Tim is an internet-savvy 35-year old who lives in London.
Next month, he's planning to fly to Colorado USA, to attend a conference.
In days gone by, the answer might have been "to learn about new things in his field", or perhaps "to find inspiration and motivation", or "to hear a particular speaker".
But in this age of live-streaming, online learning, Skype meetings and TED talks, Tim can find all the information and inspiration he needs online.
Tim's main reason for attending in person is...? Networking.
Networking is now the number 1 reason why delegates attend conferences.
This is vital information for the event organiser. It means that the main drawcard is not the content, the venue or the band playing at the gala dinner... it's the opportunity to network with fellow delegates and speakers. This is what your marketing message needs to be.
So how do you make those opportunities happen? Do you herd the delegates into a room, call it a "networking session" and leave them to it? What are you doing to help delegates get to know each other?
For their sake, and yours (we'll come back to this in a bit), you need to form these delegates into a community.
When a delegate registers for your event, offer him the option to "join the community". Have an opt-in tickbox. Those that chose to are directed to (here you can get creative) a forum in an app or browser, a Facebook group, a Whatsapp group, or some other platform that allows conversation. We like the forum idea best, as you can create pre-set topics to encourage conversation.
(It's important that someone moderates these platforms, and deletes or discourages spam or off-topic posts)
How about these forum topics:
- Getting there - Q&A about the location, public transport, travel buddies, share-a-ride
- A thread for each speaker/topic - discussion of what will be covered, ideas around the theme, etc
- Things to do in the area - tours and tips for pre/post conference travel
- Ask the Organiser - delegates seeking info they didn't find on the event website
and later, during the actual event:
- Conference Day 1 - any problems? what was the highlight for you?
- Conference Day 2 - any problems? what was the highlight for you?
- Meeting requests - if you don't have an official appointment book system, folks can arrange to meet here.
and after the conference:
- Feedback - what did you love?
- Feedback - what disappointed you?
- Follow-ups - a place for delegates to continue discussion, arrange meetings
- NEXT! - announcement of next year's event, or some other event you organise that would attract a similar audience
See what we did there?
Not only have we created a community who are chatting to each other even before they arrive, but you've been able to answer questions, address any issues, get great "sound bites" for social media marketing and a captive audience to whom you can punt your next event. And you've made networking easy. Fantastic job!