June 9, 2014 by Jeff Hurt
The conference market is saturated with commoditized information-driven attendee experiences.
Most conferences are nothing more than status-quo, average, predictable information overloaded experiences. They reek of sameness.
After you’ve attended a conference for the first time, it loses its freshness and excitement. It feels too familiar.
So how can a conference set itself apart from other commoditized experiences?
Reconnect with its conference attendees in a new, fresh, unique way! Get creative with the attendee’s conference experience.
This means that organizers need to focus on designing that attendee’s experience.
How do you do that?
You consider each moment of engagement your registrants’ have at the conference. How does it feel? What does it look like? What will attendees do? What are the emotions, ideas and memories these touchpoints will create between the registrant and your conference?
Creating a loyal attendee that returns to your event year after year requires a long term investment. It requires commitment to the goal.
Why long term commitment? Because short-term financial investments are difficult to quantify. This means you need to focus on the life-time value of your paying attendee. That requires creating an emotional connection with your attendee.
To create an emotional bond with an attendee, you as a conference organizer need to:
You need to reconnect with your registrants to glean new insights. You have to ask different questions than you normally do. You need to do a competitor analysis from the view of your attendee not your organization’s perspective. And you need to change you conference satisfaction survey.
What makes your conference unique from your competitor’s conference? Identify those and the heart, the mission of your conference. These should also be tied to your target market.
Now armed with your attendee intelligence and your conference’s heart values, create an extraordinary conference attendee promise. This promise should be based on what customers really want.
Note: Remember, just because some of your attendees say they want CEUs does not mean they really want CEUs. Certification and CEUs are commoditized. What they really want are recognition and job promotion. Focus on providing an experience that helps them get job promotion, not just CEUs!
Finally, you need to make sure that your conference experience—the networking, the learning opportunities, the collection of business leads—reflects the attendee promise.
Take Starbucks for example. Their customer promise is outlined in their operational book called The Green Apron Book. Starbucks identifies five core values as “Be welcoming, be genuine, be considerate, be knowledgeable and be involved.” Then they give practical tips to their team on how to connect with their customers.
Although it will probably take a few years to create emotional bonds with conference attendees, the rewards are worth it. Do it well and your attendees will become raving, intensely loyal advocates.
Emotional bonding steps adapted from ATKearnery’s How To Create An Entirely Different(iated) Customer Experience.
Looking for more tips about Creating A Conference Attendee Experience, consider these posts:
What are some conference attendee promises that you have heard? Who should be in charge of creating the conference attendee experience: meeting professional, conference organizer, education coordinator or someone else?
Filed Under: Event Planning
So I’m interested in hearing about personal experiences and designs for new ways of creating conference engagement. I recently attended an all-day seminar, that started with the most creative and ended with the all-too-familiar. Even sitting at round tables, we were able to group by pairs, threes, and fours to switch up interactions. Also, we were given a deck of cards on the table to be used, that prompted communication along specific lines. I only wish the same themes were reiterated all day, rather than the parade of speakers, each of which gave different information entirely. If they could have woven their themes into the lessons from the first speaker, we all would have retained it more.
What have you done to create and maintain engagement?
By the way, how do simple crafts go over? folded paper or pipe cleaners? Was that a fad that has disappeared, or a useful tool?
[…] Jeff Hurt asks: what is your event’s “heart value“? […]
[…] fresh experience. It should feel like a first-time conference experience every time. Creating a clangorously (ringing) new experience each year will create impassioned evangelistic advocates. Then not only will they attend every […]
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