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Understanding the Value of Conferences

There are many different types of conferences.  Some businesses host a user conference on a regular basis for their customers and partner networks. They work to educate customers to be more successful using their products or services.  Associations gather their membership periodically for motivation, education and networking.  But no matter the organization’s mission,  they continually want to know if their conference is an expense or an investment.

Let’s explore how conferences deliver real, near-term profit improvement beyond the conference.  And, learn how a great conference can influence other objectives such as organizational growth and customer retention.

The conferences that deliver the most value for the organizer or host have a common characteristic – they successfully provide value to all of the players in the conference ecosystem.

  • Organizers attract participants through valuable offerings and content.
  • Sponsors and exhibitors seek valuable access to targeted, high-value participants.
  • Sponsors and exhibitors provide the organizer with valuable funding and support in return for access.
  • Participants seek value in return for their contribution of time and money.
  • Organizers grow and perpetuate the cycle.

In addition to profit improvement, a well-planned conference can also serve other goals of the organizer.  For example, many associations seek membership growth, in part, by providing great value to their members through the conference experience.  For those conferences with exhibitions included, studies have shown that exposure to  content provided by sponsors and exhibitors is an integral part of conference participation and satisfaction.

When the organizer, sponsors and exhibitors  are attuned to the strategic needs of the participants, the momentum builds quickly.  Intra-event communications using social media makes it possible to learn from members, as well as serve their needs between events.

After a successful conference, participants may take actions that result in improved business results for the organizer. Here are some examples of positive results that should be measured:

  • Increased sales
    • Participants buy additional products and/or services.
    • Participants upgrade their current products or systems.
    • Partners may incorporate more of your products or services in their offerings.

Applicable measure: Conference-related sales

  • Reduced support requirements
    • Participants will gain knowledge at the conference, decreasing the amount of technical or customer support needed.

Applicable measure: Changes in costs associated with levels of customer service access and requirements.

  • Enhanced loyalty, customer retention
    • Retention of the participants’ business is ensured through familiarity with the company and its products.
    • Decrease in perceived risk due to enhanced affinity.

Applicable measures: (1) Retention rates among conference participants versus non-conference participants; (2) Average revenue value of a customer; (3) Cost of a lost account; (4) Cost of a new or replacement customer.

  • Recurring or repeat revenue growth
    • Participants gain knowledge, leading to greater personal and company success. As these businesses grow, demand for the organizer’s products or services increase. 

Applicable measures:  (1) Sales volume increases of conference attendees; (2) Key performance indicators improve.

Conference activities can also produce cost savings in a number of ways. Exploiting the opportunity afforded by attendance at a conference allows a company to accomplish goals that would require additional time and expense to duplicate in the future and in different locales.  For example, teaching 3,000 customers at a user conference the nuances of your product upgrade may be much more cost effective than sending field service representatives to customers’ respective locations, or producing a digital training that explains the issues.

In addition, providing customers with access to your executives and experts can build a relationship that lasts well into the future.

Further, conferences can generate considerable media exposure that can support marketing and advertisings campaigns.  The value of conference-related promotion and earned media could be significant.  Inspiring the press to better understand your organization’s strategic initiatives will ensure a more accurate representation of your company in the media.

How can a conference help an organization grow?

When attendees and sponsors feel they derive great value, organizers may experience an increase in event participation and for an association, a gain in membership.

Most conference attendees are looking for ways to positively impact their performance on the job, including the following:

  • How to make better decisions by obtaining more relevant and critical information.
  • How to contribute to improved organizational performance in the near-term, and how to build a foundation for greater success over the long term.
  • How to better collaborate throughout an organization to achieve goals.
  • How to identify additional resources that can support improvement efforts.

Conferences that focus their content on the needs of the attendees typically excel. Exhibitors and sponsors who focus their messages and engagement activities on these types of needs will also be successful as well.  This provides a great basis for targeting the content through all channels during a conference.

As the word spreads that a conference has delivered value to all of the attendees and stakeholders, attendance will grow, and the host company or association will enjoy a significant return on their investment.