Create an Attendee Experience Strategy

When new tech products are designed and rolled out, there’s lots of focus on user experience (UX). When it comes to meetings, there should be just as much focus on AX, the attendee experience. Here’s how to build an AX strategy.

In the latest issue of Associations Now, our associate editor, Rasheeda Childress, writes about 25 tech terms that every association exec needs to know—whether their role lives inside or outside the IT department.

One term on the list is user experience, or UX. The article defines it as this: “Designing technology in a way that focuses on creating an easy and intuitive experience for users.”

You’re likely familiar with similar terms like customer experience (CX) or brand experience (BX). But here’s one that meeting planners should have top of mind: AX.

What does it stand for? If you guessed attendee experience, you’d be correct.

In a post on Medium last year, Elizabeth Bloodworth had what I thought was a really great definition of AX: “The sum total of a live event attendee’s encounters, responses, and interactions with the content, sponsors, and fellow attendees before, during, and after an event.”

That’s means it covers everything, from an initial visit to your event’s website, to registration, to what their experience is like in education sessions and while networking, to post-event follow-up.

While the thought of building an AX strategy may seem overwhelming at first, it’s necessary. And good news: I bet you’re doing a lot work around AX already; you may just not be connecting it all together. Here are three ways to get started on creating an AX strategy:

Walk in your attendee’s shoes. To build a comprehensive AX strategy, you need to know what the current experience is like for your attendees. To do this, write out the meetings lifecycle—from when they first hear about your meeting to when they return to the office post-conference. This will give you insight into what processes work, where stumbling blocks exist, or even big problems that could keep prospects from registering or attendees from returning.

In a similar vein, MeetingsNet suggests storyboarding the meeting experience. “Write out the meeting ‘story’ as a series of moments, or exposures: pre-meeting, meeting, and post-meeting,” wrote Kare Anderson in a blog post. “For each exposure, write a brief description noting if each encounter is positive, negative, or neutral.”

Create an ideal AX map. Once you know what the current experience is like for attendees, it’s time to create what would be the perfect and seamless attendee experience. In a another Medium post, Bloodworth suggests meeting organizers build an AX map. “Simply consider what a typical attendee wants and map out the ideal experience, from pre-event to post-event and even their attendance at your future events,” she wrote.

Get attendee input on your AX strategy. Before you finalize and rollout your AX strategy, it’s important to ask past attendees for their input. Be straightforward: Ask them what they loved, what they hated, and the one thing you could do to ensure they would return year after year. You should even have them look at the AX map you built and see if they agree with the ideal attendee journey you laid out.

Has your association been successful in creating an attendee experience strategy? Tell us all about it in the comments.

(psisa/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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