Your Conference Is Like One Of These Types Of Restaurants


Some of my friends call me a foodie.

I prefer the term connoisseur as it sounds more sophisticated.

There’s no doubt about it. I am devoted to the enjoyment of good food.

Three Types Of Restaurants

One of the things I’ve learned in my scouring for good and unusual foods is that there are three types of restaurants: one for the general masses, one that serves the locals and one that serves regulars.

1. Restaurants for the general masses.

Restaurants that try to serve the masses usually have large menus. They have several dishes in every category. They offer something for everyone. Their goal is to attract and offer something to strangers.

2. Restaurants that cater to locals.

Restaurants that cater to locals have a much leaner menu. They limit their dishes to four or five in special categories. They are usually known for serving a specific type of food like Greek, Mexican or Vietnamese. They are not usually located in high traffic or touristy areas. They cater to the locals who know about the food and visit often.

3. Restaurants that serve regulars.

A third type of restaurant is one that caters to regulars. Sometimes these food establishments offer only one or two multi-course meals per evening. Regulars go to the restaurant knowing that they are going to be served the chef’s choices for the day. They don’t expect a long menu with lots of options.

When the customers are strangers, the owners and chefs have to figure out what will please a large variety of customers. The better the owner knows their customers, the more focused the menu is. And a focused menu tries to attract a specific type of customer.

Comparing Your Conference To Restaurants

When conference organizers know their customers, the conference offerings are extremely focused. The content and experience is built around their customers’ interests, lingo, concerns and challenges. Organizers know what type of paying registrant they want to attract. They have a large following of regulars that return every year.

When conference organizers don’t know their customers very well, they tend to offer a menu that is a smorgasbord buffet of education options. The conference program is the size of a small outdated phone book. The variety of education sessions is overwhelming as there is something for everyone. Organizer’s goal is to attract and offer something to strangers.

As the level of abstraction gets higher, personal awareness of the conference registrant begins to diminish. The potential attendee is known or not known through customer surveys and stereotypes.

Soon you have a conference experience which resembles the guess work of a large menu from a restaurant offering something for everyone. It’s at this point where the conference organizer places an emphasis on the venue and the location. Suddenly, the decor is extremely important to create an ambiance, regardless of what the education offerings are. Clever education session descriptions replace a quality experience. Organizers learn to write good conference marketing while they serve bland experiences that have little to do with what the customers really need.

Which type of restaurant does your conference experience most resemble? What can conference organizers do to transition their conference into a more refined experience that focuses on attracting the right customer?

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