If you’re a professional conference planner, you probably don’t need our advice. Why not? Because, according to Marc de Winter, Manager of Events at the Amsterdam Conference Centre Beurs van Berlage, “Event planners are among the most practical people out there. They’re also polite. And can think on their feet.” But if you’re a new-ish conference-goer rather than an experienced one, you could probably use a few tips for optimizing your experience. Here are Marc’s top ideas for planning the perfect conference trip.
1) Research how to meet your “special needs.” These days, being vegetarian isn’t a big thing. But maybe you’re vegan, or eating low-carb. Marc urges us all to make our dietary needs known in advance—whether what you want is low-calorie food, low-fat fare, or your meals gluten-free. And, Marc reminds us, it’s not just about diet. Other common special requests include: a place to pray, a calm spot to breastfeed, and a place for private meetings. A world-class venue will have multiple meeting spaces, from small, private meeting spaces to roomy public lounges.
2) Let restaurant staff know your time restrictions. In Europe, what’s the polite way to say, “I’m in a hurry, so I need to be served quickly”—or is it naïve to think you’re entitled to fast service? Marc says being served fast is a valid request in Amsterdam—and in many parts of Europe. The trick is to ask which items on the menu are quicker to prepare. That way, you won’t make unreasonable demands, such as having the slow-roasted pork served in two minutes flat.
3) Double-check the hotel and venue locations: Every conference-goer wants their hotel to be a mere five minutes from their conference venue. But wanting and having are two different things. Let Google Maps tell you how long it will take to walk from Point A to Point B—and make sure there’s no construction making the route longer. We’ve been known to call hotels and venues in advance, just to check that everything’s cool in the neighbourhood!