Recently, we came across an interesting article, “The Problem with Statewide Meetings That Ignore Rural” by Becky McCray on the subject of how meetings can and should incorporate more sessions for attendees that live outside a large city. Meetings are missing out on reaching a core demographic. For example, the article states:
“every session at your conference that you haven’t tailor-made to include rural is urban biased by default. Rural attendees are left trying to figure out how to scale those huge ideas down, or decide whether they might work at all in a small town.”
Did you know that nearly 20% of the US population lives in less populous areas of the US? This means, that chances are, one in five attendees come from rural areas. This got us thinking… pretty much every meeting might have attendees that live outside the city, therefore, how can planners best reach those attendees when planning their meetings?
Here at Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), we represent over 150 top meeting destinations, many of which are located in smaller cities as well. No matter if you hold your meetings in large urban destinations or small locales, planners can look for ways to incorporate simple steps to be sure they are also meeting the needs of their rural attendees.
3 Steps to Meet the Needs of Rural Attendees
- Hold rural round tables. This can be an easy addition to your event. Reserve a room, provide a moderator, and let them have the floor. Go listen and take notes for future session topics.
- Include rural speakers on existing panels and topics. While you are planning a panel for a topic, find speakers that may have expertise on that topic, but maybe on a smaller scale. Invite them to the panel. They will be able to help attendees incorporate the ideas.
- Offer a rural-themed keynote for everyone. By having a rural themed keynote speaker, it can increase understanding between small town and urban. Furthermore, urban attendees can still adapt the lessons for their neighborhoods and communities.
Not all meetings or all sessions can be adapted to meet the needs of your attendees from smaller destinations, but by taking a few simple steps, you can incorporate a few items into your plan that shows you are addressing their needs.
Special thanks to Becky McCray for the ideas on how to incorporate rural attendees into your meeting.