To the Point

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Attendees want to customize their experiences.

As consumers, we love personalization. Today, we can easily design our own shoes, customize our vending-machine drinks, stream music based on our likes and dislikes, and sit down in a car that automatically adjusts to our bodies. Consumer-product companies may be leading the trend in serving up customized options, but many other industries are stepping up their game. In fact, a quick scan of 2017 top trends shows that many sectors, from retail and education to health and digital marketing, will be offering more personalization in the coming year.

In the business-events industry, we should be right there with them, which is why this month’s CMP Series article is devoted to this topic. It’s so important to make sure our attendees have the opportunity to customize their experiences to fit their interests, skills, and personal preferences. They don’t come to an event wearing the exact same shoes as their fellow participants, so why would they want to follow the same pathway throughout the event?

That said, anyone jumping on the personalization train should be careful not to take things too far. There’s a certain level of privacy and trust that must be maintained. Be careful to be upfront about what data you collect and how you use it. You’ll want to avoid the “creepy” factor that can turn some people off quickly — like when you walk into a store and discounts start popping up on your phone for products you bought online a few months ago. Some people are willing to trade privacy for personalization, but that’s a fine line for others.

Privacy issues aside, the most successful examples of personalization come when individuals can be the masters of their own destiny, rather than a company or an event determining all of their preferences. The fun in customizing your own shoes is the experience. You can go to Nike’s website, for example, and see all the colors, designs, and options available. Once you make some choices, they’ll show you instantly what they would look like together. Don’t like what you see? You can go back and adjust until it’s just what you want.

What would be so great about logging on to the Nike website, having them analyze all kinds of data about you, and designing the shoes on their own without your input? The thrill is when the company gives up control and hands it to the individual.

Something else to think about: When starting to experiment with personalization, you don’t have to go all in right away. This is one area where I think it’s best to under-promise and over-deliver. Expectations can run high when you start to promise a fully customized experience.

It will be exciting to see where our industry goes with personalized meeting experiences. There’s so much to be said for bringing all kinds of different people together face-to-face to share in a common interest, occupation, or industry. But their experiences shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all.

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.