“How much are our attendees willing to pay?”
It is a question that many conference hosts and organizers frequently ask when they begin planning their events.
It’s like asking the question, “What topics do you want to hear at next year’s conference?” Instead of asking, “What’s keeping you up at night?”
Challenge is that this stumble is classic. It is something that happens all around us on a daily basis.
The Typical Grand Stumble
Higher education and universities keep pushing the same old stale education methods, when students clearly want something more effective. Higher ed is training graduates for a world that no longer exists.
Politicians exclaim they listen to their voters when in reality they listen to large donors who interests rarely stray from greed. These politicos don’t understand what the voting public is really dealing with.
Fast food restaurants keeps pushing the same old combo meals when in reality consumers are looking for fast, healthier options.
Automobile makers insist on luring us into the car sales’ den instead of letting us shop online!
Faith organizations rarely ask potential attendees what they seek in their communities. Instead they consider how to promote their own programs and services.
Conference organizers secure sponsors that want their messages, logo and name pushed into attendees’ experience. It is not about what is in the best interest of the attendee. It’s about making as much sponsoring dollars as possible so the organization flourishes.
The Audience-Held-Hostage Conference Function
Too many conference hosts/organizers see the conference as an opportunity to promote what the organization already does. They see the meal functions and general sessions as the chance to push self-promotional propaganda. It is the time to shovel information into attendees’ minds as we’ve held them captive.
They think, “Hey we have the audience held hostage at this time, so let’s push our products, our agenda and our information.”
Why do we continue to push our conference hosts/organizers’ needs over our attendees needs? Why do we continue to pick up the wrong end of the telescope and ask, “How can we use this moment to get what we need? How can we turn this conference experience into our benefit?”
Disruptive, new things are happening beyond the conference organizers’ control. It starts when the conference planning staff realizes that the event is about the paying attendee and not the hosting organization.
What Do Our Stakeholders Need?
When we start with the wrong end of the telescope – what do I want? – there isn’t much room left to ask what others need. It’s time to ask what our stakeholders need instead!
How do conference committees foster or limit our ability to focus on the real needs of the paying customer? How can you tell when a conference organizer has picked up the wrong end of the telescope and is focused on their host organization instead?