December 18, 2017
    What do you want your conference customers to become?
    By Jeff Hurt | 07/10/2014

    “It’s not the attendees’ job to know what they want.” - paraphrase of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.

    “Larry [Page] is into making people what he wants them to be - which is a little smarter.” - former Google executive (from author’s private correspondence).”

    So who do you want your conference customers to become?

    Adopting The Ask In conference design

    This simple question, “Who do you want your conference customers to become?” can transform your traditional conference planning.

    HBR author Michael Schrage calls this question, “The Ask.” Applied to the conference industry, it will provoke your planning team into reimagining, redefining and redesigning your conference attendees’ future.

    Understanding “The Ask,” what you want your conference customers to become, changes how you invest in their conference experience and create new value.

    Your attendees are always changing

    Your conference stakeholders change. They are constantly becoming something else.

    They learn. They adopt new principles. They change old ways. They direct the paths to their own futures.

    You have the ability to understand, define and influence where your conference stakeholders are going. You can persuade who they want to become and how they will get there.

    You have the power to influence

    Forcing your conference planning team to focus on “The Ask: what do you want your conference customers to become?” forces your team to determine:

    - How to define conference success?

    - What is the core business that the conference is really in?

    - How to thrill your conference customers?

    - Your brand.

    Conferences that provide experiences that just meet the needs of their attendees and delight them don’t go far enough. They are representative of conferences of the past. They are rooted in the now.

    Conferences that employ real innovation for their attendees help transform their customers into something new.

    The real purpose of most conferences is to transform their attendees while making a profit.

    Too often we think our conferences depend upon existing customers. However, we should be focused on who tomorrow’s conference customers will - and should be.

    Your conference innovation strategy

    To paraphrase Michael Schrage: 

    Successful innovative conference organizers ask attendees to embrace new values, new skills, new behaviors, new vocabularies, new ideas, new expectations and new aspirations.

    They transform their customers.

    Successful innovative conference organizers reinvent their customers as well as their businesses. Their innovations make their conference customers better.

    You’ll know when your conference is really successful by what your attendees do after the event. Your stakeholders won’t just adopt your innovations. They will alter them, adapt to them, modify them and customize them to meet their needs. They will be changed by them.

    What is the single most successful innovation your conference has introduced in the past there years? Describe how your conference innovations fundamentally changed the behaviors and expectations of your conference market segment.

    This column appeared originally at Hurt's blog Midcourse Corrections. Hurt is education and engagement director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

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