Attendees take time away from the office and spend money to attend your events. Are you doing everything you can to make them feel appreciated? Five ideas for setting the bar high.
Earlier this week I came across an article posted on Harvard Business Review (HBR) about small things employers and managers can do to make their employees feel appreciated. The article got me thinking about two things: how it applies to conference attendees, as well as a bad experience I had as an attendee that made me feel unappreciated.
We’ll start with the latter. During my first job as an editorial assistant for Prevention magazine, I was sent to a holistic health conference. I was excited because not only was it the first conference I got to attend as an official reporter, but I was also getting to fly and stay there on the company dime. Now fast forward to me arriving: I walk in to the registration area where I am asked to give my name. When I do, I’m told, “We have no one registered under that name.” We quickly discover I’m registered under “Samantha Whitehorse.”
Honestly, it’s not a big deal. My last name has been mispronounced and misspelled practically since I was born, but what was surprising was their solution. Instead of printing me a new name badge, they told me the only option was to hand-write my correct name on a white sheet of paper and shove it in my badge holder. Needless to say, most of my conversations at that conference began with people looking at my badge and saying, “Oh, what happened?” or “So, you signed up at the last minute and they couldn’t make you a proper badge?” Not exactly the impression I wanted to make.
So, in the vein of HBR, here are five small ways to make your attendees feel appreciated:
Tell them to what to expect ahead of time. Attendees, especially first-timers, may feel some anxiety about attending your event, so it’s important to give them as much information as you can. You might provide them with a first-timers’ guide or share tips and tricks from your seasoned attendees.
Make them feel at home once they’re onsite. First impressions are everything, so set the tone immediately when attendees arrive. If that’s at the convention center, make sure you have their name badge ready (with the correct spelling!) and that you give them the tools they need to make the most of your conference. These might include your onsite guide, a personalized list of suggested sessions, or a schedule of networking events.
Give them the opportunity to provide feedback in real time. Sometimes you can make quick fixes for attendees onsite that make them feel more comfortable—for instance, making the room warmer or turning up the microphone volume in the general session. Give attendees a way to provide feedback in the moment, whether through your conference app or social media.
Be their note-taker. With multiple sessions to choose from in a particular time slot, attendees won’t be able to get to every learning session they’d like. Consider having a designated person in each session who can take notes on the key takeaways and lessons. After the conference, send a summary out to every attendee, so they don’t feel like they’ve missed out on anything.
Follow up with them post-conference. Once the closing session wraps up, it doesn’t mean that the experience is over for your attendees. Touch base with them after they’ve returned home. That communication should include not only a post-event survey to get their thoughts, but also a thank you to say the event wouldn’t have been as successful without them being there.
How does your association make sure that your conference attendees feel appreciated? Tell us about it in the comments.
BY SAMANTHA WHITEHORNE / JAN 23, 2020 - Association NOW