Making the Business Case for Attending Events

It’s going to take some time to build conference attendance and corporate travel budgets back to 2019 levels. As we progress through the recovery, conference organizers — now more than ever — must help potential attendees justify their in-person participation in the event.

Author: Dave Lutz, CMP       

Educon 2022 session attendees

Event organizers can help potential participants get approval to attend their event by creating an education program that aligns with their companies’ business priorities. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

The best path for helping potential registrants get approval to attend your event is to ensure that the majority of your education program is aligned to advance business outcomes or results. How you organize your program matters a lot. Potential participants need to be able to quickly see sessions that map to their employers’ business priorities. To help you on your business-priority program-development journey, consider these five tips:

1. Learning Pathways — Don’t 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 suited for. Ensure that your conference website can apply these filters to help participants easily identify their can’t-miss sessions.

2, 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. You can make how to leverage technology or build a better team learning objectives in nearly every session, rather than the name of the session or track itself.

3. 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 initiatives to advance them. You’d think these meaningful 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.

4. Spotlight Sessions — Leadership development is a pressing priority for most CEOs. Consider programming an advanced track to help your participants improve their soft skills.

5. 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.

Job Pains and Gains

To best apply the business results focus for your education programming, consider facilitating a session with some of your key stakeholders. Adopt this process:

  • Firmagraphics — Identify attributes of three types of companies you want at your conference, such as primary business (type of company) and 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.

ON THE WEB

For more tips on designing advanced education sessions, read a previous Forward Thinking column, “Challenge Organization, Attendees with Wisdom Conference Sessions.”

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.