5 Critical Mistakes Conference Organizers Make

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3 Critical Mistakes Conference Organizers Make Setting Up a Room

3 Critical Mistakes Conference Organizers Make Setting Up a Room

You can spend a year planning a conference and ruin it with some poor decisions.  What critical mistakes do conference organizers make setting up a room?

#3 Choosing a Room that Is Too Big

Imagine having a party for ten friends in a hotel ballroom. The chandeliers are exquisite, the wine is expensive, the service is sensational and your celebration is… a flop.

Why? Because when you sprinkle a handful of people into a space the size of a tennis court, there is no atmosphere, no buzz.

The same goes for any meeting or seminar. You can rent the most luxurious room in town and get the best speaker in the country. But if you only put 200 backsides into a room that seats 500, it will feel like a letdown.  The 200 will spend the evening wondering, “Where’s the other 300?”

Too much floor space makes an event feel empty.  And if you have a very high ceiling, you’ve got double trouble.

This might seem obvious – but organizers and function staff sometimes get it wrong!

Solution: Get a room that accommodates the right number of seats.

If the room is too big, and you are the organizer and decision maker – do everything in your power to change rooms!

  • If the room is too big and you can’t change it, you need to somehow enclose the seated area.  Bring in free-standing partitions, whiteboards, pin-up boards, rows of pot plants, anything you can find to make it more cosy.
  • If you don’t know how many people will be attending, ie: if you expect between 100 and 400 people, put out only 100 chairs. Have staff available to add more chairs as necessary.

This will:

  • keep everyone sitting toward the front,
  • give the audience the feeling that the event is even more successful than anticipated and
  • eliminate acres of empty chairs.

#2: Critical mistakes event organizers make in setting up a room:

#2 Poor Sound, Lighting, Audio Visuals

Dedicated conference venues mostly have very good sound equipment  and flexible lighting.  But some don’t!  Even 5 star hotels may have 3 star sound equipment and poor lighting!

If your audience can’t hear or see your speakers properly – or if they can’t read the PowerPoint – you are in trouble.

Also, venues will sometimes promise to provide technical staff, but when you need them, they are not around!

Solution: Check out the venue equipment before you pay your deposit!

If yours is a big event, you may choose to hire your own staging crew.  When you hire your own technicians, you have control.

Your checklist should include:


  • is there enough lighting on the stage?
  • who will manage lighting?
  • does the stage lighting wash out the PowerPoint screen?
  • can the screen be seen from every seat?


  • are there spare microphones?
  • do all the mikes have new batteries?
  • is the sound even throughout the room?


  • are the venue staff familiar with the equipment?  Can they adjust stage lighting, room lighting and sound?
  • do the speakers require laptops or are they bringing USBs.  Is there a laptop on hand?
  • When are the speakers scheduled for sound-checks and who will instruct the speakers on use of stage equipment?
  • what hours will staff be available for rehearsal and during the event?
  • can the air conditioning be adjusted and by whom?

#1: Critical mistakes event organizers make in setting up a room:

#1 Assuming that the Venue Staff Know All About Conferences

If you are hiring a dedicated conference venue, the staff should understand your needs.  If your conference is in a hotel, check that there is a dedicated conference organizer.

Few venue staff appreciate how critical the room set-up is.  With the best of intentions they will sometimes set up the room badly.  With the best of intentions they may not set up a room according to your instructions.

I have seen:

  • a one meter-high stage for an audience of 100 people!
  • rooms with massive windows and no curtains – so that the audience are continually distracted by passing traffic and stray dogs.
  • white boards that are held together by one screw and collapse during the presentation
  • sound systems that don’t work – and nobody can fix
  • air conditioning so cold that the entire audience is wearing blankets
  • wait staff who continually interrupt the speakers by shifting furniture and stacking glasses at the back of the room.

Solution – TAKE CONTROL.  Have your checklist for the venue staff which will include:

  • stage – size, location and height
  • location of lectern
  • microphones – quantity and type (hand-held or head set)
  • whiteboards – must be clean and sturdy
  • seating – how many seats, location, width of aisles
  • refreshment tables – location
  • if refreshments are being served in the back of the room – when is the best time for staff to set up?

If the room is right and the staff are keen, you are on your way!
Mistakes Event Organizers Make Setting Up a Room
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