Seen recently in conference personal ads:
Wanted – LTR* with conference registrants. Those desiring a STF* need not register. Looking for those that are interested in more than a casual relationship, where both of us have a commitment to each other’s success.
Signed Conference Organizers
*LTR – Long Term Relationship; STF – Short Term Fling
Most conference organizers used to look for a no-strings-attached relationship with their paying customers. They were looking for casual encounters that lasted two or three days. They wanted random hookups with anonymous people, for a fee, that would help them get through another year. They would bundle free membership with their non-member rate, hoping that those benefits would entice the registrant into being loyal.
Most conferences are a one-time event in a person’s life. These STFs don’t add much value to either parties relationship except that they provide some temporary fun, escape from the normal work routine and travel to a new location–often on the company’s dollar. Conference organizers have unintentionally exacerbated the “registrant with benefits” relationship and seen attendees as cash cows. They have rarely thought about adding value to the registrants’ experience. It’s been a one-way self-serving experience – for the conference organizers.
The Traditional Relationship Perspective From Both Parties
From the conference organizer’s point of view, they plan and prepare the conference experience. They handle the logistics. Make sure everything is setup onsite. Enlist exhibitors to display their wares. Deliver the conference bag full of tsotchkes. Ensure that speakers and entertainers stand on stage. Oversee the food and beverage and leave after the applause ends.
From the registrant’s point of view, they attend the conference. Consume the conference information. Eat the organizer’s food choices. Network with others. Visit the exhibitor booths. Discard the conference bag of tsotchkes. Passively listen to the conference organizers’ speaker and entertainment choices. Once it ends, they applaud with delight that they can return to their homes and enjoy life.
STFs Are Out. LTRs Are In.
In today’s Web 2.0 networked world, conference attendees are looking for more. They want more than a temporary, compressed, non-committal, hoping never to see each other again relationship. They want more than a one-time a year intense emotional encounter that feels fun at the moment but ultimately is forgotten and unproductive.
They will pay for an unforgettable experience that provides value and gives them relevant information that they can apply when they get home. The STFs are out. They will no longer tolerate being a registrant with benefits for the conference organizer and receiving a temporary rush of cotton candy fluff. They want more. They want a LTR.
Your conference attendees have a financial interest in their relationship with you. While most conferences are seen as a one-time event occurring within a finite span of time, your registrants want something more.
Shifting to a long term relationship strategy with your conference participants requires a new way of thinking. It means that you must plan differently for experiences before, during and after your event.
What type of conference experience do you prefer-STFs or LTR and why? What does it take to develop a LTR strategy with your conference participants?