As we progress through the event industry’s recovery to 2019 levels, conference organizers must have a laser focus on helping potential attendees make their business case for attending their events. The best path for helping them get approval to attend is to ensure that the majority of your education program is aligned to advance business outcomes or results. To help you on your business priority program development journey, consider these six tips:
- Learning Pathways — Do not organize sessions by job function ( i.e., sales, marketing, or operations). Instead organize by business priority tracks like improving customer retention, improving revenue diversification, or streamlining customer fulfillment. Tag each session with up to three descriptors about who the session is best for. Ensure that your conference website can apply these filters to help participants identify their can’t-miss sessions.
- Workforce and Technology — Quite a few conference organizers make the mistake of setting up a learning track around one or both of these topics. While they tend to be emerging topics of strong general interest, it’s better to lead with the business challenge that improved employee retention and technology are helping solve. How to leverage technology or build a better team could be learning objectives in nearly every session.
- DEI and Social Responsibility — These two topics are strategic priorities for nearly every conference organizer. They’re also strategic priorities of your attendees’ employers, who often have their own internal training and professional development to advance these priorities. You’d think these purposeful topics would work well for learning tracks, but they rarely do. Instead consider:
- Emphasizing the importance of these topics by incorporating them into one or more general sessions.
- Creating micro-learning theaters or sessions around these strategic priorities.
- Making DEI and social responsibility — the same as technology — potential learning objectives or lenses for every concurrent session on the program.
- Spotlight Sessions — Leadership development is a pressing priority for most CEOs. Consider programming an advanced track to help your participants improve their soft skills.
- Consultant or Supplier Tracks — Don’t do them. Consultants and suppliers attend because their clients or potential clients are attending. Instead, encourage both groups to learn alongside practitioners/clients.
- How to Apply a Business Results Focus — Consider facilitating a session with some of your key stakeholders to map to their priorities. Adopt this process:
- Firmagraphics — Identify attributes of three types of companies you want at your conference — primary business (type of company), size.
- Demographics — Identify one or two key job functions and/or job titles at each company.
- Jobs Responsibilities — Brainstorm what jobs these individuals must complete.
- Identify Pains/Gains — Using the job responsibilities as a guide, identify the problems these individuals/companies want to make less painful and the gains they desire.
- Prioritize — Determine the top five pains/gains. Curate or request submissions for sessions that map to those pains/gains.
How do you ensure you map to your attendees’ business needs at your conference? What types of professional development do you offer to your leaders?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2022.
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