How to plan menus and breaks at your conference
Everyone works more effectively and can listen and absorb more when they’ve slept well and are properly refreshed so it’s essential to plan in enough breaks and suitable meals for your conference guests. At Alexandra House, our events team, lead by our dedicated events manager, have hosted conferences for a wide range of industry and academic purposes, as well as numerous other events. Below you’ll find a few tips based on our experiences.
Don’t rush your breaks
It’s tempting to fill your conference schedule full, with only a few minutes between slots. However, it’s better to leave at least 15 minutes between sessions in the same space or for small groups, with preferably a 20-30 minute break if your guests need to change location or are in a larger group. This gives people enough time to visit the loo, get a coffee or tea, reach their new location and perhaps stop to chat on the way. Larger groups, numbering in the hundreds or thousands, require longer breaks, as even well-equipped locations will be suddenly very crowded.
While we do have an on-site gym, what we really encourage conference managers to do is get their guests walking. For most people, simply stretching their legs by walking a few hundred meters can dramatically improve concentration. By changing setting every hour or two – either to get a coffee or take in the next part of the program – guests are given a brief recharge and the chance to mingle. However, feeling rushed, worrying about reaching a new location in time or having to skip nourishment to reach a new session will defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Fixed numbers means less overspend
While one guest more or less won’t matter at a buffet, it’s more of an issue for formal meals, and can be a disaster if you’re trying to cram an extra chair on the high table at a banquet. Setting the numbers in stone as early as possible will reduce costs and allow both you and the venue to plan more accurately, reducing possible overspend. It will be frustrating and wasteful for both you and the catering staff if you confirm for 100 guests and 80 – or worse, 120 – show up.
Cater to everyone’s needs
Depending on the conference type, you may already know that your audience is likely to have particular needs or preferences, and a good catering team will be able to offer advice on how best to cater for your particular crowd. However, every group will have people living with allergies and food intolerances which can’t be catered for by changing the menu for the whole group. It’s essential to provide the caterers with dietary information well in advance, as ordering may need to take place days or weeks before your event, even when fresh produce is delivered on the day.
At Alexandra House, our dedicated events manager has years of experience providing support to conference and event organisers. If you have any questions about meal planning, breaks or any other topics, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.