Forward Thinking

4 Ways To Personalize a Large Meeting

Can a conference for hundreds or thousands of attendees capitalize on the mass-personalization trend — making it seem like a program for one?

I’ve been doing research into and thinking about the mass-personalization wave that is dramatically changing what and how we buy as consumers. I’ve learned that personalization can be achieved in a number of ways:

1. Individualized

Customers get exactly what meets their preferences or needs. In other words, they can order a tailor-made shirt to fit their body measure-ments perfectly in the style, fabric, and color of their choice.

2. Configurable

Customers can make certain choices that best meet their preferences. For example, when purchasing a laptop, they can choose the color, hard-drive size, processor, and pre-loaded software.

3. Interfaces matter

Whether customers are interacting with a website, an app, or a human, that transaction is a critical component to delivering a personalized experience. It can’t be impersonal or overly mechanical.

4. Smart recommendations 

The business needs to learn from the behaviors, preferences, and past actions of customers to deliver intelligent and relevant advice.

So How Does This Apply to Conferences? 

Realistically, organizers seeking to improve the attendee experience through a personalization strategy should focus their efforts on items 2 through 4 above. In my opinion, the first item — individualizing a conference experience for every attendee — isn’t scalable today.

But most conferences are already designed to be configurable by providing attendees with options — con-current sessions, pre-conference workshops, and ticketed functions, for example. To increase configurability, consider offering additional learning experiences that are bite-sized (15 minutes) or deep-dive (two-plus hours). Identify which two or three audience segments would find each session most relevant. Tracks or learning pathways are most intuitive when they are problem-based, not role- or function-based.

And as far as interfaces are concerned, our industry has come a long way in improving utility with web-based itinerary-building tools and attendee mobile apps, and that will only continue to improve when more are able to sync across devices. As we’ve become more efficient, most conferences have focused less on the human touch, but the human interface can be a greater competitive advantage than any configurable tool or app. Look for ways to treat participants as unique individuals by embracing radical hospitality and concierge-like services

Dave Lutz, CMP

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.