Understanding The Power Of Your Target Attendee

S t r e n g t h

When you are involved in planning all of the conference’s logistics and programming, it is very easy to feel as if you are in a position of power.

You’re the one who decides who will present. You’re the one who decides when a meal function will occur. You’re the one who decides what content is important. You’re the one who decides which city and venue is used.

People come to the conference to follow your schedule and listen to the speakers you chose.

However, in reality, you are not the star of the conference show! The target attendee is!

Why Target Attendees Are The Real Star

Why are target attendees the real star?

They are the ones who decide if they are going to pay for registration to attend your conference. They are the ones who determine to reject or embrace the speakers you chose. They are the ones who decide if the ideas that are presented will spread or die. They are the ones who attract the paying exhibitors and sponsors.

You need your target attendee more than they need you. They are the ones in control.

Without them, companies will not exhibit. Without them, your sponsors won’t contribute. Without them you don’t have a conference!

But don’t you just need bodies on the show floor? Don’t you just need anyone to register for the event?

No! And if you have that mindset, you don’t understand basic business fundamentals. You need the target audience – the economic buyer and decision maker–that the exhibitor and sponsor want to see to register for the event. Without them, your event will eventually die.

Target Attendees Have All The Control

Since the target attendees have all the control, shouldn’t you view the conference through their lens and not yours? Shouldn’t you be humble in your approach to planning an experience for them? Shouldn’t you use their desires, goals and needs to guide your plans?

Conference organizers, program planning teams and volunteer conference committees tend to be self-focused. They have a lot to say. They have a lot to share. They want to control the program and schedule. They want to plan it based on their own biases and needs. They feel they know better than the target audience.

These pressures make them forget what is important to the target audience. They feel that their agenda is the same as the target audience’s agenda.

Often conference planning teams feel a specific subject or initiative must be presented. They secure a speaker to outline how to do it, when to do it and what it is. If the target audience is lucky, the presenter may explain “why it matters” at the end of the program.

This format shouts, “I know better than you. So do it my way!”

The conference planning team is so consumed by the mission that they forget to consider the basic needs of the target audience.

Walk In Their Shoes

All conference planning teams should spend a moment in their target audience’s shoes. They should clearly understand their needs, problems, challenges and pain points. They should know what keeps the target audience up at night.

Yes the conference planning team needs to get through all the nitty-gritty details. But there is one fact that remains true to any conference audience: the target audience came to see what you can do for them, not what they must do for you.

When you are planning the conference logistics or program, think of your target audience as the hero of the experience. Look at yourself as the director of the experience that is entirely focused on the “hero, the target audience.”

Why are so many conference staff and volunteer committees driven by what they think is important? Why do many conference hosts think they just need bodies on the show floor instead of qualified buyers?


  1. says

    Thanks for this post, Jeff. It is a crucial problem for so many staff and volunteer committees. We especially find it true in the area of sustainable meetings where the “old guard” is out of touch with what younger attendees require. Most would happily give up fresh sheets changed daily for free inroom wifi and prefer a conference app to a large printed program.

    The world of meetings is changing rapidly, it is vital we keep up!

    Nancy Zavada

    • Jeff Hurt says


      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m also grateful that you applied this concept to sustainable meetings too. It’s very good advice for us to remember and consider when we are planning our events.


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