As event professionals we’re working in a period of warp speed innovation.
Until recently it seemed events had changed little from the days of the Roman Forum, but the merging of live and digital channels has added fantastic new dimensions to what an event can be. With this innovation comes a huge number of decisions for event organisers to make, not least of which are decisions about where to allocate time and money.
Making the right decisions about which technologies and formats to embrace requires us to ask a fundamental question: where does the real value lie for delegates attending a particular event?
Answering this question means recognising that the roles that events play are shifting. Just as the way people consume TV, newspapers and social media is in flux, so too is their relationship with live events.
Six Areas of Delegate Value
Identifying where the value lies for delegates attending a particular event, and hence where to innovate, can be quite straightforward. It means digging a little deeper with the questions we ask our delegates and having a framework for assessing a particular event.
Based on experience at my company producing and evaluating many events, I believe the value of event attendance lies today in the following six areas - with the weight of importance shifting depending upon the type of event.
As events move from being about information exchange to ideas exchange, people are using them to chisel out time in their diaries to think beyond the day to day and to concentrate on things of real long term business and career value.
Today’s delegate values being able to tailor an event experience to their specific needs, choosing the content that is right for them. At it’s most extreme this is evidenced by the growth of unconferencing.
We’re increasingly used to having a voice, whether on Twitter or in the comments section of an online article, events are no exception. Audiences want to be able to help shape the agenda, contribute live and continue the conversation post-event.
Whether it’s a hack day or a global senior leadership event, delegates are seeing the value of working closely with other people to create new ideas that can be fed back into the event and out to the wider organisation.
In the age of digital social networking, real world connections have never been of greater value.
Increasingly the value of event attendance isn’t just in the live experience, but in the opportunity to share great content with a delegate’s wider network, whether this is their social media followers or their team back at HQ.
Framework for Innovation
Having identified where the delegate value - or the potential value - lies for a particular event we can then focus where we innovate. Imagine your delegates are telling you they value an event experience that enables them to contribute. Well you might explore something akin to SXSW’s Panel Picker, and if you’re not already using one you’d certainly consider an event app.
Perhaps you learn that your delegates want an experience that helps them better connect. In which case you might use tools to make the networking experience more efficient by enabling them to self-categorise in advance and book meetings via digital platforms.
You might design the physical space inspired by what architects call 'collision zones' to stimulate networking or you might facilitate post-event meet-ups.
Events are evolving at an incredible pace, and so too is what our delegates want from a live experience.
Making the right decisions about where to innovate and where to allocate resources -whether in terms of new technology or through new ways of designing spaces and formats - needs to be based on understanding what the audience value.
Hopefully you’ll find the above six areas a useful start point for asking the right questions and creating a framework for where to innovate. By taking an audience-led approach to innovation we can ensure that we build in ever greater delegate value to our events from the very start.
Photo by thechrispone