“Where are the trash cans?!”

(and other small details for an event)

The man’s question was a little off-putting but very important. He was describing a conference he attended, and spent fifteen minutes looking for a trash can. The conference was in its first year, and a few minor details had been overlooked.

Like the number and location of trash cans.

The man wasn’t particularly upset, but clearly it was a memory which stood out to him about his experience. He went on to say he was likely to return the next year, and enjoyed himself.

But he didn’t talk to me about the speakers much, or the breakout sessions.

He told me about trash cans.


I wasn’t enthralled with his description, and it didn’t bolster my likelihood of attending the following year. So while the organizers may not have lost him, they might lose me. Not because of the trash cans, but because this gentlemen had been so caught in finding one he didn’t tell me anything about the sessions.

As event organizers, whether a big conference or small event, getting lost in the big picture is easy. You need to coordinate speaker schedules, music, attendee packets, and production. But who’s taking care of the trash? Here are four quick tricks to use next time you’re planning an event.

1. Do a walk-through

Not only the cool walk-through, where you play music and test microphone levels. But walk around your entire venue, drink some water and look for a place to throw the cup away. Eat a meal and test the chairs. Go to the bathroom. Walk outside. Take the stairs.

Attempt to experience the venue as an attendee would, and have someone else do the same after you. If possible, have a few attendees do this, or a friend outside of your team. They will give you great feedback on what can be improved.

2. You can never have too many…

Like the man at the beginning of the story, he couldn’t imagine having too many trash cans at the time. What are other things you could increase at a low cost? Trash cans, water stations, port-a-johns, etc. People never complain about having their needs met. When was the last time you thought “I really wish I could wait in this line longer”?

3. Food & drink recommendations

Storyline, a conference I recently worked last year in Nashville, included a wonderful list of local restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, and food trucks with their attendee packet. Out-of-town attendees will enjoy finding the “locals-only” places to wind down and network at the end of the day. This really adds to the level of care your attendees will feel you have for them. Work with local businesses to give your attendees a discount if they show their badge.

4. Public transit schedules and pickup

You’ve just landed and need to get to the conference center. You probably don’t want to rent a car because you’ll be in one place for 90% of the time. If possible, give your attendees a schedule and common routes on public transportation. Let your attendees know if Lyft or Uber is available in your city, and ask the local office if they will support a coupon code for your event.

Another great option is to rent a vehicle for the express purpose of picking up attendees. Charter transportation companies usually have a range of buses for this purpose, or your team could do the trick with a 15 passenger van. People love to be picked up, it makes us feel important and valued. Don’t you want your attendees to feel this way?

The good news is many of of the little details that will delight your customers do not cost much. Even renting a shuttle service is a rather low overall cost compared to the way the attendees feel. At the core, even offering a simple alternative or suggestion shows you are thinking about them, which is wonderful to anyone.

What little details and tactics would you like to add to this list? Please share with me on twitter @MattRagland.

Matt Ragland is an experience designer, writer, and podcaster. His online basecamp is MattRagland.com, or listen to the podcast at StorySignals.com.

Photo credit to Sylwia Bartyzel, through Unsplash.

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