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W.C. Fields once said “Never work with animals or children”. But he did, and it was usually to great success. And after years of working with a mainly adult crowd, we’ve witness the changing landscape. The new reality is that more delegates are including family members on conferences and meetings and see this as a great opportunity to turn a work trip into a family getaway. And with an uncertain economic climate, children’s programs can be a great incentive to help increase attendance at conferences and meetings.
Conference Event Planning – Be Prepared
Kids programs are a lot of fun…for the kids. Have you ever had your child’s birthday party at an off site location? Gone to the local “Chucky Cheese”, zoo or bowling alley where parents drop off their kids and take off for a few blissful hours leaving you to cope.
Well, kid’s programs are like that. But on steroids…
But they’re also a great incentive in certain markets. So what can you do to ensure your children’s program is a resounding success?
Conference Event Planning – Staff, Staff, Staff
In my opinion, you can never be too careful with other people’s kids. Depending on the type of activity, we generally schedule about one staff member to every five kids (and you can adjust that number according to your needs). At a wholly contained venue where they board the bus, go straight into a restricted site, and then re board, you can be a little more relaxed. But with anything free flowing such as a museum, theme park or entertainment center, I would rather err on the side of caution than lose someone. And if we have to eat a bit in staffing area, so be it.
You also need to pay attention to who you’re staffing on children’s programs. Perhaps your usual collection of tour guides and onsite staff are be a little older and less lively. You may want to consider integrating some younger (energetic) staff in the mix.
Conference Event Planning – Signing their Life Away
To protect both you and the children involved, there are some basic forms you need to ensure are filled out.
An authorization form (or permission slip if you will) covers a lot of ground. This will have contact information, disclaimers, liability releases and signatures. You can easily find sample forms online and then decide if each day will require a new form or if one will cover multiple days.
There should also be an information sheet filled out for each child involved. This can be a separate document or be part of the authorization form. The information sheet should include the name, age and gender of the child as well as allergies, medical specifics and any other pertinent information the parents feel you should know.
Conference Event Planning – Make it Fun!
So the basics are covered and now you need to decide what to do with a group of diversely aged kids over several days. Most importantly, make it fun! If it’s a boring, stodgy program with nothing but old farts to entertain them all day, most kids are going to skip it after day one. Don’t make it about what you think they should do but rather what they would want to do.
Theme parks are always a great idea as are ball games, exhibits aimed at children and interactive activities that will keep them busy, engaged and happy. A creative and fun children’s program will create a positive experience for the kids, their parents and your team.