Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 13 2017

4 Tips to Get Your Attendees to Fall in Love with Your Meeting

David McMillin

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It’s the season of love. In honor of Cupid’s celebratory day, it’s time to apply the lessons of love to some very important people in your life: your attendees. They may not be sending your organization’s headquarters flowers or addressing an oversized heart-shaped envelope to your personal attention, but you can give them an experience that will keep them circling your program’s date on their calendars each year. Consider these four tips as you outline plans for your next event.

1) Optimize Their Mobile Experience.

The path to your attendees’ hearts starts with their smartphone screens. Most organizations offer mobile apps for their events and conferences, but an app only matters if it actually does something to make attendees’ lives better during the program. According to “Great Expectations: The Evolving Landscape of Technology in Meetings,” a study from American Express Meetings & Events, attendees are looking for more than a list of sessions. Sixty-four percent want the ability to create a personalized agenda, and they also want convenient ways to ditch business cards in favor of a more convenient digital option: Sixty-three percent want the ability to network and share contact information when they meet new people.

As you work with a developer to create an app for your next event, think about the most useful apps on your own smartphone. What features make it so valuable to you? How can you apply that same functionality to a conference environment?

2) Help Them Get Away.

All attendees are looking for opportunities to learn and network, but many of them are searching for what Sourabh Kothari — who founded event-marketing company Not-Content.com last year — calls “one of the best-kept secrets” of why people register for meetings and events: to escape. “People are coming to these events, and they’re not even participating,” Kothari said in a 2017 Convening Leaders session. “They just don’t want to go work.”

Kothari is correct. Some people simply want a three-day break from the grind of sitting on conference calls, attending status update meetings, and dealing with their colleagues. So, in addition to advanced-level education, consider adding options to help attendees feel that sense of escapism. Tai chi classes, 15-minute yoga sessions, and an arts-and-crafts station — these are all examples of non-conventional conference programming that can help your audience relax and recharge.

3) Speak More Than One Language.

You’d probably struggle to fall in love with a partner who didn’t bother learning your native language. The same holds true for your attendees who are coming from outside your organization’s home country. If you’re aiming to expand your reach and attract a global audience, it’s crucial to consider investing in translation services for your meeting marketing materials. In a study of more than 3,000 consumers conducted by Common Sense Advisory in 2014, 55 percent of respondents indicated that they only make purchases at websites where information is presented in their language. Want to really sweep them off their feet? Consider if simultaneous interpretation services for on-site programming might make sense, too. They may add a sizable expense to your budget, but they will also make a sizable difference in international attendee satisfaction.

4) Give Up Control.

No one wants a controlling partner — that boyfriend/girlfriend who tells you what to do, where to be, when to arrive, and how to act. And your attendees don’t want a controlling conference experience that dictates their every move. In the era of on-demand entertainment, they’re used to having what they want, when they want it, however they like it. With this in mind, it’s important to adopt a more carefree attitude toward attendee behaviors. “I think we have to let go of trying to control our delegates,” Claire Smith, vice president of sales and marketing at the Vancouver Convention Centre, told me in a 2015 interview on the future of convention design. “We have to allow them to interact with the meeting in ways that matter to them.”

What have you done to make your program move lovable? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below.

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