August 14, 2013 by Jeff Hurt
Now, more than ever, conference organizers can’t continue to play it safe!
Your annual conference is part of your organization’s brand experience.
Most conference hosts and organizers understand the power of experience to inspire people and drive business growth. Yet few take the time to consider, plan and design an amazing conference experience. They just patchwork conference components together and wait for great results.
Today, people expect more from their conference experience. Repeat attendees hold the conference hosts and organizers to a higher standard. Average is no longer enough.
Here are some steps to consider when creating a mind-blowing, memorable conference experience.
Smart conference organizers see their conference experience as one filled with touchpoints where they co-create, interact and participate with their key stakeholders. They are brave enough to plan the experience before logistics.
Conference organizers must first avoid the traditional formula. They need to fight their instinct to go to a safe space. They must resist the nature to be average. They can’t afford to replicate last year’s experience by only changing the filler (speakers and content). The must be bold, brave and courageous to try new things.
Traditionally, a maker culture is group of contemporaries that apply the DIY movement to creating their own inventions. They focus on learning new skills and finding unique ways to apply them.
Conference organizers should think about planning moments, environments and experiences that people interact with. We need to think about conferences that generate big ideas and then create digital and physical event experiences around those ideas. Some organizations are removing department silos and calling everyone involved with creating the conference experience a maker!
Conference organizers have spent too much time focusing on the efficiency and logistics of the event instead of the experience they’re creating. We make major decisions based on sponsor’s marketing requirements not attendee needs. It’s time to put people, the conference stakeholders, first. We need to plan a conference experience around user-first design.
If components of the conference experience are not in the best interest of the paying attendee, they should be deleted and avoided.
The conference experience has to be customized based on solving attendees’ problems. It must be contextual, enhancing their lives and providing value. It has to go beyond communicating 101 concepts and delivering information. Conference experiences that help attendees solve their pressing problems rise above the rest.
It’s all too easy for conference organizers to get distracted by the next shiny new object and forget the primary goal: providing a unique conference experience. Your conference experience must push the boundaries as it involves attendees’ emotions. It should create an emotional experience with crescendos, intimate moments of reflection and group emotive moments. You need big ideas not big technology solutions!
To create a truly incredible conference experience, we have to question our established norms, our traditional rules and conventional limitations. We have to create experiences that sometimes look outside of our industry for the best ideas. We can’t continue to evolve with our homogenous groups that isolate themselves from conflict and the world around them. We need to embrace challenge over comfort.
It seems so obvious and shouldn’t have to be stated. But often we forget. Creativity and performance are partners in the marketplace.
If you want to inspire loyal repeat conference stakeholders, you have to create experience around work that matters. It has to connect on a deep emotional level to a higher purpose. Your conference experience needs to connect to the most relevant topics of today. Sometimes it should connect to a higher value and go against traditional sets of beliefs to the heart of the matter.
These tenets come from the world of creating brand experiences. Conference hosts should adopt them and apply them liberally in some way, degree or fashion. We can all learn from these lessons tweaked and adapted for conferences from Jack Morton’s Cannes Brand Experience.
What holds conference hosts and organizers back from creating unique attendee experiences? How can we elevate the conversation about conferences as part of the organization’s brand experience?
Filed Under: Event Planning
Love the article, right from the start, anything that starts with such a powerful word as bodacious, has got to be good. I would also say that effective logistics are expected and you don’t get any credit for things working the way they are supposed to. I think what stops people from being bold is that being bold is more polarizing so its hard to be bold and please everyone. However, I also believe that most conference attendees, even if the strong impact elements aren’t their cup of tea will acknowledge the bold efforts and view the positive efforts.
So true, so true. We don’t convert attendees into loyal fans over great registration, flow and room sets today.
I also agree that many people are afraid of being bold yet that’s what attracts people today. Average no longer serves us being bold is one way to lure new fans. And as you said, if we manage expectations and let attendees know we are trying bold things for them, they are more willing to give us grace.
Thanks for commenting and reading too.
[…] again, Jeff Hurt hits it out of the ballpark with his Midcourse Corrections Blog post “How To Create A Bodacious, Mind-boggling, Unforgettable Conference Experience.” Yes, the provocative and hyperbolic headline grabbed me, but Jeff’s message is an […]
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