Conference attendees expect a lot out of your association’s annual event, don’t they? So, how do you make sure you are not only meeting your attendees’ expectations, but exceeding them?
If you took a Psych 101 class back in college, I’m sure you learned about Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” theory states that human motivation is based on individuals seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Further, Maslow explained that an individual could not achieve needs at the top of the hierarchy before meeting the basic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy.
As a meeting professional, you understand planning an annual conference is about more than booking a venue and choosing a caterer. It’s about creating an experience where industry professionals can take away vast knowledge from experts to share with and improve their organizations.
Conference Attendees’ Hierarchy of Needs
Here’s how Maslow would explain how to create the full attendee experience at your annual meeting:
5 Steps to Fulfilling Your Attendees’ Hierarchy of Needs
Step 1: Physiological
This is the no-brainer. In order to meet your attendees’ most basic needs, you need to provide food, beverage and rest. Food and beverage can be taken care of by booking a caterer, but are your conference sessions scheduled back-to-back? Make sure you add 15-minute breaks throughout the day to allow conference attendees to get a drink of water, recharge their brains or use the restroom without having to miss out on speaker presentations!
Step 2: Safety
Again, this is a meeting planning basic. You need to provide a shelter for your annual conference to give your attendees a sense of safety and well-being. Choosing a safe venue with nearby lodging for overnight stays in critical. And, as you know, holding your actual conference at a hotel where attendees can stay ensures their ultimate comfort and safety.
Step 3: Belonging
Once the basic needs are met, it’s important to fulfill your attendees’ social needs. One of the main reasons attendees go to your annual meeting is to network with other industry professionals, so make sure you are scheduling plenty of networking time!
Step 4: Esteem
Next, you need to make sure attendees feel confident, accomplished and respected. You should always be looking for opportunities to allow attendees to contribute to your conference. Sessions should consist of two-way conversations between the speakers and attendees. They should engage with games, surveys and break-out sessions. Your conference should also have an active Twitter hashtag for the event along with an event mobile app to get attendees to participate and contribute virtually.
Step 5: Self-Actualization
Are you providing your attendees with innovative ideas and knowledge that they can bring back and implement in their organizations? The knowledge doesn’t end when the conference does, which is exactly why your session handouts, recorded sessions and conference proceedings need to be made available in a digital publishing platform. If attendees can access conference materials online year-round, they are more likely to implement what they learned. By providing innovative ideas that advance their organizations, attendees will reach the ultimate self-actualization.