The millennial generation- a population who is used to being catered to by technology on a regular basis- has high expectations for events. (And the older and younger generations aren’t far behind!) That said, keeping attendees happy doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It’s all about interacting with them to find out what’s important to them and personalizing your event agenda based on that information.
The event personalization trend is about more than technology (although tech personalization plays an integral role in it). Likewise, millennials are more than just tech junkies who move through the world like drones, relying on mobile apps to live their lives for them. The population that drives much of the event business chooses the events they attend based on opportunities for self-expression, unique experiences, and the ability to make their mark on their environment in some influential way.
This translates to a desire for as much control as possible over the agenda at the events they attend. Even corporate event agendas are now based more on the needs, preferences, and culture of attendees than those of the organizers. If you’re wondering how to fit your event into those standards, it’s time to shift your perspective. Successful event personalization means using these new industry standards to stand out, not fit in.
Here are some of the best ways to customize the attendee experience at your next event:
1. Let Your Attendees Shape Their Own Experience
The first step to event personalization is to give attendees some control over the agenda. There are many ways to do this, but using live polling apps is probably the fastest way to reach the largest number of attendees. Live polling apps can and should be used before, during, and after the event. This method of crowdsourcing does more than help you glean pertinent information about your niche attendee populations. It also gives attendees the feeling that they are part of the event, not merely attending it.
This kind of engagement makes attendees feel as if their personal input adds value to the event experience as a whole. Best of all, they can contribute to the event planning process without taking much time out of their busy schedules to do so. At a time when inclusion is one of the most important elements of the consumer experience, live polling apps are valuable tools.
There are some apps with special features that allow attendees to make suggestions about sessions, workshops, and other experiences. If you decide to engage your attendees in this way, you’ll be surprised at the variety of new ideas and interests expressed by niche audiences you thought you knew.
This kind of event personalization allows you to gather massive information, and still learn about your attendees and their specific needs on a personal level. Based on the information shared by your attendees, you might be inspired to connect with new speakers and vendors, as well as make changes to old formulas.
The results of this strategy could not only build and expand your loyal customer base, but also open up new business opportunities for your brand. Friendly reminder: When you use live polling apps and other similar technology during your event, just be sure that your venue has easy WiFi access and can accommodate the extra bandwidth.
2. Take a Holistic Approach
The world we live in has become increasingly information-saturated, fast-paced, and impersonal. The result is that people have little time and energy for self-care and feel as if their value is measured by their productivity rather than who they are. In order to restore some important quality of life, many people are beginning to address their needs holistically. In other words, they care concerned with taking care of their physical health as well as their mental and emotional well-being.
People want the events they attend to holistically benefit them, too. For example, at a professional conference, people want to do more than learn new skills that further develop their professional careers. They want their workshops to take place at a venue that supports clarity, relaxation, and enjoyment; they want to learn in an environment that fosters creativity. (Cue the resort-like settings and spas that pamper attendees with facials and massages). Professionals are drawn to conferences and workshops that tangibly address their need to take care of their bodies and minds while being productive.
The holistic approach to events is widespread and has also made a big impression at party events and festivals. When you think of a wild, strobe-lit EDM festival called Electric Forest, the first word that comes to mind isn’t likely to be “relaxation”. Yet these festivals strongly promote the holistic lifestyle, offering yoga workshops and group meditations in nature to help people replenish their bodies and minds and center their energies between stage sessions. Wellness and meditation centers are even cropping up at large international airports as a way to help busy travelers unwind.
More and more, people want to attend events that reflect the holistic mindset. Attendees want event concepts to create personally fulfilling experiences that cater to their unique individuality. When we designed our upcoming social media app, Plans, our top priority was to meet that goal.
Obviously, having a holistic experience at an event means something different for everyone. Since people’s unique needs are met in various ways at different events, we wanted to create a social media tool that suggests events based on the personal needs and interests expressed by users. Therefore, Plans’ newsfeed will be populated by events based on the shared interests of you and the individual friends you add- unlike the Meetup app, which has a group mentality and often lets people get lost in the crowd.
Our platform has event inspiration and ideas for event planners and attendees, so stay tuned for our launch date, which will be announced any day now!
3. Create Attendee Personas
Event personalization means you have to know your attendees’ emotional and networking motivations. In a nutshell, it’s all about getting to know who your guests are and finding out what’s most important to them.
So what is an attendee persona, and how do you create one? Essentially, an attendee persona is a representation of your ideal attendee based on real data and market research about your attendees.
There are several ways to build these personas. The first step is to define your ideal attendee, which is ultimately who you want to be marketing to. For example, is your goal to attract new brand advocacy and leadership in marketing? If so, you’ll want to invite influencers and everyday people who are already using your products or services- and wow them with new products, features, or opportunities.
The best way to get attendees to share personal information with you is to interact with them directly. If possible, interview different existing and target customers. Who are you planning your event for? If it is geared toward a specific company or industry, contact company representatives or industry leaders for an interview. If some interviews can happen face-to-face, or even over the phone, it adds an extra touch of personalization, but the majority will likely happen on the Internet- which is perfectly acceptable.
In order to organize all the information, you need to build an attendee persona in a time-efficient manner, you’ll want to use a template that contains comprehensive questions and concepts.
Obviously, your template should do more than allow you to plug in basic demographic information about your attendees. Remember, building attendee personas is an experiential marketing strategy. The template should help you organize emotional information about your attendees, such as values, behavior-drivers, key purchase factors, and personal successes and challenges. Always keep in mind that when it comes to experiential marketing, it’s more important to learn about emotional drivers than basic demographic information, such as where someone lives and works.
Is your event for owners and employees of new tech startups? If so, ask about their personal and professional struggles pertaining to starting their own business. Also, learn about the practical aspects of their daily lives. What does their average workday look like? What do they love about being an independent business owner, and what do they dislike about it? How much time do they get to spend with family, alone, or on self-care? Find out what their goals are, and what obstacles prevent them from achieving them.
Obviously, these are just examples of specific attendee personas that event planners might need to market toward. You also want to observe the language patterns that your ideal attendee uses socially and professionally. If you don’t find common ground and relate to your attendees on their terms, they won’t feel a connection with you. And if they don’t feel a connection, they won’t readily provide the information you need to make a connection with them.
4. Build Multiple Mailing Lists Based on Attendee Data
When promoting your event, your email list should be well-targeted. Since your promotional plan is the main way to reach attendees- and your direct line of communication with them- it pays to personalize your email list. To do this, customize your email interactions with different personas. Communicate with them in familiar ways, using their language patterns and culture, and interacting with them about the things they care about. (In this context, culture doesn’t refer to ethnicity or demographics, but emotional culture. You want to avoid cultural appropriation at all costs). But be sure you’re not just parroting their language patterns, as this will come off as insincere. Make sure you can “speak their language” in a way that is genuine for you.
Use the information they’ve already shared with you to determine which aspects of your events to talk to them about. You can also use this information to ask specific questions about how you can improve your event’s agenda to meet their needs. For example, when interacting with a millennial audience, you may want to focus your inquiries on tech-related aspects of your event. Or you may not- remember, personalizing your marketing plan is not a generalized process. The questions you ask and promotions you create should be based on specific, personal information your attendees have shared with you.
5. Use Your Venue Space Wisely
In many ways, your event space is the main executor of your event concept. Based on the information generated by interactions with attendees, make sure your venue meets the practical and emotional needs of your guests.
Most of the time, optimizing your event space to customize the attendee experience is about simply being resourceful. Usually, you’ll need to find a way to fit a variety of diverse content into a single space. Obviously, this space needs to be large enough to accommodate diversity among guests; an overcrowded space makes people feel claustrophobic and overloads their senses.
But aside from size considerations, you’ll also want to take organization into account. Make sure that interactive activities happen in spacious enough areas for people to comfortably move about and communicate with each other. You’ll want to avoid messy color schemes and use clever wants to make individual spaces seem like their own separate little worlds. Attendees who came to focus on one workshop shouldn’t have to be distracted by the noise, appearance, and vicinity of other workshops at the event.
In order to make the best use of your venue to create personalized experiences, establish open communication and an easy rapport with venue owners and staff. The more cooperation you have in making your vision into a reality in real space and time, the better!
Ideally, the individual spaces within your event should represent emotions that appeal to attendees. For example, let’s say that you’ve designed specific workshops for people who want to interact in quiet, intimate spaces. You’ll want to give these spaces the feel of a cozy, intimate setting- not just the look of it. You can do this by making these sections of your event into mini “coffee shops” complete with comfy little nooks or tables, an eclectic art theme, and tranquil colors. Invoke the famous quote, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they’ll remember how you made them feel”. Apply it your event space and concept.
In fact, apply the idea behind this Maya Angelou quote to all aspects of personalization in event planning, and your brand will grow exponentially!