What a CEO Can Do For Your Conference



  • An individual with a laser focus on, and advocate for, the conference customer.
  • Someone to educate leadership on the advantages of being customer and experience focused.
  • A silo buster.
  • A strategic professional with a high empathy quotient.

Many conferences are planned and implemented leveraging a variety of departmental silos and often, several volunteer committees. One person or group owns education. Others are owned by marketing, business development, meeting planning, membership and finance. Often, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Sound familiar?

Your Organization Needs a CEO

To achieve market differentiation in the 21st century, progressive conference owners will organize around their customers, not their internal functions. They’ll have a Conference Experience Officer (CEO), who wakes up every day thinking about the key attendees and how to deliver an experience, holistically, that keeps them coming back year after year.

In addition to being the person that always asks “Is this in the best interest of our paying attendee?”, the CEO is responsible for:

1. The Conference Experience

The CEO discusses the behaviors and attitudes that the organization wants from its attendees before ever looking at venues, F&B, room capacities and other logistics. What is the experience like attending this conference? What value does this conference provide to our key attendees? Other stakeholders? What type of emotional journey does the experience take its attendees on? Does it provide highs and lows? Does it make them happy, fulfilled and excited? Or does it make them feel rushed, confused, agitated or bored?

2. The Touchpoint Experience

What is it like when the attendee receives the first, second and consecutive announcements about the conference? What is their experience like when they visit your conference website? Is it easy to figure out what offerings this conference provides? Can they discover if the conference will help solve their pain points? Is registration easy, straight-forward and intuitive? Or is it complex with no pre-population, too many clicks and unnecessary steps? What happens once they register? Are there more touchpoints or does the information stop?

3. The Organization Brand Experience

What is it like to interact with your brand through the conference experience? Is talking about the conference host the only way the attendee experiences brand or do they actually have a full sensory brand-experience? What type of emotions does the experience evoke and the attendee then associates with your brand?

4. The Support Experience

How helpful is the conference host before, during and after the conference experience? Is it easy to contact them via social media, email and phone? Or do people dread having to contact the host organization? When stakeholders do finally make contact, do they feel that the conference host cares about them and that their problems are addressed or do employees make them feel like an annoyance or distraction?

5. The Entrance and Exit Experiences

What happens when the stakeholders first connect onsite at the conference experience? Is it a red carpet, welcoming, unforgettable experience? Or is it the status quo, average, entering a venue without any fanfare or thought to that experience? What is it like to walk out on the last day? Are people lined up from the next meeting venue and city applauding and making attendees want to dodge the exit line? Or is there an authentic and inspirational thank you that leaves participants on a high-note?

Hat tips to HubSpot founder/CTO, Dharmesh Shah, on his blog post, “The CEO Should be the Chief Experience Officer”.

How would a Conference Experience Officer help your organization? Do you believe it’s best to organize around your customers or your products/functions? 

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2015.

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