Conference Organizers Should Be Great CEOs: Chief Experience Officers!

Mod Mood Quilt, Summer 2010

What do conference organizers really do?

They organize all the aspects of the conference experience.

I believe that title—conference organizer–doesn’t serve us anymore. It doesn’t convey the right information as putting together logistics is like putting together quilt pieces without any plan. It’s just stitching pieces together and crossing your fingers that it will result in a great look, product and design.

Enter The Conference Experience Officer

Much like a conference meeting steward, the conference experience officer pays attention to all of the stakeholder’s experience. If the CEO, Conference Experience Officer, can create great experiences for all those involved, he/she succeeds!

1. The Conference Experience

This is the main product that the conference experience officer and host organization is providing for their stakeholders. The CEO discusses the behaviors and attitudes that the organization wants from its attendees first before ever looking at venues, F&B, room capacities and other logistics. What is the experience like attending this conference? What value does this conference provide to all its stakeholders? What type of emotional journey does the experience take its attendees on? Does it provide highs and lows? Does it make them happy, fulfilled and excited? Or does it make them frustrated, agitated, angry and upset?

2. The Touchpoint Experience

What is it like when the attendee receives the first, second and consecutive announcements about the conference? What is their experience like when they visit your conference website? Is it easy to figure out what offerings this conference provides? Can they discover if the conference will help solve their pain points? Is registration easy, straight-forward and intuitive? Or is registration complex with too many clicks and unnecessary steps? What happens once they register? Are there more touchpoints or does the information stop?

3. The Organization Brand Experience

Many conference organizers don’t realize that the conference experience showcases the host organization’s brand. So what is it like to interact with that brand through the conference experience? Is talking about the conference host the only way the attendee experiences brand or do they actually have a full sensory experience with that brand? What type of emotions does the experience evoke and the attendee then associate with the brand?

4. The Support Experience

How helpful is the conference host before, during and after the conference experience? Is it easy to contact the host organization via social media, email and phone to ask for assistance or clarification? Or do people dread having to contact the host organization? When stakeholders do finally make contact, do they feel that the conference host company cares about them and that their problems are addressed or do the company’s employees make them feel like an annoyance or distraction?

5. The Entrance And Exit Experiences

What happens when the stakeholders first connect onsite at the conference experience? Is a red carpet, welcoming, unforgettable experience? Or is it the status-quo, average, entering a venue without any fanfare or thought to that experience? What is it like to walk out on the last day of that experience? Are people lined up from the next meeting venue and city applauding and making attendees want to dodge the exit line? Or is there an authentic thank you exit experience?

Focusing On The Conference Customer

As conference organizers and meeting professionals, we often get so focused on the details and logistics of our event that we forget that entire experience is for and about our customers. The above experiences are just a few of the primary set of experiences that the CEO, conference experience organizer, should worry about first before ever working on the details.

Remember, by improving the overall conference stakeholder experience, everyone wins!

HT’s to Dharmesh Shah, founder/CTO of HubSpot, for his recent article about CEO’s as chief experience officers that sparked this post about conference experience officers.

How important is the attendees’ conference experience? What are some ways we can improve the conference experience for our various shareholders?

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  1. MC says:

    This is much needed, I think. But I’m wondering about the abbreviation conflict w the chief executive officer. Perhaps use our current abbreviation standards (UX, etc), and call this person the CXO?

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I like the fact that CEO usually stands for Chief Executive Officer which reinforces the point that conference organizers should see themselves strategically as chief executive office of their event and the chief experience officer too.

      That being sad, you make a very valid point as well. I like CXO too.

  2. […] advocates for our customers’ experience. Our role evolves into internal strategist, futurists and experience designers as we center our attention on creating and designing participatory experiences not passive […]

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