Personalized events: 6 stages of the conference attendee journey

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It’s a fact: personalization is the new normal. ‘The Netflix Effect’ has conditioned us to expect personalization in all areas of life. Corporate conferences and events are no exception. As competition for people’s time increases, event marketers have an imperative to keep up with new standards of personalization or risk becoming redundant. 

From the way attendees find out about a conference, through to what they do on the day and the communications afterwards, every stage of the conference attendee journey should be personalized to create unique experiences for each individual attendee.

Thankfully advances in technology and artificial intelligence are making personalization more accessible to event marketers, regardless of their budget. This blog post examines six key stages in the conference attendee journey that can benefit from a technology-enabled personal touch.

1. Build awareness via social audiences

Every event marketer asks themselves, “How are people finding out about our event?” For previous attendees, stored preferences and behavior allows event marketers to make initial contact in a personal way through marketing automation tools. However, attracting a new audience requires a different approach.

Social media targeting is an efficient way to personalize at scale. Studies have shown that over half of social media users are there to discover new brands and events, meaning there’s a captive audience if you take the time to craft the right message and target it at the right people. Create lookalike audiences based on your current database and point ads to a landing page that succinctly communicates why someone like them should attend. Make it easy to register interest, but also take the opportunity to collect useful pieces of information like industry and title level. This can be used for event personalization efforts further down the line.

2. Personalizing the registration process

According to research by Marketo, personalizing an email increases the open rate by 26 percent, especially when personalization continues from the subject line into the body of the email. Optimizing your emails also means highlighting event content most relevant to each attendee. Sixty-nine percent of people will only decide to attend an event once they know about the sessions and speakers, so make that decision an easy one by tailoring the content you feature.

This kind of event personalization is possible with tools like the drag and drop workflow builder by RainFocus. Matching attendee preferences with agenda content, organizers can curate information and value propositions in an infinitely customizable workflow.

Drag and drop workflows within RainFocus.

Drag and drop workflows within RainFocus.

In email communications prior to the event, include a clear call to download the event app. Three out of four attendees will typically do so when prompted, and this is your chance to maintain engagement until the day of the event. 

3. Personalizing the agenda

When asked, over half of attendees said they wanted session recommendations based on their interests and previous attendance. Using data from solutions like Hubb and TurnoutNow, event marketers can increase session participation by ensuring the right people attend.

Hubb schedule builder.

Hubb schedule builder.

With an intelligent event app, AI-powered recommendation engines can help attendees discover sessions related to their interests using an individual’s pre-existing data alongside sophisticated machine learning algorithms. Once the event starts, real-time behavior data is added in to hyper-target recommendations with 90%+ accuracy. In the most innovative apps, chatbots act as digital event concierges capable of making suggestions.

4. Efficient networking through personalization

Along with interesting content, in-person networking is what draws people to live events. In the research conducted by IAEE, 76 percent of people surveyed cited networking as a top reason to attend. But it’s an experience that can be daunting for many people—especially when done solo. 

Although technology has a bad reputation for replacing human interaction, having the right technology tools in place at an event can actually encourage more meaningful connections. Technology like Braindate by e180 offers a new, deeper kind of networking based on the issues most pertinent to attendees. 

Braindate makes it easy to connect with like-minded people.

Braindate makes it easy to connect with like-minded people.

Technology makes finding the right person easier, too. Wearable tech in the form of RFID beacon-in-a-badge transmits a BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) signal that can be picked up by beacon readers placed around a conference venue. Attendees can be alerted when someone of interest is nearby and the interactive map helps them find each other—allowing productive networking to commence.

5. Personalizing sponsor interactions

A sea of exhibitor booths can feel overwhelming but, as with networking, smart recommendations can be made based on predetermined interests and preferences. This is enabled by technology providers like TurnoutNow, with integrations that can increase the number of quality strategic meetings on the trade show floor. The advantage of using either of these is scheduling meetings is easy; your event app pulls them into an attendee’s personal agenda and everything is kept easy to manage in one place.

6. Post-event personalization

Your event experience should flow seamlessly into post-event communications with personalized content. This could be on-demand access to similar sessions within the event app, or a special offer provided by a sponsor whose booth they visited. 

Be mindful not to repeat questions attendees answered during the event, and measure the time your survey takes to fill in. Research by Hubb has shown a 17 percent drop in response rates if there are more than 12 questions or if a survey takes more than 5 minutes to complete. Attendees prefer questions in scaled, multiple choice, and yes/no formats. This also makes your data easier to standardize and share with internal teams.

As you can see, personalization is a huge opportunity for event organizers. It’s also one that many are prepared to capitalize on. Gartner has described data as “the currency of any personalization program” and this makes the average event organizer—with an abundance of information about attendee demographics and interests—very rich. The keys to success lie in having the right technology in place and overcoming data silos so you can better understand attendees and personalize the experience they have.