Imagine designing your next conference or annual meeting from scratch around content instead of picking up the template you’ve been using for years and tweaking it. Not just your education programming, but your breaks, meals, even your exhibit hall (which we advocate for evolving into a solutions center, including changing the name).
“Please stop designing content for events and start thinking about designing events for the content.” That’s a quote from Sourabh Kothari, director of advocacy, brand, and content for Signifyd, who called for a revolution among the meeting professionals attending his session at the Professional Convention Management Association’s Convening Leaders conference in January.
“Imagine the content isn’t yours. Imagine your audience owns the content. You have no right to it. You’re raising it, bringing it to maturity, and then you’re letting it live with the audience,” he said. If you, as an organizer of a conference, want the audience to embrace your content and share it, they have to own it, Kothari added.
The “Who” and Why It’s Important
The only way to design audience-centric content is to understand your target audience. We believe that 21st century conferences can no longer be all things to all people. You need to understand your “who,” pick your narrow lane, offer the best content for that niche, and thereby increase your relevance.
Another way to think about it: how many of you have walked in your attendees’ shoes? Not just in their day-to-day jobs, but as a participant at your conference. Can you step away from being the organizer and allow yourself to become an observer? Or ask a trusted advisor to become one?
How many of you are designing your conferences based on the physical space available? While space certainly has its limitations, don’t let walls dictate what best serves your participants in terms of delivering content through an experience that ideally will lead to changes and improvements in the workplace.
The need for understanding your target audiences’ challenges and delivering content that is relevant has never been more important for your conferences. Programming that is vetted and curated more than seven months out stands the chance of becoming obsolete by the time the live event unfolds. Content created onsite, through thought-provoking and inspirational speakers on the main stage, and through interactive workshops and concurrent break-outs, is just as important, if not more important, than sessions planned months out. That kind of interaction can be serendipitous, but it can also be planned.
Reasons to Attend
A good way to create content is to understand why people go to live meetings. According to Kothari, they go:
- for inspiration
- because their mentor will be there
- for selfish learning
- to escape
- to find and be with their tribe (“a bunch of weirdos like me,” he said), and that comradery leads to professional development
Many probably go for more than one of those reasons.
Start that blank slate with those five objectives in mind, and soon you’ll be going from conference pro to content caretaker.
Have you ever had a conference observer walk in your attendees’ shoes? How can you overcome physical space limitations to offer the best content and participant engagement?