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The Case for Building and Leveraging Attendee Personas

An experiential-event agency veteran explains how personas can direct the learning path in ways each attendee prefers and appreciates.

A deep understanding of each attendee is crucial for maximizing personalization at events, and this can be achieved by discovering attendees’ backgrounds, interests, and preferences. From that effort, planning teams can then build attendee personas along with choices in how attendees experience the event.

Creating attendee personas improves event effectiveness by tailoring content and interaction to align with attendees' needs and interests. Further, it will help planners assemble their attendees into smaller groups on site for training and learning opportunities, networking environments for hearing different perspectives, or both.

How to Create and Use Personas
To generate individual attendee profiles, planners can gather information such as job classification, demographic details, skill levels, hobbies and interests, prior event feedback, survey results, and networking objectives. From all that data, commonalities will appear among your attendees in their profiles as well as their needs and preferences. The planning team can then build out learning and networking paths for the event that would appeal to different personas.

This approach enables attendees to connect the meeting's content to their own roles, responsibilities, and personalities, fostering a deeper understanding and application of key points. Also, matching attendees by persona promotes empathy, which encourages collaboration and a free exchange of ideas.

One recent advancement that’s helping planners create personas is artificial intelligence. For instance, A.I. could be used to organize attendee personas when the amount of data is overwhelming. It can also help develop personalized recommendations for session workshops, group discussions, and break-time environments. Most importantly, chatbots are getting more capable every day of providing support to attendees ahead of the event. A.I. can also be used for language translation and transcription to accommodate a multilingual audience or attendees with hearing or sight impairment.

With an understanding of a given event’s purpose and goals—sales, leadership, training, teambuilding, reward, incentive, etc.—planners can use attendee personas to tailor communication to attendees leading up to the event as they are developing the content. Then, based on personas, the different styles of presenting content could include keynotes, small-group discussions, touch-screen kiosks, walk-through stations or hands-on modules using audiovisual and technological elements, and others.

PersonasMunnell0723.pngThe ability to gather the right information to build out attendee personas has helped our agency develop engaging in-person experiences for some clients. For instance, during a recent customer event showcasing a medical-equipment company’s product that is used during eye surgeries, we used data from attendees along with knowledge of competing products to create engagement options. So, one presentation option used a tactile environment and a light-up showcase with gamification to guide attendees through the module. The other presentation option featured a “build your own cookie” pack that delivered the product details in a more didactic way, but engaged attendees at various intervals with choices—just like the featured medical product offers customizing choices—to guide them in creating a reward they could enjoy after the presentation.

Overall, it takes a thorough understanding of attendees and the objectives of the event to develop personas along with relevant activations that enhance the experience because they feel natural for each attendee.

Heather Munnell is director of client experience for VDA, a Massachusetts-based experiential-event agency.

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