Shaun O’Reilly is vice president of marketing at MemberSuite, an innovator in cloud-based association management software (AMS) and business intelligence solutions for member-based organizations of all sizes.
When planning an event for an association or nonprofit, the attendee experience must be a No. 1 priority. In a recent study, 86% of surveyed marketers reported that attendee satisfaction is the strongest indicator of an event’s success. It’s imperative to understand the attendee journey to design an experience that meets their needs and exceeds expectations. When it comes to spending money and time on professional development and networking, members and others in your audience have many choices — and providing an experience like no other will ensure they return and share their passion and excitement for your event with others.
It’s important to consider that the attendee experience starts before they arrive on-site. It may begin with a marketing email or a visit to your website or member portal, for example. As you develop a strategy for these digital interactions, you must answer the question, “What do prospective attendees expect and need from my association before the event takes place?”
To tackle this, dig into their education and networking goals and learn about their questions, pain points, needs and expectations at each stage of the attendee journey. The more you understand, the better you can design an experience that best serves and suits them.
Focus on your pre-event goals first, which often include something as simple as introducing the event to the right prospects and driving them to register. To assist in this process, leverage the following resources:
Attendees want to learn as much as they can on your website or member portal. Your marketing copy must answer the ‘WIIFM’ question — What’s in it for me? Here, you must also describe the value or impact your event presents for their career, business and life. Focus on the benefits of interest to the prospect, not just the features of the event — but you won’t be able to make this distinction unless you understand their specific goals, needs and challenges.
Attendees expect a flawless experience — no loose ends or hiccups. These pristine expectations mean you must have all event details hammered out. Plus, you must provide all the information needed by your prospective attendees and by other key stakeholders — exhibitors/sponsors and speakers.
Technology makes the seemingly impossible, possible. Everything starts in your AMS when you create an event — or save time by duplicating a previous event. The processes you oversee in your event management solution keep your team on task but also give attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers the information they need to adequately prepare, including:
Prospects want speed and clarity at this stage. If you frustrate or confuse them, you risk losing them. Keep the registration form as simple as possible and only ask for data you plan to use before or during the event. Consider if they’re only registering themselves or if they have to enroll their boss or colleagues as well and make sure they can do either easily.
Set your event apart from others by better preparing attendees with the information best suited for them. They want to be in the know, not clueless and confused. This remains true if it’s their first event or sixth.
Send out pre-event emails to educate and excite them and share this same information on your website or member portal. Whether it’s a month out or during their flight to the host city, attendees want to make informed decisions about sessions, see who else is going and plan their agenda by setting up meetings with exhibitors and dinners with other attendees. Most importantly, segment these informational emails so they’re relevant to each target audience, such as first-time attendees, executives, young professionals, international travelers, exhibitors, etc.
Ensure attendees instantly feel at ease by simplifying the event experience. Sure, the veterans can find their way around, but first-timers may wonder who can visit the lounges or go to the exhibitor parties. Share this kind of advice on your blog, member portal or website, including:
To make all of this possible, your company must have the tools to ensure the ultimate event experience. An event dashboard can be leveraged to track registration revenue, as well as sponsorship and exhibit revenue. You can compare this year’s numbers to past years so you can tell whether you’re on track to meet goals — and if not, have time to adjust your marketing tactics.
What’s even better is the ability to share responsibilities and data with teammates and colleagues across the organization. An AMS that allows different access and permission levels makes it possible for staff to handle their own needs on their own time. For example, staff from the executive, governance or sponsorship teams can see which of their VIPs are attending instead of having to repeatedly request this information.
The immense amount of detail one must manage in the months leading up to an event can be difficult to juggle, but these details are what create a successful and engaging experience. With the help of event marketing and engagement solutions, and the advantages of your AMS, you can not only meet the needs of your attendees but exceed their expectations at any event you hold. | AC&F |