Designing Conference Customers, Not Just Traditional Conferences

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We are thinking about conference innovation from the wrong perspective.

We usually think about conference innovation as something we create for our paying attendees. Or we think about innovation as something we design with attendees through crowdsourcing.

We need to make a critical leap. Conference innovation is a way to design attendees!

Innovation should be treated as a medium and method for (re)desigining customer. ~ HBR author Michael Schrage.

Evolving Your Conference Customer

Instead of talking about designing new conference experiences, programming, technologies and strategies through innovation, we should be talking about how to design new conference customers and attendee segments.

Evolving our current conference customers should be as important, if not more important, than improving the attendee experience.

Designing tomorrow’s best conference customer is not the same thing as designing today’s conference customer. Nor is it the same thing as designing tomorrow’s best conference experience.

You want to raise the level of discussion with your conference planning team. Instead of debating about innovative conference experiences, deliberate about how your innovations can influence your conference market segment evolution over the next two or three years.

The driving force behind your evolving your conference customer is your vision of that customer. Who- and what- will your paying conference attendees become?

Ongoing conference innovations should guarantee that tomorrow’s conference customers will be different from today’s!

Conference Innovation Is An Investment In Our Registrants

We need to see our (conference) innovation as an investment in human capital, says Schrange. It is an investment in our paying attendees’ capabilities and competencies.

Your conference’s future depends on your conference customers’ future.

Your most important conference asset is your paying registrant. How you invest in your conference customers, how you treat your conference customers and how you raise their skill level is critical to your success.

We need to be asking, “What do we want our conference customers to become?

Why do we turn to our customers to identify new innovative strategies? How is designing conference programming for who you want your customers to become different than designing conference programming based on customer wants and needs?

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  1. OK, you’re freaking me out a little Jeff! But what an interesting way to think about conference design. I think we turn to customers first because we want to be innovative, but not so innovative that we leave them behind. But what you’re talking about is doing exactly that, only finding a way to bring them with you. To find out what they don’t know they don’t know, then showing them how imperative it is for them to know it. Which would take a lot more work than the usual focus groups and surveys, I would think—I’m not sure how you would go about it, really. That is assuming you mean transforming the same group of participants, not expanding into new markets? I guess it could mean both, couldn’t it? Ow, my brain hurts.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I’ve always believed that conferences should be leading its paying attendees forward, not just responding to problems of now and the past. I believe the best conference organizers are out in front of their attendees, looking at society’s trends, the economy and other factors and then designing experiences to help their attendees leap frog ahead. When you think about it, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Toyota all do this. Kindle and iPad users are just as much branded as Amazon and Apple. Facebook transformed its customers into people who are more willing to share their personal information because we want to be more open and connected. Google created better searchers. Toyota created better drivers with its eco-transformations with Prius…making us want to become ecologically correct and environmentally friendly. Why can’t we design conference customers?

      Yes, it’s a stretch in thinking and it’s a stretch we should be thinking about. What do we want our conference attendees to become? Instead of just reacting to now and yesterday.

      Thanks for reading, allowing your mind to “go there” even if it is freaky and commenting too. Appreciate it very much!

      1. OK, now I understand what you mean. Of course that makes sense, and is a great goal to have. Just not easy to achieve, but what is that’s worth doing? Thanks for making think a little differently today!

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