Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Ways To Make Your Conference About the Attendees

My friend Dave Lutz (CEO of Velvet Chainsaw) wrote a great article on the PCMA Convene Magazine titled "5 Ways to Make Your Conference Marketing About Attendee Benefits".  It is an important reminder for event professionals, as how you position your event directly impacts if people show up and participate in the conference.

His writing inspired me to think about what then happens at the actual event.  We should all follow his advice in how the marketing should be for the attendee (not for the planning organization), but the focus on the audience should not stop in the promotions.

Here are my thoughts (and hat tip to Dave Lutz, as some of the tips are similar to his marketing ideas):

5 Ways To Make Your Conference About the Attendee

1.  It is about them, not you.  Too often the focus of opening or closing sessions at events is dedicated to thanking their board, organizing committee, etc....  While recognizing people for their efforts to the organization is important, people will never ask "could you have made that part where you bring every volunteer on stage even longer?".  Respect the audiences time and do not bore them with internal back patting. 

All activities on the agenda should be filtered through the "Is this about the audience" filter.

2.  Why did they attend?  There is a lot of attention put on content, but if attending an event was only about the content then a live event is not the best delivery mechanism.  Yes, people want high level learning, but they also want to have an experience and network with peer.  Often these do not get the true level of importance in a survey, as it does not come off as sounding as "professional" as talking about the content.  Do not hide behind the currently popular mantra of "Content is King", as that misses the whole picture.

Discover what people really want.

3.  The speakers set the tone.  The general sessions and breakout sessions have a profound impact on the experience of the attendees.  These are shared experiences that impact the "mini-society" that is created at a conference. A speaker is not a commodity item chosen to fill a slot on the agenda. Those who are selected to present need to be vetted a great speakers who can share content and inspire.  

Just because someone is smart or has done something cool - it does not mean they belong on stage.

4.  Technology is great, but not if it hurts live connections.  We live in a technology and social media crazy world.  These tools are amazing and can have a positive impact on allowing people access to information and about each other.  But sometimes the app distracts from the live experiences.  If people are glued to their smart phones on every break, they are not talking to each other.

Tech does not replace the power of the impromptu hallway conversations that happen when people engage in a live conversation.

5.  Create a networking culture.  Networking does not happen by accident.  While attendees report they  go to live events for the "networking opportunities", too often they fail to make the types of connections they desire.  They spend their time with co-workers of surfing information on their smart phones.  To create a culture for networking you must do more than have an open bar at the first-timers reception.  There needs to be ample time during breaks and there needs to be a "lounge" setting where people can easily meet and converse.  You also need to educate the people about how to maximize their conference experience.

Do not assume that people will network on their own.

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. 

1 comment:

Dave Lutz said...

Thom, thanks for taking this post to another level! Appreciate your insights on focusing on the attendee's experience and delivering on the learning and networking promise.