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attendee personas American Express Meetings & Events

Understanding Your Meeting Participants Through Attendee Personas

Knowing whether your meeting participants are knowledge seekers or networkers, can help you design a more effective meeting.

In the past, meeting designers have looked at professions or demographics to tailor an event to its participants. Milton Rivera, vice president of global business and strategy for American Express Meetings & Events, explained in a recent MeetingsNet webinar that recognizing and understanding attendee personas may be much more effective.

Rivera said, “Your profession used to dictate your persona, for example, if the event was designed for doctors, attorneys, or accountants. But over the years we realized it is no longer an accurate way to determine the personality of an attendee. We used to look at demographics, but age does not dictate persona either. The advent of personas that cut across professions, age, and demographics and focus on the fact that human beings are wired differently, helps us understand that we communicate, learn, and listen in different ways. This perspective can help you understand what motivates or engages your attendees, and also shows you what might make them disengage.”

Rivera outlined six of the 12 or so personas identified in the American Express 2018 Global Meetings & Events Forecast.

Here are the high-level characteristics for these different types of participant, and Rivera’s recommendations when designing an event for each persona. 

The Knowledge Seeker
These individuals look for opportunities in an event to learn and to better their career.
They make decisions about attending an event based on the agenda and speakers. 
They can be very engaged from day one if the agenda resonates with them.
How to engage: Use pre-event surveys to tailor content, and choose out-of-the-box learning environments and creative meeting space setups to keep them interested. 

The Tech Savvy Networker
This persona is a plugged-in professional who values relationships and sets event goals, e.g. a number of individuals to connect with at each event.
These attendees are multitaskers.  Their behavior—being on a mobile device while listening to a presentation—used to be considered rude or disengaged. Now we know that they are very engaged, they may be reading the speaker bio or participating in polling or using tweeting comments on the presentation. 
These attendees can keep your event alive on social media after it is over and can be a key component of your digital engagement strategy.
How to engage: Use pre-event surveys to tailor content, and choose out-of-the-box learning environments and creative meeting space setups to keep them interested.

The Inspiration Seeker
This persona looks for meaning and purpose. 
They want to know how the event connects to the company’s mission.
They value emotional connections over lectures.
They tend to be creative and vibrant. 
They engage in teambuilding and have high expectations for new event experiences rather than traditional presentations.
How to engage: They respond to inspirational speakers and motivational content. Don’t confine these personas to a convention center. They crave exposure to local cultures and events that allow them to experience a new location.

The Social Butterfly
This type of attendee looks forward to meeting people in the industry and in the organization. 
They love to socialize with colleagues and are enthusiastic and high energy.
They will spread the word on social media and can be a brand ambassador for your event.
How to engage: Provide interaction opportunities where they can be social leaders throughout the event.

The Reluctant Attendee
This persona is likely to be an introvert and may be overwhelmed by the experience of a large event. 
They feel obligated to attend and are uncomfortable socializing with new people. In order to engage with them, allow them to make connections before the event, either by email or pre-event interactions, so that they feel more comfortable.
How to engage: Give this persona the ability to control the event with breakout session choices. Smaller groups with specific content make them more comfortable than large, plenary sessions. 
Provide networking opportunities over the course of the event so they can meet others and share the experience. A cocktail reception on the first night to get to know others can be helpful. 

The Brand Fanatic
This participant attends to experience and enjoy the culture with other brand fanatics. 
They are often found at product launches, marketing events, and sales events.
They crave the “wow” factor, something new and fresh. They are likely to multiply the experience on social media and can be an effective ambassador.
How to engage: Give them input in the event, access to key representatives, and brand-centric experiences. 

Rivera said that all of these personas may be present at one event, or there may be more of one type than another, depending on the of event.

The challenge for the meeting planner is to create an experience that engages as many different personas as possible.

Rivera suggested a three-step process to add value to the event for all personas: 

1.   Analyze your likely attendee base.

2.   Create profiles (or use his).

3.   Personalize the experience for as many of the personas as you can.

 Rivera suggested that surveys during registration asking about attendees’ preferences for breakouts or social activities can give planners a sense of where the attendees’ focus is, and how they want to engage.

“Human behavior is not a perfect science,” said Rivera, “But we can try to figure out the balance of the event experience based on our attendees.”



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