Impotent Conferences Are Powerless To Influence Forward Movement


Imagine a radio station that played adult contemporary, classical, country, dance, electronic, golden oldies, heavy metal, news, pop, R&B, rock, southern gospel and talk alternating between each.

What if this commercial radio station tried to appeal to everyone’s musical taste as well as news and talk radio? How successful would it be?

It wouldn’t work, you say. We chuckle at that thought that this type of radio station would succeed. No one would even listen to this station.

Something For Everyone Doesn’t Work

This radio station analogy applies to most conferences.

I’ve heard it over and over again: “Our conference has something for everyone.”

The conference leaders make sure there are two to three workshops for every potential customer segment.

Something for everyone sounds great. Our conference customers seem to like it. It plays well with our advisory committees.

But, and it’s a significant but…

Something for everyone produces an impotent conference.

It dilutes influence on attendees, its industry and customers’ profession. It has a watered-down effect. It adulterates its true impact.

Something for everyone lacks focus. It mitigates any real power. It thins any true concentrated efforts.

Who Is Your Target?

So who is your conference’s target?

If you respond with “Anyone that will pay,” you have a much bigger problem.

What is the mission of your conference?

If you provide the standard reply, “To help our customers/members,” then your leadership lacks real vision.

If conference leaders and professionals don’t begin to strategically target specific attendee segments, the risk losing ground in fulfilling their mission.

Don’t just copy the traditional conference model. It’s based on institutionalized school.

And we are missing something that is clearly evident in the school model. Every school has a unique target audience. Each school focuses on a specific culture, language, community, size and other leading factors. Teachers are highly skilled and not random volunteers.

Three Strategic Steps

Here are three strategic steps to consider to regain your conference foothold. They will give your conference a shot of potency and influence!

1. Stay Focused

Have a laser-focused vision for your conference that aligns with your organization’s mission. Then shine the spotlight on your target market for your conference. Who specifically are you trying to reach with this event? Who do your sponsors and exhibitors want to see? Keep these target market segments at the center of your programming planning.

2. Do Networking And Education Really Well

Don’t try to be all things to all people. And stop trying to improve your operational efficiency. Stop making quality logistics your most important skill.

Focus on improving learning and networking experiences. Make these your core competencies. And knock those two types of experiences out of the ball park.

Remember, people attend your conference for education and networking so make them the focus. They don’t return because registration or room sets went smoothly!

3. Don’t Sweat The Critics And Leavers

“If we don’t provide something for everyone, we will lose customers/members,” some will say.

If someone leaves your conference because you’re not meeting their needs, that’s OK. If they are not part of your target market, encourage them to attend an experience that is specifically for them.

And don’t try to answer every criticism or question about your actions. It will wear you out. You’ll get distracted responding to every minor but vocal critic. Clearly identify your target audience in your marketing. Remember, it’s OK to listen to criticism as long as you choose the right critics.

Hat tips authors and strategic thinkers Carey Nieuwhof and Tony Morgan.

What are some other strategic steps that you use to stay focused on your conference’s target market? How did your organization even go about identifying your target market?

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