Knowing and understanding your audience is key

What’s the most annoying thing that happened to you today? We’re not talking the big stuff (hope nothing truly frustrating darkened your path today), but the “little” stuff that is oh-so-human and irksome. The “spilled coffee on your shirt on the way out the door” stuff. Got all the way to the interstate entrance before realizing you forgot your mask or your lunch or, yikes, your laptop. Arrived at the restaurant looking forward to happy hour…and realized it was scheduled for tomorrow.

We bet most of you are thinking about at least one thing that falls under the umbrella category of “Another person didn’t understand me.” As humans, we like to be heard. Grokked, as the Martians say. There’s nothing more annoying than picking up a ringing phone or checking email and getting pitches from a salesperson who knows absolutely nothing about you, right? Are they from the same planet as you? Do your homework, buddy!

We event professionals have audiences too, just like salespeople do. To be good at the job, we need to self-monitor that we do our homework so we don’t sound like a too-cheery recording of ourselves that pauses awkwardly after each sentence. We need to be human to our audience and engage with them as the humans they are.

The first step in creating an engaging and personalized experience for your audience is to—drumroll please—know your audience! Do they prefer small-group workshopping or big-production keynotes? Networking over tapas and margaritas or getting to chat online from home?

If only there was some way you could get the answers those questions… Oh, wait! You can! We get it—learning the likes and dislikes of your audiences is easier said than done, especially when you’re working on a tight timeline. That’s why we put together a Big Ideas book after our most recent UNTETHERED and included in the Audience Design chapter a whole bunch of tactics you can use to decipher the personas of your attendees.

Focus pocus

Even Don Draper cared enough to ask

Go old-school ad exec (but skip the exclusivity and three-martini lunches, please) and conduct an old-fashioned focus group. Invite representative attendees to gather in one room and let a pro lead through a set of questions. Focus groups give qualitative, not quantitative, information, so you may get insights you can’t get from a survey alone.

Bonus: By virtue of their agreeing to join your focus group, participants have a bigger stake in the outcome of your event. You can now count on these people to help your event succeed. Don’t forget to recognize them for this—give them a special beta-tester badge on their profile, an exclusive tchotchke, or even a facilitator role at the event.

Play the numbers game

Don’t discount the power of the survey

Surveys are a good way to collect quantitative data from your wider audience. Make them a part of your registration process, and everyone will answer, not just the people most likely to raise their hands. Surveys also allow for anonymity, which may encourage more forthrightness. Just keep your survey short and sweet so as not to monopolize too much time.

Read the tea leaves

Data is delicious

The great thing about data is all the ways you can crunch and analyze it. Look at past attendee data. Compare and contrast with the current data. Extrapolate old responses when considering the new event.

And don’t forget the biggest afternoon tea of all: social media. Online chitchat can offer great (and sometimes brutally honest—spilled tea happens) insights into what people really think. Analyze social media to learn what attendees are saying about the event, the organization, or the industry and to gauge what topics they are interested in.

Remember, the ultimate secret of selling—from cars to cookies to concepts—is understanding the needs and wants of the audience. Let them voice their opinions, hear them, and watch your event take shape in a way that participants will respond to. There are more mind-blown moments and tactics to test in our Audience Design chapter, available to download now.




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