I love speaker dinners and various parties. Knowing that there are planned opportunities for networking makes it more pleasant. There are way too many conferences to choose from, so I might as well choose those that are fun.
I found lunch/breaktime topic tables to be a fantastic way to connect with attendees. I also would like to see more office hours at conferences. Speaker dinners are really valuable too; I want to connect with notable people/mentors and once we are in the wild of the conference it’s hard to connect.
Several times I’ve been to speaker events that essentially left us in the hands of the organizers for transportation. This can be frustrating if you are feeling unwell, tired, or anxious. I’ve very much appreciated organizers who have announced alternate/ad-hoc travel arrangements for those who need them, and wish more would.
Goodie bags with snacks when you arrive after a day of travel is so appreciated! Confab does an excellent job of this. Organizing a speaker dinner is a big plus as well.
The best event I’ve spoken at was small but the organiser paid all speakers, covered travel and organised all accommodation and the meal and breakfast beforehand which really helped reduce stress - I could just turn up and not worry about finding somewhere to get dinner and breakfast the next day.
A way to meet other speakers is helpful if you are somewhere not local. Speakers dinners usually address this, but I have been to conferences where they haven’t had speakers dinners and it’s been tricky being in a hotel room by yourself not knowing anyone.
I enjoy speaker dinners, but the most successful ones have ensured they were in small venues with little background noise; when the venue is noisy, the conversation is much more difficult, lessening the impact of the experience. The best venues have been where they booked the entire restaurant, or had a private room, with easily the toppers being the Atomium in Brussels and the Space Needle in Seattle.
I think timings are important. Recently a speakers dinner I attended was started at 9pm the night before the conference, we all tried our hardest to get back to the hotel as early as we could, but it wasn’t before midnight.
I dislike it if speaker dinner is same night as attendee party so i can’t meet audience.