As you shift from a focus of a short-term, one-night stand conference experience to a long term relationship (LTR) with potential and registered attendees, you need to plan things differently.
A LTR view means you look at each year and think about how you can begin to develop, build and maintain a community experience all year long with conference participants. Not just at the annual meeting.
So how do you create a LTR strategy with your conference participants?
Six Steps To Develop A LTR Plan For Your Conference Participants
1. Transition from the conference as an information-transfer experience to a relationship building experience.
Stop seeing your attendees as a monolithic audience and consider them individuals that you, your presenters and other registrants can develop relationships with. This means thinking about all the conference communication pieces differently. Does your message point them to content that helps solve their problems? Does your message help them connect to others that share similar interests? Does each message build or detract from the relationship building experience?
2. Consider every touch point with potential attendees as relationship building experiences that can provide two-way interactions.
When you consider a LTR, you think about a variety of ways to engage people before they arrive onsite. Potential attendees are invited to help co-create the conference experience. You invite them to share their wants, needs and problems with you early before designing the conference schedule. You let them help you develop the beginning, middle and end of the conference narrative. You see mass emails differently. You think about customization to different niche groups and how to allow them to connect with other likeminded peers.
3. View the conference experience as an overall, umbrella narrative that has three parts: before, during and after.
Think of your conference experience as a big pie. The focus of your pie is the conference narrative. The onsite content is only one slice of the conference narrative. Blog posts, eNewsletter articles, short videos, organization magazine articles, webinars and web resources from conference speakers and leaders are all pieces of the conference narrative pie. When you shift the center of the universe from the onsite conference experience to the conference narrative, you create new possibilities to extend the reach and range of the conference.
4. Find ways to tell the conference big story in different formats at different times throughout the year.
Extend your thinking form a one-time a year format with stand and deliver presentations to providing content in different formats and places where the conference community lives. This means building an integrated experience all year. Think of the TED model for an example.
5. Package your conference narrative and the slices of pie for spreadability.
How easy is it for your potential and registered attendees to share the conference narrative and slices of pie with others? Are pre-and post conference webinars, blog posts, eNews articles, videos and web resources spreadable? Is your conference content locked-up to a one-time experience onsite or behind the registered attendee wall? Or is it shared throughout the year and continuously fuels the LTR with conference participants. Are conference participants talking about you all year long or just a few weeks before and after the event?
6. Create a living conference community experience.
Where do your conference participants go to maintain their conference relationships? Do you provide an online community gathering place? Or are you only providing a conference eCommunity that is temporary, much like their hotel stay? Your conference participants want a place where they can build an online home together. Give it to them and seed that home with the slices of the conference narrative all year long.
What other steps would you add to this list? What are the implications for meeting professionals when thinking about building LTR with conference participants?