Mix up your conference’s offerings each year to increase attendance. 

By Chris Schriever

When planning your next conference, try to think about what motivates you to attend an event. Have you ever attended an event with a specific pain point top of mind? Or do you attend events to strengthen your general industry knowledge?

While people often attend conferences to seek solutions, the type of problem they are looking to solve and solution they are looking to find may vary—which is why successful conference programs have a healthy balance of traditional mainstays and new experiences.

As a conference strategist, the easiest way to ensure consistent increases in attendance, and sponsor revenue, is to offer your audience multiple ways to learn and solve professional problems. Consider how you can reinvent your offerings every year—from the breakouts through to the expo hall—to include new educational avenues, diverse resources and unique experiences to deliver on that need.

We’ve incorporated all three of these elements into several of our association clients’ conferences and expo halls this year with solid success by adding the following:

  • Round table discussions arranged by specific topic
  • Presentation studios for brief, solution-focused presentations
  • New technologies pavilions highlighting advances in technology
  • Experiential areas for networking and problem solving

Additionally, we encouraged exhibitors to focus on the solutions they provided vs the products they sell. Basing a formal activity around this idea also allowed exhibitors to engage with attendees and dig into real problems they face and how the exhibitors’ companies and offerings might help. By focusing on what the products or services accomplish, exhibitors gained an opportunity to empathize with attendees and actually help them improve their day to day operations. This minimized the attendees’ feeling of being ‘sold too’ as they navigate the exhibit hall and instead facilitated more genuine, low-pressure interactions.

According to an attendee, “Having the exhibitor studio in the exhibit hall for 15minute presentations made it easy for me to network and learn during exhibit hall breaks.”

Never stop asking yourself: What drives conference attendance to this event?

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