Refresh Your User Conference as a True Brand Experience
By Doug Binder, Senior Creative Director, InVision Communications
Happy Birthday to Me!
Every kid wants a birthday party. I know I did. I got to choose the guest list, the theme and agenda. My guests had to do what I wanted: I picked the games, the movies, the tunes and the outings. There was cake – and I got to make a wish for the future. For sure, I wanted everyone to enjoy themselves because, well, I wanted them to like me.
That’s the way many companies view user conferences these days. We want to gather our friends for a few days every year to celebrate us, who we are, and who we are as a community. We want them to think we’re smart, that we have great ideas, a vision for the future, and that we know some smart and powerful people. We want you to talk about us and our best qualities (i.e., products, vision, people), and to tell their friends about us too. Of course, kale is the new cake, so please help yourself.
Even if this analogy is a little cheeky, it’s not that far off the mark. In fact, at several recent user conferences I attended, the host company used prime event marketing and stage time to celebrate their birthday or anniversary.
Coming of Age
A number of InVision’s clients were born or saw huge growth in the wake of the Great Recession, when cloud and virtual platforms exploded across the business landscape. Some of those companies waded into the user conference field at some point the past decade. Now, they are coming of age.
To continue to nourish their community, they want (and need) to move beyond beer bashes, hackathons and the antics of their “eccentric” founders. They need to evolve their brand experiences without alienating their most righteous constituents. That’s not easy.
If you’re looking to elevate your next conference to a higher level of engagement and brand experience—worthy of your place in the market and vision for growth—here are a few things to consider:
- Remind yourself why you have a user conference. Is it still accomplishing what it was intended to do? What are the new objectives/expectations it should be reaching?
- Does the program feel fresh? If not, where can you change things up? (e.g., venue, agenda, technology, networking, marketing)
- Is your supporting technology effective? Does it integrate easily? Does it enhance the audience journey? Does it provide you with the data and insights to better manage the program?
- Do you have the right partners, sponsors and vendors in place?
- Is your business model/ROI still viable?
- Are you open to rethinking the balance between general sessions, breakouts and networking time?
- What’s your competition doing in this space? Should you emulate them or extend your differentiation?
- Is your audience growing with you? Or rather, are you growing and adapting with your audience?
- To be point: What is working? What isn’t?
Be careful to understand any deep emotional connection your audience has to the event. Maybe it’s the venue at a certain time of year, an appearance by an adored founder, weird costume parties, a headbanging soundtrack, or even a birthday beer bash. Beyond great content, these are the human connections that can make your conference a must-attend affair.
Make Progress. Not Noise.
InVision works with companies to create, grow and refresh their user conferences. Through our proprietary Visioning sessions, we’ll elicit insights from all shareholders and home in on what’s working, what isn’t, what’s changed and what needs to change. Then we’ll apply our own insights to show you how we can elevate your conference to be better align with your brand, the audience and the marketplace.
Download InVision’s User Conference Guide with lots more insights on building and refreshing user conferences.
Reach out to us to learn even more and get started. We’ll bring the cake.