April 1, 2015 by Jeff Hurt
Your conference is out of balance. And most conference organizers don’t even know it.
Sure as a conference organizer you know that creativity and innovation are important to your planning. You probably even realize that collaborating with others on the schedule and programming make for a better conference experience.
However, as a conference organizer most of the paths you take for conference improvement follow the traditional path. You spend all your time on improving the efficiency and logistics of the meeting. You probably give data and analytics the upper hand in your improvement process.
Many conference organizers and their host organizations pride themselves in being evidence-based, data-driven, analytics-focused organizations.
These conferences collect data in myriads of ways. They know how many speakers they secure, how may sessions they offer, how many attendees paid full registrations, how many exhibitors they have, how much sponsorship they’ve raised, how many CEUs are available and how many people actually showed up on site.
Rings and rings of data drive their decisions. They know what has happened. When it happened. How it happened. And who participated.
They have quantitative data about registrants, exhibitors, speakers and sponsors and who spent what for which years.
They have the resources to analyze this data and find the places where they should ask “Why? What are these paid attendees thinking when they purchased conference registration?”
And they can go ask these people.
But usually they don’t ask.
Rarely do conference organizers and their hosts ask their customers the story of why. Why they bought conference registration or sponsorship or exhibit space.
We need to dig deeper than our survey responses of networking, education and business leads as the why people attend conferences. Why did they want education? Why did they want to network? What type of leads are they seeking?
As Practical Empathy author Indi Young says,
“The story of why is about the purpose a person has for doing something….(Their) motivation feels much different (than traditional responses).”
If conference organizers knew why someone felt education and learning was important to them, they could give better support, develop better programming and design better conference experiences.
For example, why is education and learning important to that customer? Is that customer looking for a raise or a promotion? Do they want a job change? Do they need to be seen as a strategic player that is solutions oriented?
Too many conference organizers are stuck in their own perception that attendees want certification, or need introductory industry information, or want the organization’s curriculum, or the conference/technical committee’s personal agenda as content.
Comprehending the human half of the picture is one of the major aspects missing from planning and implementing conference experiences. To paraphrase Young,
Understanding the human half of the picture is the foundation for creativity. It defines the areas you need to explore and develop with your conference programming.
But you can’t force creativity down a rational, numeric path.
This is why conference organizers need to understand the why. Then they can use their target customers’ stories as real data to get creative.
Going deeper than preconceived assumptions and opinions is what is called empathy says Young. And our conference planning process needs to embrace more empathy! We need to seek the Story of Why!
Hat Tips Practical Empathy by Indi Young.
What are some ways that conference planning teams can see “the story of why?” What are some other ways we can embrace empathy in our conference planning process?
Filed Under: Event Planning
This is a refreshing post Jeff. Not that I don’t like posts that are “evidence-based, data-driven, and analytics-focused”, but shifting the spotlight to the human element and “why” is more than welcome. Shared this post!
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