Michelle Kennedy oversees integrated marketing for global Business Event Management firm, PRA, serving over 100 destinations worldwide. Kennedy brings more than 20 years of industry experience, having held head marketing positions with several Fortune 500 companies and leading brands.
Noah: “Would you stop thinking about what everyone wants? Stop thinking about what I want, what he wants, what your parents want. What do YOU want? What do you WANT?”
Allie: “It’s not that simple.”
This is one of the great scenes in the 2004 movie drama “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks, where a love-struck, poor country boy challenges the rich city girl to reveal her final decision on the next step of their extraordinary love story.
When it comes to events, we can’t imagine we are the only ones who have felt this same frustration, especially during the process of planning the content and flow of an event. Beyond this Hollywood storyline, meeting planners are looking for the answer to one simple question: What do meeting attendees really WANT? We reached out to our event professionals to answer this age-old question. Here’s what they suggest:
When it comes to planning a program agenda, attendees want greater input, however only a handful are often asked to do so. Rather than a conference committee doing all the work to determine speakers, topics and other meeting elements, shift the focus and ask attendees for feedback. Survey your audience and crowdsource ideas to find out which topics interest your attendees and what they’re eager to hear more about.
Attendees like to be stimulated, and they expect the event to keep them active and engaged. Did you know the human brain is looking for something new every eight minutes? And, while an audience may want something new, their attention span requires a little less time — five minutes to be exact. Most humans are not able to multi-task. They are mono-taskers who need to start and stop frequently to process information. So how do you keep them involved and participating? According to our team at One Smooth Stone, you need to engage the audience through repetition, color pallet changes and technology.
Our recent blog article suggests one way to increase attendee engagement is by using personal devices to take back the audience through digital and personal engagement tactics. Attendees want to be part of something bigger, and audience engagement activities can help create this.
If you want attendees to remember the information you are presenting, chunk your information to maximize retention. According to Business Insider, people tend to remember 3-4 things at a time before becoming overwhelmed, so be sure your event speakers keep this in mind. Likewise, most people remember what is first and last in a presentation, so make those minutes count.
One more tip: Presentations that ask questions as opposed to giving answers do a much better job at engagement and retention.
Here’s where you can really make an impact. Meeting attendees — and people in general — like to know what to expect. Consistent communication and technology are the strongest assets here. A single platform or website for registration and ongoing communications is key. Use it to ease the registration process, provide real-time updates, promote networking opportunity or personalized event experiences. From directions to sessions, start times or room changes — short, to-the-point communications throughout the day are essential for a positive overall event experience. Attendees are tech savvy and expect their experiences at the event to be the same, so give attendees the tools they need to navigate your event like a pro.
Contributing positively to the overall event experience is networking with other attendees. Networking is and will always be one of the primary reasons attendees sign up for events. Networking personalizes the individual event experience and has become crucial to professional success. Attendees want to ensure their time spent out of the office is time well spent, so make sure networking tactics are part of your larger event strategy.
Put a twist on networking and go beyond business cards and networking cocktails. Through apps designed to encourage networking behavior, meeting participants can skip straight to meaningful conversations that should happen at events. One example of this technology is the digital matchmaking platform Braindate, which uses detailed algorithms to pull from attendees’ profiles, helping connect people with like-minded interests. Attendees can check in and met up with their connections in designates onsite areas. Besides — why should match.com have all the fun? C&IT