In his landmark book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote: “To be interesting, be interested.” Truer words were never spoken, and that piece of advice applies directly to event organizers.
In order to make your annual meeting more interesting to your audience — which, in turn, will lead to increased attendance, improved retention, additional and new sponsors, and greater media attention — you have to be more interested.
Not the kind of casual interest that you demonstrate at a cocktail reception when asked about what the members of your association or society do. No, I’m talking about a level of interest that leads to deeper understanding, greater insights, and fresh ideas.
Take, for example, my recent fascination with the space industry. By taking the time to learn what intrigues engineers, academics, military, venture capitalists, Jeff Bezos (who claims to have started Amazon to get enough money to fund his space passion), NASA, and hundreds of other interested parties, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world.
I’ve come to understand how space debris, satellite launches, space tourism, propulsion and instrumentation challenges, and dozens of other topics might be seen through the lens of each segment in this dynamic industry.
What, you might ask, does that have to do with your event? Well, if you want to convince an audience that the event you want them to attend is interesting, you have to show them just how interested you are. And I don’t mean just selecting speakers to do the heavy lifting.
Your audience needs to know that you get what they care about — that you, as the curator of the faculty, the programming, and the flow of the event, are dialed in to what’s really going on.
What are the elephants, and what rooms are they in? Why? What divides your audience, and what unites them? What makes them angry, and what brings them meaning?
Specificity = credibility. The more specific you are, the more real you are. And the more interested you are, the more interesting you’ll be.
By the way, this is a lot more fun and offers a new level of career growth. There’s no downside and, I promise you, your members will thank you by taking a new interest in your next event.
Don Neal is founder and CEO of marketing, strategy, and experience agency 360 Live Media.