You and your team have worked extra hard to get attendees to your conference. You have sent postcards, emails, and even called them. Now, your conference is full, speakers are set, and your attendees are arriving. With all the hustle and bustle of event pre-planning, have you ever considered the following question: What do my attendees want from this conference?
Lets explore ways conference services organizations can become more attendee aware.
The general consensus among thought leaders in the industry is attendees want…
- to be SEEN
- to be HEARD
- to have planners understand their NEEDS and CHALLENGES and
- to DIALOG WITH OTHERS within the meeting
- Smile and make the attendee welcome when they arrive. Have volunteer ambassadors at the registration desk to greet and welcome attendees.
- LOOK at them, read their body language, and listen. Sometimes at the registration desk, we are all about our 30 second speech. Really look at your registrant. Are they happy, angry, upset? Work with it and drop the canned speech. Find out what they need and get a volunteer to help them out.
- Assign a mentor to all first-time attendees. These attendees are at greatest risk to not return. They may not know a soul at the conference and can easily feel left out. Make senior attendees their mentors. Have them at the registration area and make certain that attendee is well cared for during the whole conference, not just at the beginning.
- Make certain the speaker/facilitator is giving ample time for group discussion. A great speaker nowadays is ready and willing to abandon their agenda in favor for the audience’s agenda. Attendees want to talk to other attendees about the topic and listen to their responses. Attendees are as interested in learning from each other, as they are from a speaker.
- Use wireless microphones, wireless audience response systems, or rent iPads. Mics placed all around the room allow easy access to the discussion with the speaker, ARS units allow for polling of the audience about the conference or topic so changes can be made and iPad rentals allow the attendees to easily tweet or email event organizers about the speaker, room, and/or dynamically ask the speaker or facilitator questions.
- Every staff member and volunteer should be asking attendees “What do you need? Are you enjoying the conference?” Find out what they need and then address it IMMEDIATELY. Don’t wait and don’t pawn it off on someone else.
- Don’t ask attendees to send you an email or put it on the survey form. I was at an event recently (as an attendee) and I was talking to the event organizer directly about my dissatisfaction with their choice of self-serving speakers. Instead of taking notes and finding out what they could do to address my needs, they said “Make certain you note that on your evaluation form.” What, I thought? Event Organizers: Write down the challenges and fix them. Get the attendee’s business card. Follow-up.
- Let the attendees run the meeting. Bring up their challenges and let others address it. Crowdsourcing is being used more and more in our industry and it needs to be used on site as well.
- Go with the flow. Great discussion going on? Go with it. So what if the attendees miss the break? So what if the speaker only got to slide 5? They are getting real life solutions from people in their industry that feel their pain.