Are you being receptive to new voices?

In our last post we focused on the seven purposes of a meeting.  While none of these purposes specifically stated it, it was understood that participant appeal is a key ingredient of a successful meeting.  The meeting participant needs to “see him/herself in the picture” for the meeting to hit the mark.

Whether a person could relate to the reason for the celebration, wanted to learn the material being presented, or simply wanted to connect with the type of person anticipated to be at the event, the participant must relate

The problem is, these days, the basis of how people relate to events is changing.  Rapidly.  We could argue about the reasons – smartphones, social media, Millennials… But none of that matters, really.  The bottom line is: how people relate is a fast-moving target.  And if people can’t relate they just won’t show up.

Now some of you may argue that isn’t the case for all meetings.  At corporate meetings, for instance, people are told to attend the meeting… they don’t have a choice.  I think differently – and perhaps that’ll be the topic for another column.  Let’s agree on this: maybe participants will show up but they won’t be that engaged unless they can relate.

So how do you make sure people see themselves in your event’s picture?  One strategy I have come to adopt is listening to the “new voices.”

The new voices aren’t necessarily young or novice in the field.  They often are considered “the outliers.” They are not that loud, just perhaps asking for something that isn’t being offered.  Maybe they are unhappy or perhaps they are just looking for something better suited to their needs.

We’ve been seeing a chorus of voices pipe up in association and corporate meetings, in diverse fields from healthcare to IT.  According to one author, one group that is often not heard at industry events is women.  And it is the reason why women’s conferences is a fast-growing meeting segment. (And with the latest marches going on around the world of late, this trend just may be gaining momentum!)

If potential participants don’t see themselves in the event picture you are creating they just won’t come to your meeting.

So where are they going?  In some cases, they are banding together and organizing their own meeting (hint hint independent planners… a new source of business?).  Or they are finding new events, sometimes organized by similar associations, or even the private sector, but targeting a niche of your audience.

This is completely congruent with a trend we have been seeing for a while; there are more small, specialized events, often winning at the expense of the ho-hum annual conference that tries to be all things to all people…

So who are the new voices in your organization?  Is it time you start listening?

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