Friday, July 06, 2012

Conference Attendee Experience

A participant at a conference where I spoke came to me at the end of the day and said "Your talk was the insurance policy for good-vibes at the trade show".  She went on to say how engaging the conversations were between all the attendees (with each other and the vendors) because of the "Conference Catalyst" message.

Her compliment made me smile... but it also made me think.  It was not my talk that she said was great (although I think she meant to say that!), but the impact in how people behaved once they left the general session.  Are speakers doing enough at events to ensure the attendee experience is over the top after the applause?

The audience is what matters.  The individual who invested hundreds or thousands of dollars to be present at the event is center of the universe.  Yet not all conferences, trade shows, seminars and conventions speakers keep their focus on the attendee.

The learning objectives stated in the program claim to focus on the audience.  No presentation touts the benefits to the speaker in selling his consulting package, books, or image.  It never states how great the speaker will feel when people laugh at his or her jokes and clap like crazy at the end.   But are the intentions really aligned with the real desires of the audience?

Presentations are often good enough to create a roar of applause, but fail to keep the engagement of the audience once they leave their chairs.  People leave the room and then go the coffee and donuts without any call to action or thought provoking nuggets to discuss.  They wander the halls with some minor chit-chat or go off to check emails.

The "Hallway Conversations" are where the real learning objectives are met, not in the session itself.  If people cluster together and go deeper in discussion after the speaker leaves the stage then there is success.  A great conference experience comes from the building of a "mini-society" between attendees... not from the pizzazz of the keynote speaker.   That feeling of a shared experience where the audience recap and restate the speakers words are few and far between, but when it happens everyone knows the vibe of the event is special.

When selecting speakers event organizers should inquire about how presentations impact the vibe of a conference.  Audiences are hungry for a better attendee experience.  The speakers have a much more powerful impact on this than a good chocolate mousse dessert (although I like a good mousse, too!).  Yet sometimes more time is often spent on selecting dessert than in vetting the speakers.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. 


Anonymous said...

Hard to choose vibes over content when planning. Awful to have content over vibes when at the event.

Thom Singer said...

Is it asking too much to have speakers with both informative content and an inspiring style? I think we can have both.