OPEN SEARCH
EVENT INTELLIGENCE

11 Things You Don't Need at Your Next Conference

From printed agendas to cyber cafés, one-time conference staples are now obsolete. Here's what has replaced them.

By Mitra Sorrells July 29, 2013, 7:15 AM EDT

Rather than setting up cyber cafés—specific areas with computers, Wi-Fi, and electric outlets—offer your attendees free Wi-Fi and charging stations throughout your event.

Photos: D. Channing Muller for BizBash (cyber cafe), David Lee/Getty Images (charging station)

If you are producing conferences and trade shows in the same way you did five—or even two—years ago, chances are it’s time for a fresh look. There are likely many elements of your event that can be eliminated or altered, mostly due to advances in technology. We’ve gathered ideas from organizations such as SAP, H.I.M.S.S., Educause, the American Payroll Association, Fusion Productions, and consultants Corbin Ball and Candy Adams to kick-start your house cleaning.

1. Cyber cafés
Forget about offering a specific destination to access computers, Wi-Fi, and charging stations. Attendees now carry the Internet in their hands and expect free Wi-Fi and multiple charging stations throughout your event (such as this secure charging compartment).

2. Backpacks as gifts
Back when laptops were the mobile computing device of choice, backpacks were a great option as an attendee gift. As people are switching to tablets and other small devices, backpacks are unnecessarily big and bulky. A modern gift option: a portable charging device.

3. Water bottles
Get rid of the big bins of water bottles on ice and instead give your attendees a reusable bottle they can refill at stations throughout the event.

4. Printed programs, agendas, and other collateral
You can share all of this information via a mobile app or mobile-optimized Web site. You may choose to keep a small supply of printed materials in case you have attendees without a smart device or if your site goes down. (Find out what Cisco did when the Cisco Live mobile app crashed.)

5. Tote bags
Once you and your exhibitors eliminate printed materials, your attendees no longer need—or want—another tote bag.

6. Exhibitor service manuals
Over the years, many organizations have transitioned from printed manuals to ones on a CD or USB drive. Now, you can provide your exhibitors everything they need to know through a Web site.

7. Message boards
Even digital message boards have grown obsolete as more planners use Twitter with a designated event hashtag to communicate with attendees. (Check out these tips on selecting a hashtag.)

8. Handheld radios
What was once the standard device for communication among members of the event team has now been replaced with email and texting on smart devices.

9. Audience polling keypads
Many event apps now include polling features so attendees can participate from their personal devices. Another option: take feedback through Twitter.

10. Printed room signs
Digital signage is available in more and more venues.

11. Notepads and pens in education sessions
When’s the last time you jotted a note on paper?

Your email inquiry will be sent to 3 venue