What I learnt about Audience Development for Tech Conferences


I am deeply encouraged by the good feedback that I received to last week’s post titled, ‘Tech events model has changed in India’. In this post I am going to write about audience development strategies. But before I get into that, here’s a quick summary of the comments in response to last week’s post. All these comments and likes appear on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141014070518-24924439-tech-events-model-has-changed-in-india?trk=hb_ntf_MEGAPHONE_ARTICLE_LIKE

Brent Goff, Journalist, TV news anchor, talk show host and moderator from Berlin writes, “In our world of constant connectivity the challenge is even greater to convince people that a show or trade fair can reveal anything new. This presents a great opportunity for conferences to emerge as integral parts of a successful show/trade fair. Why? Because the conference is now THE place where people meet, talk and THINK! Big ideas are as attractive as ever. And a conference venue is where big thinkers should convene–with an audience. One man’s old show is a clever man’s new stage!”

Arun Gupta, Ex-CIO at Cipla, Business & IT leader with multi-industry experience, transforming business with IT, writes about the four E’s that make conferences successful: Excite, Engage, Explain, Entertain. He says most Expos and Conferences are unable to create this magic formula.

Rachana Chowdhary, Founder Director – MediaValueWorks, Country Manager – African Press Organization writes, “…guess, the scale of events in India, concept, conceive, conduct, content needs an equal in-depth revisit as the 4 e’s above…we may refer – MWC- Mobile World Congress, Barcelona….. Another noted development, pls refer the SAP – Innovation Express, a multi-city roadshow, capturing and interacting with SME’s and Industry Associations…finding newer ways to showcase solutions.”

And Subroto Panda, CIO-CTO at Anand and Anand – Premier IP and Media Law Firm writes, “I completely agree with you Brian and at the same time the views expressed by Arun Sir also. But the awards also some how expose that it is not done with a real view to reward small time IT Experts who really struggle hard in pushing tough IT strategies in small scale industry.”

And then there were some ‘likes’ to the article including one from Jaideep Mehta, Managing director, India and South Asia at IDC.

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and for spending time reading my posts.

Over the weekend I was reading the iPad edition of Content Marketing magazine (you can search for it from Apple Newsstand or on Magzter). The article was mainly about developing audiences through Social Media. But the term “Minimum Viable Audience” or MVA kept leaping out of the digital page and catching my eye! Essentially, MVA is about how building an audience first can be a more efficient way to producing a successful conference.

In the six years that I devoted to developing various Conference Agendas I have always worked like this: Getting the Speakers and topics and agendas set first — and then pursuing delegates and visitors to register. I have seen people struggle (and falter) with delegate registrations (audience development). And I often thought to myself, “What if we could develop the audiences first, right at the beginning of the cycle, and then work on the content and speakers?”

But these activities must overlap and be done in parallel — audiences want to know who are the speakers. And partners and exhibitors want to know how many visitors are expected and what is the profile of these visitors.

Think about it. In business, you develop the product first, before the audience comes in. The cycle is: Market Research, Product Research & Development, Marketing, Selling, feedback, product redesign, development….

But if you look at the cycle carefully, you’ll see that customer feedback and market research are the most important elements. A company may pour billions into R&D and millions into marketing — but what good is all that if customers don’t want that product?

So, coming back to conferences, if you have done the show at least once, then in your second or third year (and in future editions), you could do extensive audience feedback exercises using tools like online surveys. calls, or just face-to-face meetings with randomly selected visitors. Social Media is another good tool for audience feedback and engagement. Build a community online — all your visitors should be discussing speakers, topics and other aspects of the conference there.

Also monitor trends in the industry, what are the issues being discussed in industry and in government (related to the domain).

These issues (and all the audience feedback) should serve as the basis for forming next year’s conference agenda.

Market the content to audiences first, then go get your speakers!

———————————————————————————————————–

The views expressed by the writer in this article are his own, and should not be attributed to his current organization. The comments are generic and do not refer to any specific conference or organization.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s