Many of you were super interested in learning about the six problems attendees experience at conferences:
- If you don’t have me at registration, you’ve lost me
- I’m a sponsor or an exhibitor, and I feel like an outcast
- I’m a long-time member, and I’m bored with the sessions
- I don’t use what I’ve learned at the conference back in the office
- Receptions are awkward for most attendees except for a few long-timers
- I’m a first-time attendee, and I don’t know how to navigate your conference
These six insights were straight from member research, and I have three more for you.
The topics I care most about are not on the agenda
A respondent said something like, “if I have to sit through one more session on social media I am going to stick a fork in my eye.” What she wanted were more conversations around leadership. How do I start planning now to help my organization thrive ten years from now? How do I cultivate a high-performing leadership team? How do I prioritize and help everyone else prioritize, so we start accelerating the things that matter most? This respondent’s professional development wish list is not universal. Some attendees do want to learn about social media. Some want to talk about very advanced issues and some need to learn the basics. We struggle with incorporating the right mix of topics.
Ideas to try:
- Deeply understand your attendee’s challenges, wants, and needs.
- Let attendees vet the speakers by allowing them to vote for the sessions they care most about.
- Appeal to a segment of the membership and design the conference for them (other segments might get their own conference, a regional meeting, or online learning).
I am not meeting people like me
I came to this conference hoping to find other professionals who care about the same issues I care about. I want to meet others in the same situation I am in, dealing with the same problems I have, and who feel the same way as me. Or I want to meet others who have found a solution to my problem. Or I want to connect with other professionals who have a similar background or experience. So far, it seems like I meet people like me by luck or accident.
Ideas to try:
- Try a buddy system to match former attendees to new attendees by similar characteristics.
- Use one session block to set up small curated roundtables to discuss niche challenges areas.
- Test the brain date idea.
I am not implementing what I learned at the conference
At the conference, everything sounded great. Some of the speakers had ideas that were relevant and applicable. Others had great food for thought. The conference got me excited to try new things. When I got back to the office, however, I quickly got caught up in my everyday duties and soon forgot about the conference. Now I feel too far removed to go back and visit the stuff I once felt so optimistic about.
Ideas to try:
- Many keynoters have a tactical session that is an extension of their keynote. Instead of asking them to give it as a session there are at the conference ask them to present it in a webinar to attendees in a month’s time.
- Curate an online community where attendees, speakers, and hosts can continue talking about what they learned, explore how the concepts might work for their association, and celebrate others for taking action.