As a conference organiser probably the most important number to you is the number of people in your audience. That number is the early success indicator and the number your boss – in the lead up to the event – will badger you for EVERYDAY. All hail the magic number! But many event organisers and even their bosses are becoming to realise that the number isn’t actually that important to the attendees. The important thing is the quality of the audience. And this is evidence of the power of audience curation as a way to ensure the right people in your audience.
The traditional conference model never really worked on quality
The more traditional audience model works like this: the bigger the audience the more money you make. And the happier your boss is! But what for the delegates? Do they share the same thirst for bums on seats? In my experience the answer is always no. They will choose quality over quantity every day.
How the new conference model has put quality in front of quantity
I am delighted to see that more organisers are introducing peer to peer learning in their conference programme: but one thing still seems to be missing. If your delegates are going to learn from each other the organiser has to make sure that the right people are in the audience. Welcome to the world of audience curation!
Who to invite as part of your audience curation:
1. I would advise that you curate approx 5% of your overall audience.
2. Ask your speakers to invite one of their peers as their guest. It’s sad I know but speakers hang around with other speakers. And they are likely to invite the people that inspire them.
3. If you have a call for papers and some people just miss out ask them to attend. Similarly if you had a session that didn’t make the cut make sure the speaker still attends.
4. Invite the speakers from last years event. It is likely that their content and experience will still be relevant.
5. We have all had the wild card, the ‘I can’t trust him on my stage’ kind of person who we would love to have involved in our event. But we seldom have the courage to stick them up on stage. So embrace the middle ground and test them out in a less risky environment.
Why audience curation is a great idea:
1. We organisers all dread that horrible blood curling moment when the chairmans post speech question goes unanswered. With a curated audience you can rest assured that there will be a host of people used to taking the plunge with the microphone and stepping up when they hear the music to their ears: “who has the first question?”
2. Those taking your curation places know that they owe you. You don’t say it but both parties know its true. So if you have session content to be filled by delegates a quiet word will normally lead to a choice session magically appearing on the programme. Tech-Fest 2012 had great sessions led by the people we’d invited and check out the quality of that content! Event Apps for iPad and Using technology to ease your processes.
3. It’s a hard stone cold fact but some conferences don’t sell out. So rather than giving away places as your event creeps closer fill some slots with choice attendees. Flattery gets you great delegates. Telling people that they are part of an “audience curation programme” sounds a whole lot better than a “we need to fill seats programme”
4. If you curate properly you will have genuinely interesting people in your audience; people that attendees want to meet. So if you are scheduling meetings for attendees and exhibitors you have some great conversations just waiting to happen.
5. Engaging industry leaders in this way can really help your overall attendance especially if you ask them to help promote your event. Ensuring they highlight their engagement on social media and promote their attendance to their networks will amplify the message that your event is the place to be.
The who in your audience is becoming increasingly important to your attendees. So jump ahead of the curve curate your audience and ensure that your crowd is the one that you need. And if you do curate you audience don’t forget to tell your attendees.