The Conference Owner’s Guide: From Conference Touchpoints To Journey Experiences Part 1

Touchpoint OrchestrationToo often conference and meeting professionals assume that their role is best suited to planning and executing the conference.

They leave the big decisions about target customers, their needs and their aspirations to the organization’s leaders, the marketing department or even the education division. Sometimes they say, “Well, I’m not in charge of programming, content or speakers. I get that from the education section or the conference technical teams.”

They assume that this default response eradicates them from any customer interactions or responsibility for the customers’ experience. Since they are not involved in designing the customer experience, they can ignore it. However, savvy meeting professional know that their conference’s success depends upon moving from customer fragmented touchpoints to designing holistic conference customer experience journeys. They own designing the conference customers experience journey.

From Touchpoints To Customer Journeys

Armed with evidence and insights, savvy conference organizers act as customer-experience leaders. They focus, from the beginning of their planning, on the holistic experience of that customer. Their goal is to

  • Build deep customer loyalty (repeat conference customers),
  • Redesign the conference experience so that it creates value in a customer-centric fashion and
  • Educate other conference leaders on the conference customers’ perspective regarding that conference experience.

They put the conference customer—not the needs of the organization—at the center of their decisions.

How do they do that? Here are some of the steps they take to encourage everyone to move from conference touchpoints to conference customer journeys.

1. Observe Through The Customers’ Eyes

Smart meeting planners understand every conference interaction through the lens of their customers’ brain. (We see through our brains, not our eyes.) This means identifying and understanding how their customers’ brains react to each part of the conference journey. This spans the entire progression of touchpoints from the first marketing material, to registration to onsite sessions to the evaluations.

Why focus on the journey and not the touchpoints?

Sometimes each individual touchpoint such as digital marketing, the onsite business meeting, education sessions and receptions is done well. However, the overall conference experience can still disappoint. The combination of those touchpoints is still lacking.

Ultimately, the conference customer’s journey should be correlated to the customer’s business outcomes more than the success of each individual touchpoint. Understanding and quantifying the factors that are most critical to the conference customer experience leads to an ongoing focus on what matters to those customers. Then you can concentrate on reaching the target market, improving their satisfaction and increasing loyalty. That’s when you can begin to redesign the conference experience around your customers’ needs and aspirations for the best customer journey.

Look for steps two – five in the next post on transitioning from conference touchpoints to journey experiences.

Hat Tips and resources: Lynn Hynnsaker’s Keys To Customer-Centered Growth and McKinsey Quarterly 2016 Number 3.

What does “owning the conference customer experience” mean to your daily conference planning tasks? Who all needs to be involved with owning that conference customer experience journey?

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  1. Lucy Smith says:

    Great work Jeff. I am seeing that the owner’s importance in building the customer is far more than i anticipated. Just like every owner i thought my job is only to divide the work among team and monitor them but it seems that i was wrong.

    Is touchpoints are more important than complete journey? Cause if influence the customer through out it’s journey then are we still require to focus on touchpoints.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Hi Lucy!
      First, thank you so much for reading VCC and reaching out. We greatly appreciate your support.

      You’ve asked a very important question on which is more critical, the touchpoints or the journey? The short answer is the customer’s journey because it makes up the entire experience for your conference attendee.

      Too often, as conference organizers, we give very little thought to how each part of the event–the touchpoints–fit together to create that customer journey experience. Start with the end in mind. Plan the conference journey from the end backwards and own that experience. Get everyone contributing to the customer journey to plan their piece with a focus on the overall experience, not just their individual component.

      Have you ever had dinner with friends and left, saying, “Well I’m not coming back here. Each part of our meal, from the marketing that got us to come, to the service, to each part of the meal seemed good. Some even outstanding. But it felt disconnected. Overall it lacked. Why didn’t they provide vegetables that complemented the protein? Why didn’t they offer drinks that brought out the flavors of our appetizer? Why didn’t the ambiance blend with the restaurant name? Overall, it was average at best.”

      Individually, each piece of that experience appeared to be good. But together, they failed.

      What metaphor would you use to help your conference planning team understand that the whole–the customer journey–is more important than each individual part–touchpoint?

  2. Kevin Maddox says:

    Nice piece of writing there Jeff, and a powerful one too. This will surely inspire a lot of owners to take personal interest in their customers and develop the touchpoints and take a keen interest in the overall journey. I think the proper use of event app can also become an important tool in this case. A mobile application is the platform where the owner or the organizer of an event can connect directly to their potential/ existing customers/ invitees in an open forum. This in turn elicits the interest of other customers as well. This way the owner has an advantage of connecting to more and more customers on a personal level and listening to what they have to say. This way the event applications can become a digital bridge between the owner and the customer and help the owner ‘own the conference customer experience’ in the truest sense.

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