To truly gauge the attendee experience, you need to walk around in their shoes. Also: how to tell your nonprofit’s story.
Experiential meetings are all about the senses. So, to understand and improve the attendee experience, planners should engage in a “sensory exposure audit,” says Kare Anderson on MeetingsNet.
“Just as political campaigns have ‘advance agents’ who walk through every step of an event to consider all that might go right or wrong, you can mentally visualize each ‘vignette’ attendees could encounter,” she writes.
There are two ways to do this. First, you can put yourself in attendees’ shoes and walk around the venue yourself. “Consider the colors and patterns in sleeping, eating, meeting, and gathering spaces, so that your theme colors and images can be compatible and even complementary,” Anderson says. “Ask the staff about comforting and conflicting background sounds from piped-in music, other meetings, mechanical operations, catering procedures, or elements beyond the facility.”
Another way is to storyboard your conference. “Write out the meeting ‘story’ as a series of moments, or exposures: pre-meeting, meeting, and post-meeting,” she says. “For each exposure, write a brief description noting if each encounter is positive, negative, or neutral.”
In either strategy, you’ll have firsthand insight into what attendees are experiencing—and if some element doesn’t go according to plan, the ability to foresee an issue and change it.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
Getting the word out about your association isn’t about the tools you use to deliver that message—it’s about the story you tell.
In an interview at The 20/20 Forum, a nonprofit thought leadership event copresented by Microsoft, nonprofit social media expert Julia Campbell explained that storytelling begins with understanding the goals behind the content, starting with whom it’s directed to.
“Who are you telling the story to? Is it a donor, prospect, journalist, blogger?” she says.
Then, you have to tailor your story for your endgame. “A story for fundraising has to really make me feel something … If it’s just a story that’s happy-go-lucky, then it might be better for marketing,” she says. “How are you going to grab attention in a way that someone is not only going to hear you but listen to what you have to say?”