What do conference organizers really do? They plan all the aspects of the conference experience.
I believe our titles -- planners, organizers -- don't serve us anymore. They don't convey the right information, as putting together logistics is like putting together quilt pieces without any plan. It's just stitching elements together and crossing your fingers that it will result in a great look, product and design.
Enter the conference experience officer
Much like a conference meeting steward, the conference experience officer pays attention to all of the stakeholder's experience. If this CEO can create great experiences for all those involved, he/she succeeds.
1. The Conference Experience
This is the main product that the conference experience officer and host organization is providing for their stakeholders. The CEO discusses the behaviors and attitudes that the organization wants from its attendees first before ever looking at venues, food and beverage, room capacities and other logistics. What is the experience like attending this conference? What value does this conference provide to all its stakeholders? What type of emotional journey does the experience take its attendees on? Does it provide highs and lows? Does it make them happy, fulfilled and excited? Or does it make them frustrated, agitated, angry and upset?
2. The Touchpoints Experience
What is it like when the attendee receives the first, second and consecutive announcements about the conference? What is their experience like when they visit your conference website? Is it easy to figure out what offerings this conference provides? Can they discover if the conference will help solve their pain points? Is registration easy, straightforward and intuitive? Or is registration complex with too many clicks and unnecessary steps? What happens once they register? Are there more touchpoints, or does the information stop?
3. The Organization Brand Experience
Many conference organizers don't realize that the conference experience showcases the host organization's brand. So what is it like to interact with that brand through the conference experience? Is talking about the conference host the only way attendees experience the brand, or do they actually have a full sensory experience with that brand? What type of emotions does the experience evoke?
4. The Support Experience
How helpful is the conference host before, during and after the conference experience? Is it easy to contact the host organization via social media, email and phone to ask for assistance or clarification? Or do people dread having to contact the host organization? When stakeholders do finally make contact, do they feel that the conference host company cares about them and that their problems are addressed, or do they feel that they are an annoyance to the company and its employees?
5. The Entrance and Exit Experiences
What happens when the stakeholders first connect on-site at the conference experience? Is it a red-carpet, welcoming, unforgettable experience? Or is it a status quo, average entrance to a venue without any fanfare or thought to that experience? What is it like to walk out on the last day of that experience? Are people lined up from the next meeting venue and city, applauding and making attendees want to dodge the exit line? Or is there an authentic thank-you exit experience?
As conference organizers and meeting professionals, we often get so focused on the details and logistics of our event that we forget that the entire experience is for and about our customers. The above experiences are just a few of the primary sets of experiences that our CEO should worry about first before ever working on the details.
Remember, by improving the overall conference stakeholder experience, everyone wins.
Tip of the hat to Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO of HubSpot, for his recent article about CEOs as chief experience officers, which sparked this post.
How important is the attendees' conference experience? What are some ways we can improve the conference experience for our various shareholders? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Dallas-based Jeff Hurt is executive vice president of education and engagement for Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. To read more from him, visit jeffhurtblog.com.