Many conference organisers make the mistake of ‘churning out’ their meetings by putting on conferences that have worked in the past as a ‘safe’ bet, skimping on research time to get an event to market quickly or plucking themes for their events from one conversation with a potential sponsor. They’re then left wondering why they only have a handful of lost-looking delegates in the room on the day.
Industry issues – the ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ - can change like the wind and if you want to attract a good audience you need to think about what’s happening now AND what may be happening a few months down the line when the event actually takes place. Often it is better to start out with the most general of themes (example: ‘Organisational Development’, ‘Marketing Strategy’) rather than narrowing the focus to a very specific topic before you’ve researched with your target market. That general focus can be used as your event brand; your annual meeting place for that particular industry’s professionals.
What this year’s conference content should cover is something you need to glean from various research sources. Keeping a weather eye on current affairs, both political and business should be something that is done year-round as a matter of course, as is, of course, reading the key publications in your target field. Reading will give you an idea of the kinds of topics that are on everyone’s lips, but having in-depth conversations with your target audience is the only real way to find out the burning issues/ pain points that need to be addressed by your speakers. Of course, it takes a lot of time (and a lot of rebuttals) to arrange research calls with senior executives, but once you’ve talked to a good number and found themes that come up time and again, you know you are on your way to building a conference programme that will really stand out from the crowd.
Image courtesy of World Trade Organisation.