September 8, 2016 by Dave Lutz
As conference education trumps the exhibit hall experience at many association meetings, or creeps into your trade show experience to create a solutions-driven, holistic experience for your attendees, upping your game with session titles, descriptions, and learning objectives has become more important than ever.
In 2013, we partnered with Tagoras on a research project and produced The Speaker Report. 48 percent of the 120 conference/education professionals who responded said they always or frequently re-write some or all of their speaker session submissions (e.g. titles, descriptions or learning objectives). My best guess is that at least 2/3 of conferences are making this a practice today. You should too!
Today’s conference professional needs the savvy know-how from an education and attendance marketing perspective to craft the very best session title and description—one that will ultimately not only attract attendees, but also get the presenters to laser focus on delivering the promised outcomes.
Your mission: you want your reader, i.e. potential attendee, to be piqued enough by the session title to read the first sentence of your description, then to read the second sentence and so on, until she finally reads your learner outcomes. Ultimately, these should lead to convincing the reader to bookmark and attend the session.
This is no different than writing a headline for an article or an email subject line: What will get the reader to read on? While clever, it also needs to be authentic. It should be useful to the reader, create a sense of urgency and be specific.
The Advanced Marketing Institute has a free headline analyzer tool that totally rocks. Practice with this to ensure that all titles hit a score of 50 percent or greater. You’ll need to choose the type of business or industry to adopt, which most often for business-to-business conferences is “Business & Professional Services.” There’s no magic number to title length. You can vary these as long as they score well.
Session descriptions should be no longer than 75 words. In a four to five short sentences, it should describe how attending and participating will benefit the business and/or the individual. The presenter should make the case for why this topic is important, urgent and helpful. Think business outcomes or business results.
The Learning Objectives (LO’s) should represent what the participant will be able to recall after attending the session. For learning design purposes, there should be no more than one LO for every 20 minutes of session time. If a speaker is not able to nail these, there’s a very good chance that their session is going to be subpar. Use this list of measurable verbs, from Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, to guide development of session learning objectives. Application level or higher is most appropriate for professional conferences.
Develop a pick list of functional areas, titles and work settings to identify who each session is best suited for. This is critical. A presenter cannot deliver an effective presentation unless they have a clear understanding of who they’re designing for.
If your organization does rewrite or edit session titles, descriptions and learning objectives, it’s critical to get the final blessing from your presenters before publishing. Ultimately, they’re the ones that need to deliver a learning experience as advertised. Some conference organizers provide best in class examples of well written session descriptions in the resource area for their session submissions.
What steps are you taking to improve your session copy? How do you help presenters deliver on the content as advertised?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2016.
Filed Under: Attendance Marketing
I absolutely agree, most of the time the copy given by the speaker is generic and bland. They are experts in their field but not necessarily great at marketing themselves. Unfortunately we do judge books by their covers and so without a knockout title you wont even get a look in from potential attendees.
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
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