As a conference organizer, are you designing for the four stages of a conference experience?
Or are you only designing for attendees to consume information?
If you are planning only didactic, one-way, information transfer such as lectures and panels, you are missing some great opportunities to give your attendees a more robust experience.
Four Stages Of Conference Experience
Most meeting professionals are unaware that there are four stages of an attendee’s conference experience. They are only accustomed to planning for stage one, consuming.
This is the most common conference experience. Attendees are passive, sitting in neatly arranged rows listening to lectures and panelists. They are primarily observing and consuming the experience. The audience is rarely asked to get involved or to participate.
Most of today’s conference attendees long to be able to participate in the conference experience. They want to be actively involved. They want to contribute their ideas and share their experiences with others in the room. They want to take the conference content and discuss how to produce new experiences with it.
Attendees don’t want information dispensed the way it’s always been done. They want content laced with participatory experience. And the more extreme the experience, the better!
Some will argue that this is a generational desire. I disagree. Consider the following fact: The average household headed by a 65-74 year old spends more on entertainment than the average household of a 25 year old. (The New Consumer Paradigm, American Demographics).
It’s clear that even older generations want new participatory experiences as experiences have become the currency of today.
Social sharing is occurring at rapid speeds across all generations and primarily online. Social sharing is the broadcasting of our thoughts and activities.
We’ve always shared our thoughts, activities and experiences with colleagues, families and friends. We’ve talked about them over coffee or around the water cooler. We’ve shared them during family meals. We’ve compared our experiences with each other.
Social media has given us the opportunity to broadcast those thoughts, activities and ideas with a broader audience. If your conference experience is truly compelling and participatory, people will be sharing about it. Some will share content from the conference broadening the range that it reaches. While attendees may be totally engaged during the conference, they will share about it during breaks and later that evening. They will find time to share with others.
The last stage of the conference experience is where the attendees will respond to those not at the conference who are asking questions. Non-attendees may have been following the broadcast of information and thoughts from attendees. During this stage, attendees become conference evangelists and reciprocate their positive experience by responding to others. This extends your conference experience to others outside of the conference walls. It also allows the conference message to reach many more than those in attendance.
What type of conference experiences do we need to plan and design for to include all four stages? What does it take to transition a conference from a pure information channel into a more 21st Century social channel?