Grow Your Conference By Becoming An Attendee Action Hero

Wizard World Austin Comic Con 2012
You don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Nor do you have to fly at the speed of light to respond to a conference crisis. Nor do you have to use your special hidden super powers to meet your attendees’ expectations.

Instead, it’s more about reliability than heroics. It’s about creating a conference experience that attendees can count on you to deliver. They know they can rely on you to provide an experience that helps fix what ails them, to care enough to give them what they will need and to always be there shining a light in the darkness to what’s next.

The Mistake Of Giving Attendees What They Want Versus What They Need

Conference professionals have made the mistake that to improve the attendee experience they should give attendees what they want, not what they need. They sacrifice helping attendees improve their professional lives in the name of getting a good overall conference score. The entire focus is on getting a better overall score.

Conferences have gone from gaming attendees to get good satisfaction scores, to gaming them to improve loyalty to gaming them improve experience. The end target is the same but the name has changed.

The true end result should be creating a conference experience that is so great, so memorable and so transformative that the attendee wants to repeat it. But unfortunately, the game is getting the great score—any way possible.

Become An Attendee Action Hero

To become an attendee action hero, you need to start with listening. You need to listen to what pains your paying attendee. And you have to interpret what they are really saying. Sometimes attendees just state symptoms. They just know what’s affecting them.

Regrettably, most conference leaders’ ears are filled with wax. They are too focused on improving an overall score than listening to what they paying attendees need. And they don’t spend the time to learn how to interpret the real problem.

Here are three steps that author Jeanne Bliss identifies that will help your conference leadership focus on improving attendees’ professional lives.

1. Develop true attendee empathy.

Conference planning teams need to understand what makes their attendees tick. This is where the conference leaders breed truly caring about their paying attendees’ lives more than their own scores.

2. Connect the conference experience to attendees’ business growth.

Conference leaders need to connect the conference to attendees’ work ROI! This is where your surveys should collect data about the behavioral actions of your attendees after they leave the conference. Did their conference experience lead to their increased productivity or growth? Ultimately, the conference planning team asks, “Did we earn the right to our attendees’ growth?”

3. Focus on a critical few conference priorities.

Frequently, conference planning teams allow every cross-disciplinary technical committee and special interest group to select and offer speakers and topics at the conference. Every silo possible is involved in independently selecting and working on pieces of the conference experience. Instead, the conference planner needs to unite leaders in focus, prioritizing and commitments. Unite leaders to select conference experiences for improvement and innovation. This establishes the few critical versus the silo-based many that the conference should focus on for the attendees’ experience and growth.

Hat Tips to author Jeanne Bliss’ insights and writings on customer experience.

How can your conference planning team gain clarity about where they want to take their conference attendees? How can you effectively challenge the idea that every committee and special interest group should have time on the conference agenda?

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