Dave Lutz, CMP
Data That Matters
When most of us talk about
personalizing for the masses,
we really mean making recommendations based on their other
choices — i.e., attendees who
signed up for one session are
also planning to go to another,
related session. In most cases,
this requires rich data, algorithms,
and machine learning. Consider
developing a meta-tag methodology that applies three to five
keywords or phrases to each session, and low-tech solutions like
creating and publishing five to 10
recommended itineraries based
on the attendee’s role or work
challenges. Analyze each session’s description and learning
objectives, and identify up to five
other sessions that will likely be
of interest to those participants.
Ask the speaker or moderator to
share those with participants.
I’m a strong believer that behavioral data that is explicit or precise
has a higher value for enriching
customer intelligence than passive or movement data collected
via beacons. Examples of explicit
tracking include workshops
purchased, sessions favorited or
added to an itinerary, handouts
that are accessed, completed
surveys, and self-scans for CE
credit. These behaviors can and
should be tracked to enrich your
customer database and provide
relevant future recommendations.
Can a conference for hundreds or thousands of attendees
capitalize on the mass-personalization trend — making it seem
like a program for one?
I’ve been doing research into and thinking about the mass-personaliza- tion wave that is dramatically chang-
ing what and how we buy as consumers.
I’ve learned that personalization can be
achieved in a number of ways:
1 Individualized Customers get exactly
what meets their preferences or needs.
In other words, they can order a tailor-
made shirt to fit their body measure-
ments perfectly in the style, fabric, and
color of their choice.
2 Configurable Customers can
make certain choices that best meet
their preferences. For example, when
purchasing a laptop, they can choose
the color, hard-drive size, processor,
and pre-loaded software.
3 Interfaces matter Whether customers are interacting with a website, an
app, or a human, that transaction is
a critical component to delivering a
personalized experience. It can’t be
impersonal or overly mechanical.
4 Smart recommendations The
business needs to learn from the
behaviors, preferences, and past
actions of customers to deliver
intelligent and relevant advice.
APPLICATION TO CONFERENCES
Realistically, organizers seeking to
improve the attendee experience
through a personalization strategy
should focus their efforts on items 2
through 4 above. In my opinion, the
first item — individualizing a conference experience for every attendee —
isn’t scalable today.
But most conferences are already
designed to be configurable by providing attendees with options — concurrent sessions, pre-conference
workshops, and ticketed functions, for
example. To increase configurability,
consider offering additional learning
experiences that are bite-sized ( 15
minutes) or deep-dive (two-plus hours).
Identify which two or three audience
segments would find each session most
relevant. Tracks or learning pathways
are most intuitive when they are prob-lem-based, not role- or function-based.
And as far as interfaces are concerned, our industry has come a long
way in improving utility with web-based itinerary-building tools and
attendee mobile apps, and that will only
continue to improve when more are
able to sync across devices. As we’ve
become more efficient, most conferences have focused less on the human
touch, but the human interface can be a
greater competitive advantage than any
configurable tool or app. Look for ways
to treat participants as unique individuals by embracing radical hospitality and
As far as the fourth approach to per-
sonalization, see Breakout, at right. .
Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of
Velvet Chainsaw Consulting,
ON THE WEB
Download McKinsey & Company’s article “How Technology
Can Drive the Next Wave of Mass
Customization,” at convn.org/