I don't have double-blind studies to support this, but I'm going to venture a guess:
73.4% of conference content is designed using a "Spaghetti Against the Wall" approach.
(Decimal points make guesses look more impressive.)
We see a big beautiful audience we'd like to come to our event, but they have a wide assortment of needs. We start cooking up a smorgasbord of content for our conference agenda in an effort to please everyone. Committees place their orders. Leadership places their orders. Sponsors, exhibitors, partners and so on. Things get a little crazy and we start throwing spaghetti against the wall, hoping some will stick. Suddenly, there are 23 tracks of learning, each with dozens of options. Attendees are overwhelmed by too many choices. Some feel like they don't belong anymore.
A BETTER WAY:
- Narrow your focus.
- Identify your top economic buyers.
- Laser in on one or two targets and concentrate on their needs intently.
- Understand their critical issues completely.
- Have conversations, ask questions and test your assumptions.
- Tackle content design with a single profile in mind. Jane owns a flux capacitor factory in Wichita, Kansas. These are her problems. These are her goals and aspirations. These are her constraints. What critical information/contacts matter most to Jane? What's keeping Jane up at night? How will this conference help Jane achieve better results?
- Once you define your target, move your aim a notch higher. Higher-level attendees are magnets who draw others to your event.
While you're at it, explore if BIG still plays better than SMALL for your market. If your annual conference typically draws 3,000 attendees, how might things change if you create six events, each with 500 in attendance?
Appealing to the masses isn't working for many shows. You can't be all things to all people. Focus in on those that matter most and nail it. Do this well and in today's social world, they'll tell others.
No more spaghetti tosses!
For more conference tips, read Your Conference Audience Doesn't Know What It Wants and Managing Your Army of Conference Volunteers.
(photo by EvelynGiggles via Flickr)