Nail files
- Lint roller
- Stain remover pen
Consider the venue as well and make additions to this list accordingly. For instance, if you are lucky enough to be hosting your event in a warm and sunny location be sure to have sunscreen available if you can.
Address needs proactively and eliminate the need for people to have to run to the nearest store at the expense of missing time at the event. Events are exhausting and can leave people feeling tired and not so fresh. Lugging all these items around isn’t very efficient, so having them on hand in the restrooms will be endlessly appreciated and ensure your event stands out as the most thoughtful and considerate of the year.
Printed Code of Conduct
In the form of a single copy at registration for on the spot questions and instant reference in case you have an issue to address.
The registration table acts as the administrative hub for the event throughout its duration. Ensure that if there is an issue with the WiFi for example (such a predictable unpredictable issue!) you have everything you need at the desk to answer the questions that will be coming your way in person as a result. As an organizer you will be constantly on the go go go. Though the venue may promise stellar WiFi these things always get dicey when used at this scale and when you are running around large buildings.
Not too much to say here other than this will likely be your BFF for the day. Include notes in regards to which organizer should be where and when and which volunteers have been assigned to introductions, timekeeping, etc, for each talk. Knowing where you and everyone else need to be and when is powerful and helps things go on without too many hiccups.
Quick tip: Make sure you have a sense of where the closest printing center is to the venue for any in the moment print needs.
Map of Venue
Publishing a venue map that is supplied by the venue itself on the event site will help participants get a feel for the space before they arrive and help them navigate all the smaller breakout rooms. The venue is also going to have accessibility details that you can publish.
Furthermore, each organizer having a printed map of the venue layout enables more helpful direction giving. Showing someone where their workshop is on a map in relation to where they are is more practical than explaining a series of turns that are difficult to follow. Better yet, escort them there personally if you are able, with your map as a guide 🙂
A Tool Belt, Of Sorts
You’ll find that if conference organizers wore a tool belt it would likely consist mostly of:
- Sharpies in various colors
- Dry erase markers
- Various kinds of tape
- Extra pens
There is always somehow something that needs to be hung up, drawn on, or put back together. You’ll need easy, portable access to these types of items. Fanny pack? Tote bag? An actual tool belt? That part is up to you.
Quick tip: Gaffer tape can be cleanly removed, so you don’t have to worry about getting into hot water with the venue if they permit you to post your own small signage items.
Perhaps one of the most significant essentials within this post is that the person(s) tasked with managing social media accounts has a portable phone charger; any time being glued to a wall is time not capturing or experiencing important moments.
Blank, Branded Signage
It’s impossible to anticipate all the needs that will pop up without being there in the moment so having blank, branded signs will account for this. Arrows to certain hidden rooms, marking special restrooms — the list can go on and on. PLUS you’ll have your markers and tape in hand, ready to go 💪
Additionally, there can be instances where there are multiple conferences at the same venue. Having these DIY signs at least branded with the specific event will be appreciated by all, avoiding mass confusion.
Blank, Branded Name Tags
Some events sell tickets at the door which makes spare name tags/badges essential, but ultimately they are a good idea regardless. Things get misplaced and spelling mistakes can happen, in which case both you and the attendee will be relieved that the replacement is not a plan ol’ “HELL MY NAME IS:” sticker and that they truly belong at the event.
Special badge ribbons that signal if someone is:
- An organizer
- A volunteer
- A speaker
The shipping on these is remarkably fast so you should be OK if you forget to order too far in advance.
Alternatively you can spell out these details within the badge design itself as shown below.
If you are fortunate enough to have volunteer timekeepers for talks (they are truly the behind-the-scenes heroes here) they will need signs with large numbers printed on them, denoting how many minutes are remaining. Usually a 5 and 2 minute heads-up for the speaker is 👌
Quick-ish note: Anticipating volunteer’s needs as much as possible will contribute to them looking back on your event fondly and proudly. Ensuring they are not bogged down with these types of details is just the right thing to do, especially since so often it’s just not possible without their generous support.
Pronoun Buttons or Stickers
These are ultra important and go a long way in ensuring your attendees feel welcome.
We give designs for these away for free here and will be selling them in printed form in our new lil shop later this month.
Quick note: We are also currently running a small campaign through February 20th to give these away to a small community-based event with a limited budget; you can learn about the details regarding how to be considered in this post.
People seriously love this little touch and it adds no amount of stress to your workload. I’ve also experienced that it can even be a conversation starter and general ice breaker while people gather to make a selection.
Other treats like granola or energy bars will be well received also. Really, as long as it’s easy and individually wrapped you are golden.
Quick note: Try to avoid anything with tree nuts since it is a major allergen.
Part of your event’s mission likely revolves around providing an inclusive, welcoming space. If your agenda allows for it, consider putting together some discussion topics for each table where people will be hanging out before the event begins, at meals, and on breaks.
Let the talk themes inspire you for these.
Do you have a music or entertainment strategy in place for the moments in-between speakers and at breaks? This takes the pressure off individuals to fill these weird gaps and keeps people energized, but can be an easy thing to overlook when your brain is being pulled in so many different directions.
Last but certainly not least: don’t forget about yourself as an organizer. Bring a backpack with things you need throughout the day to stay comfortable and confident. I always bring my own snacks, a change of clothes and shoes, and make time to secure a delicious and insanely overpriced coffee. I also find I need to make time to be alone every few hours to collect my thoughts, so I confirm there is a place where I can do this before things kick off (like a peaceful, designated speaker lounge).
The needs here will be unique to you but don’t forget about yourself throughout all that will be happening 💜