I was at an event this week and found out first hand the effects of not giving your attendees a good solid start to their day.

This was basically a one day event. The evening before they had a networking reception for the 200 or so attendees. That was very well done and I really enjoyed myself. From there we went to an after party at one of the hotels. Still good conversation but I was out of there by 11pm. After all, the event had an 8am start time the next morning.

First, don’t have 8am start times. 8am start time means I, who was local, had to be up by 6 to get ready and then commute to the event. Even for those who stayed at the hotel the night before…they had to be up by at the latest 7am. There was no breakfast served at the event nor was there any coffee. They did indicate on the schedule that breakfast would not be served and hopefully everyone saw that small print. But no coffee?

I had to make a decision before leaving my house that morning at 7am. I could either eat some breakfast or I could dry my hair. I skipped the breakfast and opted for vanity. Bad idea…really bad idea. At 8am the keynote speaker went right into it. He was great. His topic was excellent and one that everyone in the room could relate to (we were down to about 75 in attendance). He was an engaging speaker. Giving bits of information then asking the audience a question or having us turn to the person sitting next to us. Sadly most the room was staring blankly at him. They had no breakfast (I surveyed the room after the break and most did not eat anything that morning) and they did not have enough coffee.

From there we split into two groups for a breakout session to apply concepts the speaker touched on and some new ones as well. by now we had added quite a few more people as it was about 9am. We worked in small groups for an hour and it was not going well. I noticed that I and most of my table mates had difficulty putting our ideas into words. We struggled with basic tasks. Finally we had a break and I was dismayed to find they were serving danish and fruit. Still no protein…just sugar. I knew that was the last thing I needed so I head out in search of some protein.

I felt a bit better during the second hour of the workshop but not where I should have been. And I was still tired. Next up was lunch in the expo hall. Different vendors were giving out samples so we could eat and walk. Not ideal and I found myself hunting the floor for some red meat.

Half-way through the first of the afternoon sessions they lost me. It was a dull panel discussion with three monotone speakers talking at the audience but having no discussion. I still felt exhausted and a bit cranky. My body was physically aching a bit. There was one more session then a four hour break until the dinner reception. I went home because I knew there was no way I was going to make it until 7:30.

As conference designers we have to stop setting start times so early in an effort to cram everything into our event. 9am is plenty early. If you are going to start at 8am or earlier (gasp) then you MUST serve a healthy brain friendly breakfast. It must contain protein options and whole grains…not just plates of sugar. If you have an 8am or earlier (gasp) start time and you don’t serve coffee you should be taken out back and shot.

What do you think is unforgivable?