Conference WOW Moments Require Perpetual Reinvention

They Call Me Mellow Yellow by Richard RicciardiYour mighty event team managed to transform a “what if?” idea into a five-star, conference greatest hit. The attendee WOW factor was off the charts. This big moment gave your brand a major boost, with social shares rippling out to others who didn’t attend, but now wish they had.

Everyone’s talking about this incredible experience, including your boss. Way to go!

Now for the tough truth: WOW moments have a very short shelf life. Each time they’re repeated, the buzz diminishes substantially. Before long, your competitors are running with this idea. That’s why conference organizers need to be in a perpetual state of new WOW discovery.

The Psychology Behind WOW: The Kano Model

In the ’80s, Professor Noriaki Kano studied customer behaviors and preferences to ultimately develop the Kano Model. The chart below (courtesy of takes a closer look at three key categories within this model that impact our meetings & events world significantly:

1. ​PerformanceKano Model
This speaks to the urgent needs that you develop by knowing your key customers intimately. If the conference organizer delivers well on these counts, attendee satisfaction increases. If they drop the ball, satisfaction dips. Since education and networking are often the two biggest reasons why people attend conferencess, they fit the Performance category to a tee. Advanced and hyper-relevant conference learning with lots of peer-to-peer collaboration? Attendee satisfaction skyrockets. Stale lecture on basic stuff they already know? Attendee satisfaction plummets and you may never win them back.

2. Basic
This speaks to the things the attendee expects and often, takes for granted or doesn’t mention. If the conference organizer delivers well on the basics, attendee satisfaction remains neutral. If the conference organizer falls short, attendee dissatisfaction increases. Essentially, this is a zero net gain category with plenty of risk for satisfaction loss. The registration experience would qualify for the basic bucket. Attendees expect a smooth and swift registration process. Deliver well and they may not even notice. Long lines or online snags? Dissatisfaction creeps in and they’ll likely share their discontent with others.

3. Excitement
This speaks to the unexpected and much appreciated things you deliver to your customers. They’re surprised, they’re delighted and satisfaction levels surge. As you’ll notice in the chart, Excitement starts at a satisfaction neutral point because it was something they didn’t expect. Satisfaction can only increase, but there’s little to no risk of dissatisfaction dings. In the conference realm, this might be the free book on their seat at the general session or the reception where they got a chance to chat with thought leaders or snap selfies with celebrities.

While the WOW scenario we outlined earlier fits the Excitement category, over time, it will eventually slip into the Basic category. Hence, the need for constant WOW refresh and reinvention. It’s best to view your conference product as being in constant beta mode.

Remember several years ago when hotels started offering free Wi-Fi in guest rooms? Back then, it was a pleasant surprise that delighted customers. Today, it’s slipping into the Basic zone and the absence of a fast and reliable free connection actually irritates guests.

WOW is an incredible satisfaction accelerant, but remember, it’s got a short shelf life. You’ll need to amplify those WOW moments each and every time to reap the full benefits.

Is your conference planning team in a perpetual state of WOW discovery and design? What tips can you share to help us find more WOW conference moments?

Adapted from Donna’s Meeting Innovation post on Cvent Event Planning blog. ©2015.


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