Conference Experts Offer Tips for Creating a Heightened Attendee Experience

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In a session titled Events and the Integrated Enterprise at BIMS last November, three industry experts recommended that publishers stay on the cutting edge for their events. This may not always be easy, but in discussions with publishers who have experienced drop-offs in attendance, it must be considered.

This theme will continue at the SIPA Annual 2017 Conference, June 5-7 in Washington, D.C., with a Pre-Conference Workshop titled Successful Conference Strategies and Best Practices: Maximizing Sales and Creating Additional Pipeline Opportunities. The speakers will be Tom Billington, founder and CEO, Billington CyberSecurity, and Dan Hanover, vice president, Access Intelligence. Both have had tremendous event success.

Here are some suggestions from that November session, and from Hanover, for keeping your events running strong.

Aim big and offer a deeper, wider experience. "You want to give a deeper, wider experience [that makes] people jump into advocacy and promotion [and say,] 'It was an amazing experience, and I met all the right people,'" said Andrew Mullins, CEO, Knowledge & Networking Division, Informa. Mullins wants more companies to aim big. "Choose your territory, go big and go bold. Have a full array of products to create more touch points. You want to be number one in your niche or why bother."

Go all in. Hanover agrees with Mullins, saying that "with big risk comes big reward" and nothing in the process is too small. "We'll look at 30 different colors to pick the green on the wall. Never apologize for the process. If staff doesn't care, get rid of staff. You can't pay someone to care... Keep it fresh every year and gamble."

Talk constantly to your customers. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions. As events increase, the question of sustainability inevitably comes up. Mullins admitted that you have to accept that things have a lifecycle now. "You have to ideally know before it's over." How? "By talking to [your customers] 365 days a year." Have a group that you can come to. Without a strong community, you're guessing, and "you're going to get it wrong."

Use predictive analytics. Danny Phillips, president & CEO, Argyle Executive Forum, wants to see more predictive analytics and use of data to ensure a more meaningful experience at events for attendees. "Companies have been investing so much time and money to send people that it's not enough anymore to just wish for good things to happen."

Add an "off-campus" outing. "We need to go in and ask, 'What are your needs?' It really solidified our client relationships when we started traveling with them," said Loren Edelstein, editor in chief, Meetings & Conventions magazine for Northstar Travel Group. They started adding to the event experience—taking a group kayaking or other niche outing, for example. It led to a "different kind of connection with our audience," she said.

"Reset and refresh your campaigns every year," Hanover said. "We try to one up ourselves every year—there's always a better way of doing something. Resetting events gets attendees to come back. Changing out content is not enough to be considered an event refresh. We do a full identity reset for every event every 12 months. What worked last year? What can we do this year? We always want to improve."

Don't live with the marketing campaign of somebody else. "No two attendees are equal," Hanover said. "Different people are coming for different things." They map out six types of people who come to their events so they can segment different messages. The personalization drives the open rate way up, he said.

Seek out guest blog posts. These make a lot of sense in driving traffic and can often be win-win propositions, either for someone on your team to post on another site, or an event speaker to post on yours. You're getting a whole other audience to your content. Many keynote speakers and facilitators have their own blogs. Likely they already have existing material that they can easily customize. 

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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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…