Forward Thinking

Ask These 9 Questions to Find Your Event’s Purpose

Our guide to creating, revisiting, or updating a strategy statement for your conference.

As competition for attendees’ time and their share of wallet continues to grow, it’s increasingly important for your entire organization to understand your event’s reason for being. Here are nine main questions (and more that follow) that you need to ask:

1. Who will own this? Identify taskforce or committee members who will be charged with the responsibility of articulating your conference purpose.

2. What three strategic objectives does your conference best support? Put these in order of priority.

3. How important is profit? The most common buckets I’ve seen:

Significant net income is generated to fund other programs and services to advance your mission.

A modest profit is desired. Customer intimacy, improving your brand perception, and advancing the profession trump profitability.

The conference is how you invest back in the profession.

4. Who is your audience? Is your conference trying to be all things to all people — like an $11.99 all-you-can-eat buffet? Or, must you attract a clientele that enjoys a fine-dining experience, with a limited number of fresh and expertly prepared dishes?

5. How will you differentiate your content? Will it serve early, mid-career, or experienced professionals? Will you focus on emerging issues, best practices, or evergreen topics? Can this be accomplished through session submissions or curation? Will the learning design be participatory or one-way? Should the content focus on technical skills, soft skills, or sharing of information? How will you measure success — attendance, session and speaker ratings, workplace improvement?

6. Will the networking be organic or accelerated? Is it easy for first-timers or solo attendees to get plugged in and find their tribe? Is your leadership participating in these experiences?

7. What’s the vibe on your exhibit floor? Is it about buying and deal making, or more of a solutions-based learning experience? What do your attendees want? Is that in alignment with what your exhibitors want?

8. Are you paying attention to the energy level? Will your conference provide a steady stream of emotional highs, or are you all business, academic and sterile? Do you want to create highly shared experiences? If you were to plot your emotional high moments, are they bunched together or spread throughout?

9. Should your conference content be captured? Made available to live participants only, or would a larger audience benefit? In real time, or extending the conference experience through scheduled replays, articles, learning prompts, and archives?

Dave Lutz, CMP

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