Recently, Chris Brogan presented “Fitting Community Engagement Into Your Event Design” at EventCamp Chicago 2011.
Here are six gems that he shared from his personal experience as a conference attendee, event organizer (he helped start Pod Camps and works in tradeshow space) and speaker.
1. Push experience over flow at the event.
The attendee’s experience should trump logistics and details.
When planning the event, think carefully about the actions, emotions and thoughts of your attendees. What are the emotional highs and lows of the meeting experience? Will it connect with attendees’ hearts, souls and minds? What feelings do you want them to experience at each part of the event?
A well organized event does not usually create attendee loyalty. A great conference experience creates attendee buzz, loyalty and an attendee’s desire to return.
2. Embed sponsors within events like we embed journalists in war.
Conference organizers should think about ways to embed sponsors within the attendees’ experience that feels natural and invitational.
Having a sponsor stand at the front of the room spouting marketing messages is a killjoy. Instead, ask the sponsor to greet and thank the attendees for attending at the beginning of the session. Work with them to limit the amount of marketing information they share. Help them pick education sessions to attend to meet their best qualified potential customers.
3. Attendees at events want to:
- Be remembered
- Do business
4. Facilitate connections between people and make them feel special.
While this seems obvious, much of our meeting and event planning focuses on counting coffee cups and belly buttons. Shift the focus to planning experiences that serve as catalysts to attendees’ connections with each other, the stakeholders and the content. Find ways to make your attendees feel special and unique. It’s about more than nametag s and ribbons. Secure organization volunteers that serve as greeters and human directionals. Encourage board members to stand in the hallways and help direct people to their next session.
5. The difference between audience and community is the way you face the chairs.
Are you setting up all your conference sessions so that attendees look at the back of heads? Are you sending a message that the content is to be passively consumed? Are you setting attendee expectations that the experience is going to be entertaining, like at a theater or play? Or are you creating seating arrangements that allow attendees to sit in groups? Or create informal sitting with couches and oversized chairs.
6. Put your face up in Twitter. I don’t meet logos at conferences.
Conferences are about people making social, human connections. Posting your logo as your Twitter avatar sends a message that you care more about brand management than people. Allow employees to have their face on organizational accounts. It’s sends a message that you value people.
What types of things can meeting professionals do to help create a better attendee experience and instead of the flow of an event?
chris uschan says
OMG Jeff —
What I want to say is “no shit”, but what I am going to say is: This is SIMPLE BRILLIANCE!
Anyone who plans or organizes meetings should live seriously consider these principles (if you want to call it that).
I am especially liking:
#2 Embed the sponsors – This is very community-like in it’s approach. No one wants to be sold to. No one likes a pitch. So why do meeting organizers offer sponsors a fee-based opportunity to do these things? In a community, sponsors participate, educate, and facilitate in the dialogs, they don’t shout… at least the good ones don’t. Great idea!
#4 Facilitate connections – I love it when the conference organizers or board members are actively shaking hands, facilitating hallway conversations and welcoming new people at registration instead of sitting behind the curtain in the good ol’ boys clubhouse. I’ve experienced both and the get out and handout with the attendees wins hands down.
#5 The Chairs – Oh no.. not the row of chairs again – I cringe when I walk into a session room and see rows of chairs. Sure, for a General Session, but not for the breakout sessions where the learning happens. Create the environment for creativity and interaction.
Thanks Jeff for sharing and Thanks @chrisbrogan for keeping is simple, Brilliant!