Put your conference attendee’s journey front and centre
You’re about to organise your first big conference, and you hope it will have a powerful impact on your conference attendees.
For years you’ve dreamt of putting it on, and have been thinking about how wonderful you’ll feel when the participants arrive at last. But you’ve been to enough conferences to know that conference organisers often lose sight of the really important stuff, and more often than not you leave disappointed.
You don’t have to make the same mistakes as other conferences organisers.
You can be bold. You don’t have to play by tired old rules. We’ve all attended conferences where our expectations weren’t met. We’ve gone home thinking we could have read the presentations at home, or watched proceedings on the internet. Being there in person wasn’t worth our time, energy or money.Connecting with people and networking is central to the success of a well-run conference but is often not given the space to happen.
So how can you, as the conference organiser, be bold and play by your own rules?
Put your conference attendee’s journey front and centre:
Step one – Create at least three avatars of attendees at your conference.
One might be the jaded participant who has seen too much and expects to be bored. Another might be the fresh young thing who has never had the opportunity to be in a catered environment with the trimmings of a conference – the badge, the bag, the great connections. Another might be a speaker who will be in front of the audience for a few minutes, but has much more to offer and can be engaged throughout, rather than just during his or her session.
Step two – Create the attendee journey for each avatar.
Write down what they want to achieve and what will be a great experience for them. Consider what would make them feel disappointed or satisfied.
Step three – Tweak the activities to accommodate the needs of each avatar.
You want each person to leave with clarity about their new knowledge and decisions about what action they will take as a result of attending the conference.
Make your conference impactful by adding these seven ingredients:
1. A brilliant welcome the moment they arrive and an immediate, organised, and useful way to network (makes participants feel they have done something useful even before the event has started).
2. An introduction that gives just enough information, and invites participation (increases clarity about what will take place).
3. An expectations exercise, where the audience meets one another and states their expectations, and creates a joint record of what all attendees want to achieve (increases engagement and ownership of outcomes).
4. A chance to mould the agenda to meet their own needs, with some choice, and a consistent thread throughout (increases satisfaction).
5. An interesting mix of methods that include art or drama, music or visuals (increases enjoyment and retention of the information).
6. A clear and manageable action plan so that everyone leaves knowing ‘what next’ (avoids participants feeling as if they have wasted their time).7. Great follow through so that whatever promises have been made are kept (helps with the traction of changes that have been proposed at the event).
Appreciate the time, Energy and money of every participant.
It’s a privilege for people to choose to spend their time, energy and money at your conference, so it’s up to you to create the powerful event they expect.
You can be bold, and create your own rules. Your event can be special from the moment people arrive, even before they enter the conference venue.
Please share your experience of conference methods that have worked for you. Everyone will benefit.