I've spoken at thousands of events, and attended many more. Some have been astounding, some average, but many head-shakingly dull. When the most memorable part of an event is the goody bag, it's time to consider ways to liven things up. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Give the people what they want. The fact that you have access to a number of speakers who share a particular expertise does not mean you should build an event round them. Listen to the chatter on social media, talk to your clients and find out what problems they are trying to solve. Then look for experts to deliver the solutions.
2) Encourage interaction. The days of asking audience members to turn off their mobile phones are long gone. They will use them anyway, so make it easy for them to share information round Twitter hashtags, on Facebook pages and in other online forums. They are the best advocates for your event.
3) Make a one-day event last three months. Start the chat on social media long before the event, and encourage it to continue long after. The event itself is merely a milestone on the journey.
4) Book speakers who get involved. Ideally, your speakers should be there for the whole event, mixing with the delegates. It provides more value for everyone, since the speakers get feedback and find out real concerns, and the delegates have more opportunities to get their questions answered.
5) Get the technology right Too many events are ruined by poor sound, video that doesn't play or presentations that don't work. It's the reason why rehearsal time is important, and the need for a strong liaison between organisers, A/V staff and speakers.
6) Copy the best There are are a number of models for speaking events, from Ted.com to Takahashi. Take elements from other styles and adapt them for your use.
7) Never settle for anything less than great. It's getting harder to get people to come to events. Make sure that every element of an event is as good as you can make it. The weakest link in the chain may be the thing that people remember, so always aim high.