The Strauss Blog

Incorporating Mobile Tours in Your Conference Program

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We are seeing more and more association conferences incorporate mobile tours as part of their conference programming. A mobile tour is an educational session that takes your delegates offsite to a location(s) outside of your regular conference space. They are most typically either walking tours or bus tours. Keep reading for some tips on how to incorporate mobile tours into your association conference programming.

1. Determine if mobile tours will add value to your current conference program.

Mobile tours always look great on paper. They get your delegates out of the lifeless conference rooms, provide more hands-on education and provide a much-needed change of scenery. While that all sounds great, it doesn’t mean that it will work for your delegates. A good place to start is by examining your current program and determining if any of your current sessions could be a mobile tour. For example, if your association is healthcare based this could mean taking delegates into a lab to show them current research instead of just having a breakout session. Also, reviewing the characteristics of your delegates and what they want to get out of the event is important. For example, they may be more of the academic type who take detailed notes so maybe a mobile tour might not go over well for that group. It is important to do some type of research before you delve into the actual incorporation of a mobile tour.

2. Adjust your current program and determine the available time.

If you have determined that mobile tours are a good fit for your association event, now you need to figure out how to fit them into your program. The easiest place to add in mobile tours is to replace breakout sessions, as breakout sessions are where your delegates will have a choice. If you are unsure how your delegates will respond to mobile tours you could choose to still have breakout sessions, but also offer mobile tours as well.

The example below demonstrates what a program that incorporates tours could look like. Make note that in this example the tours leave 30 minutes before the breakout sessions start, so as to accommodate travel time. Travel time is very important to keep in mind when planning your sessions. If the venue you are traveling to is 30 minutes away, driving alone will take up an hour of the session. You could also expand your mobile tours to take up the amount of time as two breakout sessions, but just make sure to have some snacks available for delegates as they will likely miss a break.

START END PROGRAM
7:30 AM 8:30 AM Breakfast
8:00 AM 10:00 AM Mobile Tour
8:00 AM 10:00 AM Mobile Tour
8:30 AM 10:00 AM Breakout Session
8:30 AM 10:00 AM Breakout Session
8:30 PM 10:00 AM Breakout Session
10:00 AM 10:30 AM Networking Break
10:30 AM 12:00 PM Plenary Session
12:00 PM 1:30 PM Networking Lunch
1:00 PM 3:00 PM Mobile Tour
1:00 PM 3:00 PM Mobile Tour
1:30 PM 3:00 PM Breakout Session
1:30 PM 3:00 PM Breakout Session
1:30 PM 3:00 PM Breakout Session
3:00 PM 3:30 PM Networking Break
3:00 PM 5:00 PM Mobile Tour
3:00 PM 5:00 PM Mobile Tour
3:30 PM 5:00 PM Breakout Session
3:30 PM 5:00 PM Breakout Session
3:30 PM 5:00 PM Breakout Session

3. Size and Scope.

For most bus tours the capacity will be determined by the size and type of bus you want to book. For walking tours, limit registration to no more than 20-25 delegates. When the group gets larger than this it is easy for delegates to disengage if they can’t hear the speaker or if they have trouble keeping up with the group. Once you determine the size and scope make sure to put capacities on the sessions within your registration system or keep a close eye on them. It is much better to have to turn guests away then to oversell the tour and leave your delegates feeling disappointed.

4. Determine costs of mobile tours.

It is important to do a budget of all anticipated costs of the tours, not just the transportation. Other potential costs could be food and beverage on the tours, portable microphones or tour guides. To get an idea of how this compares to a regular breakout session compare the cost of the room rental/set up costs, audio visual, food and beverage and the speaker. Through doing this type of comparison it will give you a better idea of how to offset the costs of running the tour.

I typically see conferences charging a fee for mobile tours, but it is more so to offset the costs rather than turn a profit. Review your overall budget and work with your team to determine what the best approach for your overall event budget is. I will caution to make sure to do this before your registration fees go public and if you do decide to increase your overall registration fees make sure to show the added value the delegates are getting from the mobile tours.

Mobile tours can be a great addition to your program, that will really take your conference to the next level. They do have some additional logistics to sort out that differ from a regular breakout or plenary session. Planning a great mobile tour that your delegates will want to register for is one thing, but executing it can have its challenges. My next blog will assist you with just that, so stay tuned!

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