The Power of Who

Too often, event planners go through the motions of planning a live or virtual event based on logistics such as, date, time, location, venue, platform, number of attendees, theme, look and feel, and other standard elements they are able to garner from their organization or clients. More seasoned planners take a strategic approach and understand the need to establish specific objectives for their events, so they can design an experience that works toward achieving these goals.

Strategy is far more than this. It begins with the understanding and triangulation of: brand or business objectives, the marketplace or environment in which we are operating, and most importantly, the audience or people we plan to engage.

The Power of Who is not the ability to time travel in a British police box, but the identification of human insights, and actions engineered to motivate people to act on your objectives, based on this understanding. It's part data, part observation, and part psychology. It's the foundation of the art and science of effective event and experiential marketing.

Why is it important? Bottom line: Return on Investment. The biggest fear of any event planner is to create an event, and have no one show up. Or, those that do attend never return, or worse, complain about the event. Every year, companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their event programs in the hopes that they will attract and entice customers to buy what they sell. Without creating relevance on both an emotional and rational level for their attendees they run the risk of failure. The only way to ensure events and experiences add value to attendees, is to understand attendee wants, needs, and expectations. And despite doing everything we can to address this, it's often not what we do that impacts event effectiveness, but how we do it.

How do you develop The Power of Who? Don't worry, no superhero backstories here. It starts with investigating three elements:

  1. Demographics – In business, this can be things like title, role, level in the organization, what they doo for a living. It's also important ot recognize that we are all humans first, so understanding things like age, gender, family situation, income, and things like that will inform the personas we create.
  2. Psychographics – These are the interests and behaviors of your target audiences. What are their passions and pain points? What hobbies to they enjoy? Who do they want to be when they grow up? How do they behave in certain situations? How are they wired personally and professionally?
  3. Technographics – What technologies they use and how they engage with this technology? Are they observers, posters, commenters, leaders, followers, influencers? Are they techno-savvy? Do they have a MySpace account or are they on Clubhouse?

How do you get this information? If you have a large budget you can subscribe to a host of marketing tools like Mintel, IDC, Kantar, and others that do all kinds of profiling. If you're like most of us and don't have unlimited resources, there are many ways to do online research through Google, social media platforms (ad sections), and free reports or briefs.

However, the easiest and most effective way to understand your audience is to observe them or ask them directly. I've always been a fan of people watching. I would often play a game with my kids – we'd be driving down the highway, or sitting in a park or a mall, and make up the life stories of people we'd see pass by. The power of observation is powerful. Next time you're at an event, or even in a virtual event, watch how attendees engage, what they do, how they do it, and reverse engineer why they act that way, or who you think they are based on this behavior. Surveys can also be a powerful tool in understanding audience motivations. Keep them short, and focused on the information you really want to know and can action against to be most impactful. Finally, the best way I've found to understand target audiences is to have conversations with them. It is amazing how much information you can learn. Work on getting a valid sample size (which can be as few as six for each segment of your audience).

Ok, I've researched, observed, and talked to my target people - what's next? In a word, insights. Now that you understand who are they personally and professionally, what they want and need, and how they behave, you can create a persona that codifies these nuggets of wisdom. This will allow you to develop an informed idea – a strategy and event experience that is meaningful to your audience. You use the what (objectives) and The Power Of Who to create the how. In the simplest of terms, your overall strategy should be a simple sentence. "Motivate AUDIENCE to DESIRED AUDIENCE ACTION (based on objectives) by EVENT EXPERIENCE because AUDIENCE INSIGHTS."

The Power of Who makes events more valuable for attendees, and more effective for producers, while reducing the cost of event execution by ensuring planners are focused on the right things to meet event objectives. How have you used The Power of Who to make your work better?

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