Audience-First Planning Creates Impact
Incorporating persona development and journey mapping into your planning.
By, Nicole Bojic, Group Executive, Strategic Solutions Group
The role of the event marketer is to champion both the organization and the audience and to help the planning team see the intersection between the two to create an impact in your event design.
When we’re immersed in an organization, business objectives tend to take center stage in planning decisions. But what does it look like to also be an advocate for attendees? It means taking an observer’s point of view to understand audience member needs, their demands, what motivates them and what they most care about, so we can design intentional experiences that make meaningful connections.
Following a few key steps will take you from audience awareness to audience connection to drive program impact.
Step 1: Transform internal stakeholder planning conversations
Every event marketer puts a lot of time and effort into gathering and aggregating program requirements from various internal stakeholders to determine overall event goals. The challenge is translating that input into both a logistical and content conversation. Taking it a step further would be to analyze that input from the lens of the attendee as a driving element in the planning process. Defining your primary audiences and articulating your audience goals – what you need for them to think, feel and do coming out of your event – are foundational to building an audience-centered event.
Step 2: Determine the audience needs by persona
To be an audience advocate is to recognize that attendees come from differing backgrounds and have different drivers behind their decisions and actions.
The goal is to shift thinking from the audience as one large monolith group at the receiving end of your content to a dynamic group comprised of several important persons, or personas. A persona is generally defined as a semi-fictional archetype that represents the key traits of the target segment you’re trying to reach. And for the sake of your event planning, your event persona may be different than your organization’s customer persona, especially in the case of internal meetings or when you’re considering attracting sponsors and partners.
Each persona comes with his or her own unique demands, perspectives, and motivations that affect how they’ll engage with your brand. All of which affect how and what they think, feel and ultimately do coming out of your event and their interaction with content.
UX experts suggest that we focus on three to five personas at a time to address the most valuable attendees and their biggest concerns so you can turn this knowledge into differentiating experiences for your personas during your event.
A few tips in observing your selected personas
These are the types of questions that a planner can ask about their key attendees to paint a bigger, more individualized, picture of the attendee base.
Defining the persona: Who is a key audience member who makes or breaks the success of my program? Consider:
- What does my persona’s day-to-day professional life look like?
- Who does my persona interact with? What relationships are key to this persona’s ability to perform her job?
- What other companies besides mine does my persona interact with in order to be successful in my role?
- How does my persona make decisions?
- What does my persona value?
- What are my persona’s pain points?
- Where does my persona get information?
- How does my persona make decisions?
Validating the Persona Perspective with Research
While it’s easy enough to answer these questions on one’s own, based on what you already know, conducting qualitative research is the right way to validate your thinking without assumption. This is an opportunity to conduct user research and stakeholder interviews with representatives of your persona group, allowing them to give you real answers to these types of questions so you can have a more accurate persona outline and tap into their biggest drivers.
Step 3: Using personas to design content and experiences
There are two advantages to leveraging personas in the event design phase: 1) developing a content framework and 2) mapping the attendee journey.
Taking this step helps teams to strategize on the best content and delivery methods for each topic. The content framework can also be used to inform the Call for Papers by defining key content goals and areas (tracks), supporting content areas, content types, etc.
Attendee Journey Mapping. To ensure our event—and associated communications outreach—is attendee-focused, it’s always best to create attendee journey maps. This is where we identify where we pinpoint the critical moments where our personas interact with content. We also can see where our content is working at its best and where we might be missing the mark. Will it deliver the intended impact? Does the scheduling create a big block of time where the attendee is just sitting and listening to speaker after speaker with no interactivity? Are there points where it may be difficult for an attendee to get from a keynote to a session? Are there places where we could make the experience better? Or maybe there’s an opportunity to incorporate messaging and/or entertainment at registration.
Creating journey maps for each of your personas is not only a great planning tool, but they’re also a great implementation tool for all event team members.
Combining personas and journey mapping ensures a complete audience-centered perspective to building an impactful event, one that is designed to make connections and drive your organizational KPIs.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to hear more about how we can help you identify your targeted audience personas and build an attendee journey map around them for your next engagement.