Winning Examples of a Less-Is-More Approach to Engagement

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A few weeks ago, I attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival here at our National Geographic. The evening consisted of eight films of varying length, with subjects like Nepal long-distance runner Mira Rai, kayakers in Iceland and skiers in Siberia. But after about the fifth one, my interest level started on a downward slope. At the end, I was exhausted. If they would have stopped at five, I would have left exhilarated.

The less-is-more feeling can apply to B2B as well. In her SIPA webinar a couple weeks ago, Nancy Harhut said that giving customers a few options is okay, but be careful. Don't give too many; analysis paralysis can set in. (View that webinar, Brain Science in Business: Using Psychology to Increase Response on the SIPA Member Resources site.)

That same feeling can occur at events and conferences. The tendency might be to overwhelm attendees with sessions and tracks. But writing in AssociationsNow recently, Samantha Whitehorne said to be careful. "...conference planning teams only have the best intentions when they offer more sessions, more learning, more networking events, and more receptions. They want to give attendees the ability to personalize their own experience. But is there a point where all the extra options leave attendees feeling overwhelmed?"

She pointed to a couple successful out-of-box examples:

Offer fewer sessions but double up on the good ones. The American Architectural Manufacturers Association offered duplicate sessions at their last conference—for those who miss an important speaker, they can catch her another time. Also, fewer sessions take place at one time. They also added a new chat feature to their mobile app, which encourages members to connect with each other throughout the conference. "If you are coming here, we want to make sure you are getting everything you can...," Janice Yglesias, AAMA's association services director, said.

Provide bite-sized learning. The International Ticketing Association features an Inspiration Stage at their conference. These "are venues to provide mini-learning opportunities in a collaborative and conversational environment. They offer bite-sized learning opportunities, perfect for a quick hit of new knowledge and several great ideas. The Inspiration Stage space is designed to facilitate conversation and peer-to-peer learning. All sessions are 15 minutes long with 5 minutes of Q&A at the end." They have six of these sessions a day with lunch in-between.

Here are a couple less-is-more examples from Dan Hanover, group vice president, marketing division for Access Intelligence:

Use short content and dramatic images. At last year's SIPA Conference, Hanover told us "attendees register with their eyes" so use "short impactful content." He showed us an old registration webpage with lots of copy vs. a new one with dramatic photos and the words, "Ready. Set. Register." in big letters centered on the page. Guess which one did better? I recently received an email that said, "Ready. Set. Festival." So plug in what works for you.

Cut a video into smaller segments and banners. "Our attendees eat with their eyes. So rather than market this event from the beginning as a traditional event with brochures and copy, we do all video marketing." Hanover was referring to EventTech, a Las Vegas-based, mega-conference and exposition on using social media and technology to optimize live experiences. He showed an 81-second video that drives their marketing—and won the EventMarketer group a 2016 SIPAward for Best Use of Video. "We took that video and cut it into 30-and 15-second YouTube buys and video banner ads," Hanover said. "Those banners drove five times the click-thru rate for us."

Adapt the wording to the customer. In his entertaining talks on new products, Arno Langbehn, CEO, B. Behr's Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, has preached for some shorter messages. (His last webinar, Hot Sparks: How to Increase Your Turnover and Profit with Product Development, can also be viewed.) "The simpler the explanation, the greater the acceptance," he said. "The product should think and speak like [the person using it] and do what the customer needs. So the wording should adapt with your customers." 

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…