Star Struck: Identifying Your Conference North Star


For centuries, explorers and those sailing the sea have relied on the North Star, or Polaris, to navigate.

Long before the advent of the GPS, the North Star provided a distinctive visible position to true north. Travelers used its bright light as a guide to ensure they were voyaging in the right direction. Sailors adjusted their rudder and sails to align with it. It helped them steer and find their way through unexpected storms, turbulent winds and rough monster waves of unforeseen circumstances.

The North Star is the perfect metaphor for your annual conference purpose. It outlines the defined value-playing field for leaders, employees and customers. When your conference purpose serves as a North Star, it guides all decisions, tasks, behaviors and strategy.

Uncovering Your North Star Conviction To Find Conference True Target Market

Before your conference can find its true target market, you as the conference organizer must find your conviction. What’s your conference conviction? What’s your conference North Star?

Successful conference planning teams are driven by a common conviction, the event’s purpose. Without it, the team is like a boat adrift in passing currents, floating with a dead engine, no sails and lost at sea. Unless your planning team, stakeholders and customers are guided by your conference North Star, you and your event are purposeless, directionless, in limbo, floating aimlessly.

A conference North Star addresses what psychologists call an ultimate concern. For example, it gives meaning to collecting CEUs (short-term goal) to become more professionally adept at a job (long term goal). Your North Star acts as a high beam light to inspire and direct participants’ best efforts for the long term. It gives more depth and intention to conference short-term goals within a long term perspective.

Obscured By Vague Murkiness

Unfortunately, many conference organizers and their team members suffer from an all-too-common-occurrence: a lack of clarity of purpose. Competing department agendas override the event’s purpose. Advisory committees posture their legacy habits as sink holes to progress. Ambiguity reigns

This haziness to identify and thus align with the event’s North Star, results in a host of challenges. Declining and plateauing attendance, a deteriorating value proposition, shrinking exhibit space, loss of anchor exhibit booths, dwindling sponsorships, wonky business models, diminished revenue, and increased marketing budgets to acquire new registrants, are just a few of those challenges.

Awakening The Inner Path To Purpose

A North Star can align your and your planning team’s energy, emotions, and actions in the service of your conference purpose.

It is not always easy to find your event’s North Star. However, once it appears, its guidance helps simplify your conference decisions. Wise conference organizers and their teams are first and foremost followers before they are leaders. Once organizers are clear about the conference’s North Star, it calls them in a specific direction. They follow that light in the night and serve its purpose willingly, courageously and boldly.

Your conference can ignite motivation within your target market. It illuminates their personal, and frequently forgotten, path to purpose.

Your conference purpose frames how your organization and its planning team wants to operate. Each member can easily explain how their tasks support that overarching purpose. They can articulate the reasons why your event exists, who it exists for and how it aligns with your organization’s North Star.

Purpose acts as a North Star on the route to excellence: It offers a steady beacon for inspiring and directing your planning team’s best efforts over the long haul, within their daily work, the implementation of the conference and beyond. (Paraphrase William Damon.)

A conference purpose tells you why it is doing its work, why it makes sense, and why it is relevant, given the needs of the world in which it works.

How can you help your planning team, stakeholders and customers understand and clearly articulate your conference purpose? How has purpose served as your event’s North Star?

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