Have you run a conference/seminar/workshop/gathering before? You haven’t? Are you planning one? That pregnant pause counts as a yes. You are in luck.
Today, we help you skip a lot of hurdles average folk have to battle with to get their conference off the ground. You, dear reader, are not average-you read this column after-all. Here are a few things the average Jane and Joe didn’t know when they organised their first conference

Start time
Did you tell your participants that the conference will begin at 8am? Yes? Thing is, that time is merely an indicator of what time they should leave wherever they are and make their way to the conference hall. Starting one hour after the intended time is normal.

Break time
You’ll be tempted to believe that because the conference started at 9.30am instead of 8am, the break will be at 11am or so. With everything in you, resist this temptation. It is true, the participants did arrive at 9.30am but the tea break should still be at 10am. Keep your opening remarks short, not sweet -the breakfast will take care of the “sweet” part.

We, as participants, will return from the “15-minute tea break” after an hour. We will, however, start to show signs of discomfort at 12.30pm. It might be in your best interests not to suggest postponing lunch by a few minutes. Many of us are here for the lunch dear organiser. If we do allow you to go on till 1pm, you’ve tried our patience enough — let us go now.

The lunch should be a buffet where we serve ourselves — that thing where waiters and waitresses stand by the dishes and serve us is a criminal offence. The plates shouldn’t be too heavy—that thing where the plates are too heavy for us to load them amply and still be able to walk is not allowed.

After lunch
Chances are that after lunch, you will see us nod quite a bit in sync with the presenter’s voice. Some theologians suggest that it is because we agree with everything the presenter is saying; others say that it’s because the urge to sleep is taking over. Either way, we will nod a lot.

Close time
All conferences close at 4pm— anything after that is time for us to have another tea break and carry off conference stationery-pens, books, the works.

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