Your Conference Audience Doesn't Know What It Wants

FordIn my day-to-day work world, our team works with conference organizers, helping them to re-engineer and improve the conference experience. As we seek to understand the current state, event content design is a big topic for discussion.

We review conference agendas, speaker choices, delivery formats, etc. and ask lots of questions to better understand how these decisions are made. Time after time, conference organizers reference survey feedback as substantiation. That's a good starting point, but in today's fast-changing world, it shouldn't be your only source for decision insight.

"If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
   -- Henry Ford

By the way, there's some debate over whether Henry Ford ever actually said that, but it had to be somewhere in that genius mind of his. 

Our conference audience's palates are growing more sophisticated.
Running the same conference plays, year after year, won't win us new eyes -- and will likely lose us the loyal eyes we fought so hard to capture. We need a new playbook, particularly if we're looking to win NextGen eyes.

Willy-nilly innovation, where we throw lots of new ideas up against a wall hoping one will stick? Nope, that's not going to cut it, either. But when we focus on understanding our target audience's problems... I mean, TRULY understanding their most critical issues, challenges, aspirations -- now, we're in a much better place to generate meaningful ideas that make a difference.

Some ideas will click and some will flop. If you're not creating a flame-out failure every now and then, you're not pushing the limits hard enough. Go all in or don't go. Lukewarm creativity (where we dip our toes in the water and compromise) won't get us where we need to be.

Go ahead and read those survey comments. That input is indeed valuable. Go ahead and filter feedback into buckets to fine-tune your deliverables. Then, start focusing on the problem channel -- that's where the big (& bankable) ideas are waiting to be found. 

I'll bet Henry Ford's innovation chats ran the gamut, from the horseless carriage to rocket ships and time machines. If he didn't entertain the "ridiculous" during those early brainstorm stages, he would have never discovered the brilliant idea that changed everything.

Our conference audiences may think they know what they want, but that's based on what they've experienced so far. They think they want faster horses. Let's take them somewhere they've never been and even if that first attempt fizzles, we'll pique their interest. We'll also be rewarded with a wealth of valuable insight to perfect our next idea launch.

Looking for more ideas? Check out Cvent's all-star mix of blogs for event professionals: Strategic Meetings BlogHospitality Marketing BlogWeb Surveys Blog and Event Planning Blog.

(photo by DVS1mn via Flickr)

blog comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter
Receive updates on the latest trends, best practices, and strategies
to transform your meetings and events