Now imagine someone asking your conference participants that question. How would they respond?
I suspect they would say “Yes, of course it has a purpose!” Then they would launch into a passionate description of your event’s annual Party with a Purpose, its pre-conference feel-good community service projects and its ongoing student scholarship fundraisers.
However supporting a good cause should not be confused with purpose. Purpose is not a cause. While offering corporate socially responsible (CSR) micro-experiences is a good thing, and might even make your organization’s leaders feel awesome, purpose is a more strategic, meaningful and economically-packed concept.
Your Conference Purpose
So what’s your conference purpose? Still scratching your head on that one?
Let’s discuss what it isn’t. Your conference purpose is not about doing the right thing at the right time for the right people. Nor is it about limiting its social footprint on its environment and the world—regardless how noble that is.
Your conference purpose is about building sustainable conference value.
When your conference purpose is properly aligned with your organization’s mission, strategy, business plans and target market, it will drive economic performance.
There is an essential difference between offering CSR experiences as a way to keep your conference fresh and attract registrants—and a responsible conference that integrates its business practices within the company’s overall business operations, to paraphrase CEO Stephen Howard.
In this context, purpose is not about doing good things at your conference. It is about a fundamental understanding of why the conference exists. It’s about how your conference fits within the company’s overarching business strategy. Your conference purpose identifies its role in your customers’ ecosystem.
Ultimately, your conference purpose is about what it seeks to create in the world.
Purpose Drives Profits
Connecting your conference planning team, exhibitors, sponsors, vendors and participants to your event’s purpose brings measurable business impact.
Research from the EY Beacon Institute and Harvard Business School shows that companies that lead with purpose are 202 percent more likely to be profitable.
Consider the following:
- 58 percent of companies with a clearly articulated and understood purpose experienced growth of +10 percent.
- 85 percent of purpose-led companies showed a positive top-line growth compared to only 42 percent of non-purpose led companies.
- 50 percent of CEOs are purpose oriented.
Your conference has a purpose, even if it’ not clearly articulated.
Every person has a purpose, even if they don’t articulate it.
Your conference success strategy occurs when conference purpose overlaps with personal purpose.
CEOs and conference organizers want their planning teams, exhibitors, sponsors vendors and participants to own the conference just like they do. It’s very similar to the cognitive bias CEOs have regarding purpose. CEOs want their employees to own the organization like its founders do.
Embedding purpose into your culture, strategy, and brand is how you unlock passion, performance, and profits. Because when purpose is woven into every fiber of the organization, people can clearly see they play a part in something bigger—that what they do matters, no matter what they do. ~ Cathy Carlisi, President, Americas, BrightHouse
Purpose Answers The Big Why
Your conference purpose is the final answer to the big probing question: Why?
Why are we meeting? Why are people spending resources to attend this event? Why are they willing to put their daily work on hold to participate? Why is your conference and its purpose important? Paraphrase Aaron Hurst and Arthur Woods, Imperative.
So, why are you offering this conference? Why does it matter to you? Why does it matter to your company? Why does it matter to your customer?
Purpose taps a universal need. It serves as a motivator…uniting everyone to contribute to something bigger. ~ Valerie Keller, Global Lead, EY Beacon Institute.
Your conference purpose stands at the intersection of two cornerstone questions that answer the big why, says Keller:
1. Who are we?
What are our conference strengths?
2. What need do we fulfill in society?
Why do we exist beyond what we produce and sell at our event? Why would someone attend our conference?
Your conference purpose is your customers’ ultimate concern. Especially when it aligns with their personal purpose.
Today we are witnessing the rise of the purpose economy says author Aaron Hurst. We are entering a new economic era driven by connecting people to their purpose.
So take Hurst’s thoughts one step further and apply it to your conference.
We are watching the rise of the purpose-driven conference. It is critical today to connect participants, exhibitors, sponsors, leaders and your planning team to the conference purpose. Then help those individuals align their personal/professional purpose to your conference purpose.
Conferences that showcase their purpose to meaning-starved participants will have the competitive advantage. Providing a purpose-driven experience easily becomes the great differentiator.
How can your conference lead with purpose? How is your conference purpose tied to every participant’s motivation for attending your event?