Conference audiences of days gone by were satisfied with the gathering of colleagues, a mediocre experience and a few useful tips.
Today’s audiences are more demanding and sophisticated. They expect to learn practical and useful information that solves their individual problems. They expect speaker presentations that are compelling and memorable. And they expect to be entertained while having fun.
Eight Expectations That Develop Rapport
Your conference needs to have the right chemistry with its participants. Rapport is that mysterious chemistry that lets you know if your audience identifies with the experience.
In order to develop and calibrate good rapport with your audience, you need to attend to these eight conference audience expectations.
1. Cutting-edge information
Audiences don’t want information that is outdated and regurgitated on the internet. They want the most current, cutting-edge information available. That means that speaker call for proposals and presentation deadlines need to change to allow speakers to craft current, up to date, real time information. However cutting-edge information alone is not enough.
2. Customized information that solves their problems
Audience members arrive at the conference with specific problems that they expect to solve. They are searching for answers to these problems. They expect your conference to deliver solutions customized to them.
3. Sessions focused on learning design and the audience doing something
Customized and cutting-edge information is a step in the right direction. However, today’s audiences are not satisfied with just passively consuming your conference experience. They want to be involved and be co-creators with you. Audiences want to actively participate in some type of learning activity whether it’s discussion, an experiment or an activity. It’s about the audience doing something and not passively sitting quietly.
4. Time for discussion
Participants need time to make meaning from the information. They need to own the concepts being presented. They need time to reflect on what is being said and how it applies to their situation. Their brains are looking for meaning. The brain seeks associations, connections and patterns between the information presented and their own experience. Patterns that are identified add to the participant’s learning.
For learning to occur, they need to discuss the information, share ideas, make meaning of the content and dialogue with others as they deepen their understanding of the topic.
5. Time to create an implementation plan
Conference audiences need time in each education session to decide how they will apply what they just learned. This is a critical and often ignored part of most conferences. Every participant should walk out with a game plan on next steps for their success.
6. A different experience
Conference audiences do not want a repeat of last year’s schedule only with different filling. They don’t want the same status-quo, average, conference experience. They want and expect something different. They expect a unique, one-of-a-kind, threaded, relevant, memorable, purple cow experience. You have to focus on designing an experience and move away from piecing together parts of a conference.
7. To be entertained
Audiences still expect to be entertained, regardless of the content. Some have dubbed this expectation “infotainment” or “edutainment.”
Ultimately, the conference content needs to match the participant’s world, aligning with how they see, hear and feel things on a daily basis. And it needs to do so in an entertaining way.
8. To have fun
Who said learning, education and information had to be boring anyway? It should be entertaining and fun. If not, it’s just a waste of time.
The Sum Of These Eight Parts
Great conference experiences are an orchestration of many little things. From logistics to creating a unique experience to integrating these eight elements, it is ultimately the sum of its parts.
When conferences present experiences and content using these eight elements, participants feel good, excel in learning, remember more, are fired-up to take the next step and become your raving fans.
What are some ways to integrate these eight expectations into the conference experience? Why is developing rapport with conference attendees so critical?