Understanding your attendee’s motivation to attend, their general frame of reference and learning style and what is required to gain their ongoing interest and sense of community are all vital if your goal is to plan a multi-dimensional meeting to appeal to a multi-generational audience. Who better to talk with than Kelly Peacy Founder and CEO of Insight Event Strategy? Kelly works specifically with her customers to deliver valuable experience design strategies for business events, conferences, and conventions.
Before launching her own entrepreneurial venture, Kelly served for 15 years on staff at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) where she was most recently the Senior Vice President of Education and Events, leading the teams who delivered Convening Leaders and Education Conference. She is also an award winner! In May 2015, Kelly was named one of Successful Meeting’s 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry and in April 2016, she was named one of Smart Meeting magazine’s Smart Women in Innovation.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly in preparation for DMAI’s June empowerMINT webinar. I’m so excited to share insight here with you.
TERRI: You have such a rich meetings background with PCMA, with regard to our topic of multi-generational event appeal, what were the most significant changes in attendee expectations you experienced planning the Convening Leaders and Education Conference?
KELLY: By far, across all generations, it would be the idea of an engaging, two-way experience, not just talking heads packed into an overflowing schedule. Participants today have high expectations from the dollars and time they are spending to attend events, and they are expecting an experience that actually enriches their lives, professionally, personally or both. At PCMA, I learned that offering as much interaction (with the content and with other people) and designing dynamic opportunities to engage in a multitude of ways, can provide real value.
TERRI: Tell us a little about what you are undertaking now in your career as Founder and CEO of Insight Event Strategy?
KELLY: After 15 years at PCMA working with some of the best minds in the business, I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and share it with other organizations. A successful event experience starts with a smart strategy and my goal at Insight is to help organizations re-think their business events from a strategic perspective, to create stronger value for all stakeholders. My passion is designing event experiences that inspire.
TERRI: What do you perceive as the major “stressors” for planners in creating events that work for the broad spectrum of meeting attendees today?
KELLY: The stress on planners today is enormous. Simply keeping up with the myriad technology options available today can overwhelm anyone. But also, understanding what “valuable engagement” truly means to the participants attending their events. For example, a hands-on, how-to education session may be of great value to a mid-level professional, but of no value to a seasoned pro. Or, a mobile app-only on-site program schedule could really make a “print” person truly unhappy. What kinds of people are attending your event, not just demographically, but psyche-graphically as well? Finding the time to really dig deep into this is a major stressor, but it’s critical because a one-size fits all approach will no longer be effective.
TERRI: What are some of the hot trends in personalizing meetings and events?
KELLY: Much of this is going to stem from the data we are collecting from our participants, such as recommending specific sessions based on other sessions they’ve already attended, or allowing participants to customize their mobile app to feed us data such as their dietary preferences or how they like their coffee. There’s a lot of conversation around privacy and collecting data, however, I think the way of the world now is that this is necessary to ultimately create a better experience for the individual, and there is more tolerance for it. It’s a fine line and of course depends on the individual group. Aside from that, I think we will see more personal concierge services being offered at conferences to assist with everything from travel to personalized scheduling and vendor appointments based on objectives.
TERRI: What is your advice for tapping into destination resources and using the destination in which the meeting occurs to make the meeting authentic and appealing?
KELLY: No one knows the destination like your CVB/DMO representatives; they are really the source for helping to create an authentic experience. I recommend tapping into the local knowledge economy for speakers. What companies and universities are available locally to help add value to the program? Personally, DMOs have helped me many times to enhance the entire event experience by tying local resources, from entertainment to venues, to the program theme.
TERRI: Will you talk a little bit about the extension of meeting content and how creating a strong sense of community can keep attendees wanting more and re-engaging year after year?
KELLY: In general, it seems that we need to do a better job of leveraging our events, particularly our large annual events, to capture collective genius. What types of engagements are we creating at our programs that enable specific groups of people to work together, for example, to help solve problems or challenges unique to them? Can we use their brainpower, ideas and feedback as a springboard for continued deep dives throughout the year, which flows into the next annual event? What mechanisms are we using to capture creative energy that a community of people often feels at an event? Just as important, how are you sharing the results?
I hope you find Kelly’s perspective as refreshing as I do! If you would like to learn more from Kelly and dive further into our discussion on meetings which appeal to multi-generations, we hope you will join us for our June webinar.