At the beginning of a conference, at the registration table or perhaps at the lobby reception, scan the faces of your attendees.  Do some of them  look as if they have better things to do with the day than be at your event?  As event planners are always wanting to raise the bar and make the event the must attend event for their industry or company, it can be difficult to find the adjustments needed to elevate the experience of the attendees to where they cannot wait for the next one.  Follow these suggestions and you can get your event out of the category of dread to the look forward event of the year.

Capitalize On What You Are Known For

While each event has a purpose of delivering information to the audience, events that are known for something often have little problem with getting people to attend.  If you know what that one thing is that differentiates your event from others, make sure you promote it and embrace it.  It could be the release of critical research or the guest speaker that you are able to secure each year but whatever it may be, if it is a positive and your attendees come to the event because of it, you need to continue it and highlight it.

If your event has no identity or signature thing, create one by looking at the competing events as well as your surveys.  Find something that is desired at the events but might not be done yet.  It could be adding new agenda items or a sponsor who might offer original research provided only at the event.  Sometimes it might be something as straightforward as date and location of the event that can create a better identifier for you event. And while it might be off topic or not part of your industry, having celebrity or motivational speakers can add a good change up for the event.

Keep What Works For The Audience

Surveys and feedback are the window to an event’s success if done correctly.  While the effort to gain details and information regarding an event can be difficult, if done properly it can be a treasure of data and insights to build from.  If your feedback loop includes factors related to what worked and what needs to be changed for the event, the work to improve the audience experience is less challenging.

Make sure not to simply ask “how was the food?” but to expand the question when something was rated with high marks.  So if the food was given high marks was it because the variety of food?  Vegetarian options? Unless you ask you may not know what made the responder happy and lose out on retaining what made the food great in their opinion.  So when keeping the good things, don’t be shy in getting a follow up question in of why that part of the event worked for them.

Listen Only To Attendees For Improvements

Take a look at any survey that ranks the top companies.  No matter the industry you will see the ones who act and embrace their customer’s feedback are typically atop the rankings and have loyal customers.  Take the cue and make listening to the attendees to identify as to what makes your event awesome and what can be done to make it even better.  While not every request or idea from your attendees can be implemented, be objective and creative in the solution or response. Why not demonstrate it by sharing the previous year’s feedback and show what was adopted.  Even better, identify who made the suggestion for the improvement so their peers can thank them for the change or improvement.

There will always be budgets to adhere to and opinions of internal stakeholders who will opine “they don’t know what they want” but the reality is that the event is being done for attendees so they can engage, obtain and experience what it being offered.  So why not listen to what they are asking for.  It might create a whole new perspective on the event and transform it into an audience centric experience.

Change Up The Agenda

When attendees arrive at an annual conference, can they recite the agenda chapter and verse down to the time of day?  If so the time to change how you present the information is now.  Many events may have sessions that have legal or compliance type of information that requires a specific meeting style. However, the way the information is delivered does not have to be static.  More than ever, technology provides great options and creativity for events to move beyond the delivery of slides on a projector.  The use of engagement tools can change up the annual presentation so that the room may have to contribute, respond or potentially play an integral part of the session.

Using real time polling or an interactive dashboard on tablets where the information is given in short videos or even in an augmented reality environment can make the attendees remain engaged.  Additionally, when agendas have been given in advance the ability to draw the audience to certain sessions could be improved through the announcement of technology use.  When given the chance to sit and listen for an hour on a topic or engage my peers and thought leaders in an interactive session, it would be hard to find many who would choose the former.

All Things Take Time

It isn’t an overnight process crafting an event, but staying mindful of the customer experience and promoting your event strengths your event will improve the popularity.  By taking your audience’s feedback and embracing what works and fixing what creates detractors, an event can grow into a sold out, sought after experience each year.

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