Jeff Hurt over at Velvet Chainsaw wrote a very convincing piece on why conference attendees don’t want your event to change each year. In it, he cited common attendee complaints and went into why people make them. Sure, Jeff does make a good point that familiarity attracts a certain crowd and change can be intimidating to your regulars, but when does that familiarity become stale?
While there’s something to be said for the comforting ‘same old thing,’ sometimes change is necessary. So without further ado, here are the four reasons and counterarguments for why your event or conference should evolve each year.
1. To Give Your Attendees What They Want
You planned the perfect event! How could anyone possibly want any more from you or your event planning staff? The food was great, the speakers were compelling, and no one spilled soda on the floor. But no matter how great your event and the turnout was, there is ALWAYS room for improvement. Taming and satisfying the masses can be a daunting task, but it is possible!
What if your attendees wanted Coke instead of Pepsi? What if they would’ve preferred deli sandwiches over a sushi bar?
When you take the initiative to evolve based on what your attendees want, you open the doors to a fresh and interesting new experience, even if it is something as small as catering choices. The point is to retain as many of these attendees as possible for your next big conference or event.
2. To Avoid Monotony
While the Griswold family is visiting London, the father happens to get stuck in a roundabout and has no clue how to escape. Every time he makes the loop they pass right by the famous clock “Big Ben” and in his attempts to excite his family he points out the enormous clock, but by the third pass his kids are sighing along and monotonously repeating “we know, Big Beeeen.”
When avoiding changes to your conference or event, you run the risk of falling into the sticky trap of monotony that will wreak havoc on your attendance numbers. When I attend political conferences such as the International Students for Liberty Conference, I don’t expect to see the same speakers and breakout sessions each year, otherwise I wouldn’t go more than once. There’re only so many times that seeing Rep. Ron Paul give the same speech can hold my interest.
It gets old very fast. Bring in new speakers, schedule new breakout sessions, give out different awards, do anything to avoid the same repetitive drill of an event that is stuck in the past.
3. To Make New Memories
You can make lots of memories and meet plenty of new people at events and conferences. I met my girlfriend almost two years ago at one of those political conferences I mentioned earlier, and we now go each year partially due to those memories. But great things and great events are not built on just memories, but rather on bigger and bolder visions for the future.
This year my girlfriend and I have been considering not attending the conference due to a lack of new material. We have heard the song and dance, attended all of the breakout sessions, and know all of the ins and outs of the conference. The truth is, we love all of our memories, but what we really want to do is make new ones.
Who wants to attend an event that makes you feel like you are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day where you do the same things, break the same alarm clock, attend the same festival, and walk in the same snow every single time? Instead, you event should retain some familiarity with the past but with a new twist each time, just like Murray’s character does with his repeating days.
4. To Attract New Attendees
Of course you want to have returning guests to your conference since they are the bread and butter that makes your event work, but the truth is times change and so do the people. This inevitability means that you are going to have to roll with those changes and appeal to fresher and possibly younger crowds with each passing year. One year people are dancing to Soulja Boy and the next they are doing the “Whip, Nae Nae.” (Hope I spelled that right.) The point is, nothing stays popular forever.
Attracting new crowds also ties in to making new memories, since every new attendee is already establishing his/her memories at their first event of yours. If you know your audiences then you will be sure to attract new attendees while retaining as many previous attendees as possible.
You don’t want to be this guy trying to appeal to new crowds:
I will concede to Jeff that not everything in your events should change. There is a lot of merit to the saying “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” However you shouldn’t apply this universally to every aspect of your yearly conferences and events.
Don’t be afraid to evolve and try new things. You will find that experimenting with new ideas leads to better results than forever sticking to the simple and familiar.
Do you agree with my assessment? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!
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