Your conference planning process needs a dynamic strategy that relies on insight, not call for proposals and scheduling of speakers.
Most meeting professionals who devote their time to the development of detailed conference schedules are destined to eventual disappointment.
Because the focus is entirely on the structural framework for the meeting. Until the focus shifts to the effectiveness of the experience and moves away from the construction of the schedule, the conference will have little impact on people’s lives.
No One Returns Because Your Logistics Were Awesome
Think I’m nuts? How many people announce they are returning to your annual meeting because your registration process was so smooth? Or your room sets were organized perfectly? Or the schedule flowed nicely from session to session?
Guess what. No one returns to your meeting because your meeting logistics were organized! They return because the experience mattered to them. It gave them something of value.
Demand Planning Leads To Inaccuracy And Mediocrity
Conference organizers spend six to 18 months scheduling speakers for their annual meeting. Once they have everything created, agreed upon, signed off on and funded, they discover that the world around them has moved. Much of the content is now out of context.
The current process of surveying customers for their topical likes, distributing a call for proposals to potential speakers eight to 12 months in advance of the conference, having committees select speakers, then scheduling speakers, is broken! This process is like trying to stop time. It’s no longer possible to freeze the moment long enough to get the right topics on schedule six to 18 months in advance.
This process focuses on alignment with members’ requests, required certification courses and offering something to everyone. This demand planning leads to inaccuracy.
Once the conference is announced, the reaction is usually a muted “So what?” There is nothing in the education track so compelling that it causes us to say, “Wow! I can’t miss this conference!”
Conference Planning Based On Insight
To be a successful conference in the 21st Century, organizers need to use customer insights, trends, data and their own expertise to know:
- What attendees want
- What attendees do not know that they want but will want when they see it
Insight is the act or outcome of grasping the inward or hidden nature of things or perceiving in an intuitive manner. Insight can only be achieved through profound engagement and deep knowledge of the organization and its customers.
Imagine your grocery store writing you and asking you which meat you need for your July 4th holiday. You have no idea if you’ll barbecue because it’s too far out and there are too many variables.
Your job as a conference organizer is to anticipate what your conference attendees will want and need, and then cater to it.
Questions To Consider
- Where are you getting your customer data?
- Are you mining the data you have effectively to give you real time information about what your customers are telling you?
- What is the short-term forecast for your industry?
- How are you tracking trends and patterns that move your conference offerings forward?
Meeting professionals need to move from logistical glorified schedulers to become business-critical strategic consultants. It’s time for conference organizers to tell their attendees what they need not respond to last year’s requests.
What are some typical attendee data that conference organizers already have that they can mine to tell them more about their customers? Where do you go to track trends and patterns?