How to Get Attendee Personalization Right

While some members may see personalization as creepy, if associations do it right, it could turn prospects into attendees and lead to more engaged participants onsite.

A few weeks ago, I went down to Miami for some rest and relaxation, and most importantly, beach time. Before we left, the hotel sent us a brief survey that asked a few questions about our interests and preferences. Not knowing exactly what it was for, but having a hunch it was something to do with personalization, I took five minutes to complete it.

Lo and behold, my hypothesis was correct. When we checked into our room, the front desk concierge gave us a personalized list of suggestions for what we could do during our five days there. It included everything from open appointment times for spa services to nearby places to rent Jet Skis to local fish shacks to check out.

While we didn’t take advantage of all of the suggestions, it did make some of our dinner planning a lot easier. Plus, it was just a cool add-on to receive when we checked in.

The list also got me thinking about how a similar idea could be applied to meetings. For example, while I know a lot of associations offer conference apps that allow attendees to build personalized schedules, I have only heard of a handful that actually tried making personalized agendas for each of their participants.

Among them is the Drug Information Association (DIA), which sent tailored conference agendas to close to 7,000 potential attendees a few years ago. Each personalized email suggested sessions the recipient would likely be most interested in. With 260 educational offerings covering more than 21 tracks like patient engagement and electronic health records, there were a lot of options to choose from—even for the most seasoned attendees.

How’d they do it? DIA developed the agendas based on what members had previously selected as their top interest areas in their online profiles. Staff tagged meeting sessions to these interests using the association’s internal content taxonomy. When session tags and interest areas aligned, those sessions were recommended.

More recently, I came across the International Security Conference & Exposition, which will take place in November in New York City. The event’s website has an interactive quiz that allows prospective attendees to customize their onsite experience.

The multiple-choice quiz asks things like “Try and best describe your role or job function in two words or less” and “Do any of the following topics spark your interest?”

Once people answer five questions, according to the website, organizers “create a personalized itinerary with recommended events, education sessions, and exhibitors to meet your specific business needs.” Prospects can also take the survey multiple times if their needs change and they’re looking for an updated set of recommendations.

While it may be too early to tell how many people who took the quiz registered for the conference, it is a clever way to persuade prospects that your event is worth attending. Plus, the data from participants’ answers is likely to benefit organizers as well when they go about planning future conferences.

In what ways have you personalized the conference experience for your attendees? Tell us about it in the comments.

(Tera Vector/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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