How Are Your Conference Attendees Preprogrammed And Hard Wired?


What type of “P” mindset do your conference attendees have?

You need to know before you can start programming for your conference.

In order to help answer three of your most conference planning pressing questions:

  • Who are we designing this experience for?
  • Who do we need to attract today, so that we’ll be relevant for the next-generation participant?
  • Who are the economic buyers that our sponsors and exhibitors want to see most?

— you need to figure out whether your group has a Promotion or Prevention mindset.

The Two P Mindsets

Recently, one of my co-workers shared a big idea that she picked up from Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., and E. Tory Higgins, Ph.D., who work at Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center. and are the authors of a book and an article from the Harvard Business Review,  Do You Plan to Win — or Not to Lose?. Their research concludes that a person is motivated depending upon whether he or she is more focused on getting pleasure or avoiding pain. Every professional has a dominant mindset of either Promotion or Prevention.

1. The Promotion Mindset

People with a Promotion mindset derive pleasure from making progress, advancing, accomplishing, or gaining things. They experience pain when they fail to achieve these things or they stay stagnant.

2. The Prevention Mindset

At the other end of the spectrum, people with a Prevention mentality get pleasure from maintaining the status quo, being safe and secure. Their sense of pain comes when they make mistakes or fail to keep things running smoothly.

Obviously, Promotion and Prevention professionals are wired very differently, and this really got our brains cooking about the meetings industry. How do these two mindsets influence the way conferences are designed and the way marketing messages are crafted to encourage individuals to attend?

The Meeting Professional Mindsets Versus Your Attendee Mindsets

The best meeting professionals need great analytical and planning skills and are therefore more likely fit into the Prevention category. But these same planners may be creating experiences for an audience that is more Promotion dominant. For that reason, applying the Promotion/Prevention concept as a framework can help in your conference design and attendee-acquisition strategy. Thinking broadly:

1. Sponsor and exhibitors are interested in promotion mindsets.

If 30 percent or more of your convention’s revenue comes from sponsorship or an expo, more often than not, these investors — sponsors and exhibitors — are interested in seeing Promotion types in your audience.

2. Planning for prevention dominant attendees.

Prevention-dominant attendee targets may have less of a professional-development budget than their Promotion counterparts. So when you are designing an education experience and creating marketing for them, your best bet is to focus on content that helps them avoid pain (e.g., sessions on PhRMA codes for administrative health-care professionals).

3. Planning for promotion dominant attendees.

On the other hand, Promotion-dominated groups are motivated by content that is focused on innovation, risk-taking, and making progress.

4. What about incentives for audiences?

Incentives resonate better with a Promotion-dominated individual.

How does Halvorson and Higgins’ research influence your conference marketing and messaging? What steps would you take to make your planning different for promotion dominant versus prevention dominant attendees?

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2013.
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