Forward Thinking

Do You Need a Conference Experience Officer?

To achieve market differentiation in the 21st century, progressive conference owners will organize around their customers, not their internal functions.

Many conferences are planned by a variety of departments working in silos and — often layered on top of that — several volunteer committees. With all of these different functions assembling the event, it’s difficult to achieve a collective focus on the attendee experience. What’s needed is a conference experience officer (CEO), who wakes up every day thinking about  key attendees and how to deliver an experience, holistically, that keeps them coming back year after year. In addition to being the person who always asks, “Is this in the best interest of our paying attendee?,” the CEO thinks about:

1.The Conference ExperienceBefore looking at venues, F&B, room capacities, and other logistics, the CEO discusses the behaviors and feelings that the organization wants its conference to evoke in attendees. What value does this conference provide to our key attendees? Other stakeholders? What type of emotional journey does the experience take its attendees on? Does it make them happy, fulfilled, and excited?

2.The Touchpoint Experience What’s it like when the attendee receives your first, second, and consecutive announcements about the conference? What kind of experience do they have 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 them address their challenges? Is registration easy, straightforward, and intuitive? Or is it complex without any of their information pre-populating, requiring too many clicks and unnecessary steps? What happens once they register? Are there more touchpoints, or does the information flow stop?

3.The Organization Brand ExperienceWhat’s it like to interact with your 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 brand experience? What types of emotions does the experience spark and the attendee then associate with your brand?

4.The Support ExperienceHow helpful are you as the conference host before, during, and after the conference experience? Is it easy to contact you via social media, email, and phone? Or do people dread having to contact the host organization? When stakeholders do finally make contact, do they feel that your organization cares about them?

5.The Entrance and Exit ExperiencesWhen the stakeholders first connect on site at the conference experience, is it a welcoming, unforgettable, red-carpet experience? What is it like to walk out on the last day? Are people lined up from the next host meeting destination, applauding and making attendees want to dodge the exit line? Or is there an authentic and inspirational thank-you that leaves participants on a high note?

Assume the Role

Many organizations will be slow to officially adopt the conference experience officer role. If you want to increase your strategic value, assume the hefty responsibilities of being the attendee-experience advocate. Be the silo buster by having a laser focus on the customer. Educate and advocate to leadership the advantages of being customer- and experience-focused. When the time is right, you should be positioned to jump into that role and make a difference.

Dave Lutz, CMP

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