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How to Create Attendee Personas for Your Next Event

Your presentation? Unforgettable. The execution of the last seminar or conference you hosted? So flawless you’re pretty sure it made angels weep. Your return on investment? Eh, decent—you can live with it. It’s fine if you love mediocre ROIs, but don’t you want to get the most out of your efforts? What could you possibly have done differently? Could creating attendee personas be the key to getting more out of your well-planned event?

Strategic marketers know their audience; therefore, they know how to connect to their audience. This is important for not only acquiring new clients but building brand loyalty by keeping in touch with the wants and needs of your existing customer base. But this event isn’t made up of 500 of your closest friends whom you know all the details of their lives including their likes and dislikes. You may have a professional relationship with some attendees, but most if not all are going to be strangers. This is where attendee personas swoop in make the win.

What is an attendee persona anyway?

Similar to a dating profile, attendee personas are semi-fictional profiles (probably less fiction than a dating profile, though) of event guests. Based on real data that you gather you begin to build profiles for various groups of attendees based on similar information. For example, you can group those looking for a mentor/mentee, attendees looking to network, introverts, extroverts—the list can go on.

Why are attendee personas useful?

It’s a similar concept to targeted marketing only instead of a target customer base, you are looking to zero in on the wants and needs of specific groups of attendees (who in some cases may be customers or potential customers). This way you are not just throwing information or other resources up into the air and hope they are landing on someone who wants it. Give the people what they want!

How do I even start this?

We understand how it can seem overwhelming, especially if you are inviting a big crowd. If your company has any previous information either from surveys or other events, don’t just let that data sit in a computer file collecting digital dust, use it!  If you’re company has created event personas before, lucky you, you don’t have to start from scratch. Check out previous information that might have been collected to see who/what types would be a good match for your event.

If you’re company has ever done a swot analysis, take that o for opportunities and use as your opportunity to find out where to begin. Who might have the potential to benefit from your event? Opportunities might even give you a fresh look at things or help you think out of the box to groups who you might not have thought of inviting before.

But what if your starting from blank pure white scratch with zero previous information? As scary as that may sound, keep reading and you will find the answer in the subsequent segments.

How many personas does one event need and how do you know what they should be?

Let’s just get it out there right now that there is no set magical number for how many personas should be created. Honestly, you can come up with an almost limitless number of profile groupings (personas) based on specific characteristics of people. That being said, it’s not really practical to break down your attendee personas into hundreds of niche micro groups (attendees with creepy doll collections, attendees with more than 5 cats, people who have a very rational fear of clowns, etc.) On the other hand, you don’t want to group them so broadly that it doesn’t focus in on anything specific at all.

Some might decide to pick a manageable number and make up personas based on that number. Or you may decide to gather data and make personas based off that information with no particular number to restrict you—however many personas you need are what you are going with. However, the number is not the important thing to focus on, but the data you’ve received about your attendees.

What kind of data am I collecting?

That’s up to you to decide (we can’t do everything for you)! What kind of data do you need? Most event hosts start with basic demographic info like age, location, and job title (possibly even gender and income when applicable). Although that information may be useful, it’s not the real core material that you need—an emotional based framework of answers is necessary. You want to pinpoint useful behaviors like:

  • buying and decision-making styles (ex. impulsive or thinks things over for a long time)
  • core values
  • what impacts their buying and decision-making process (positively and negatively)
  • hobbies
  • motivations
  • career goals
  • what do they feel may be holding them back from reaching certain goals
  • event goals (what do they hope to gain from the experience)
  • influences (online and offline)

There can be many others and they should be tailored to the invitees (are they customers, potential customers, corporate employees, etc.). Think of this as very similar to market research—the more detailed the better so that you can build targeted personas. Create templates to help you organize the information for each persona.

How do I go about collecting this data?

Creating personas isn’t about guessing what your attendees may like, want, or need. You need to hear it straight from their mouths (or pens, or computers, whichever). Polling surveys are a great way to get some prime information—you can snail mail them but who uses paper and stamps anymore? You’ll be less likely to get a response than if you email the poll or put it online on your event page.

A fun way to survey people is through personality style quizzes (who doesn’t love a good quiz about themselves?). You might even make it so they get the results of what category they fit into. Either way, it will help you get enough information to start putting together some solid personas that really reflect who your attendees are.

Start gathering information early so you have time to gather the information needed (you know there are going to be those who will procrastinate about doing the survey). Send a link with the invitation to the event, giving possible attendees the chance to give you the information you need as soon as possible.

Don’t confuse segments and personas

You’re going to receive a PILE of information, a lot if it demographic, some of it bordering on useless (though it could be fun (or horrifying) to find out what weird hobbies some of your attendees have). But when creating personas, take care to group them in a way that is meaningful. You might be tempted to group segments of the attendee population into slots like millennials, CEOs, etc. Even though demographic segments can help you learn about certain averages or percentages of the group, they are not personas.

You are looking to create a persona (think personality), so that means creating a profile based on things you need to understand like behaviors and thinking. You can’t get that from knowing attendee stats, and you can’t build a persona (or personality type) from stats.

Why am I going through all this trouble?

We know, we all have enough work to do and unless you’re the staff of Cosmo, who has time to devote to creating quizzes? We promise though, that you won’t regret taking the time to build attendee personas. It is the key to creating a more appealing event to those who are attending. We mean, wouldn’t you want an event that felt tailored specifically to you? If you’re an introvert, wouldn’t you feel relieved and grateful to have event segments that allowed you some alone time to read and research? If you were an entrepreneur, wouldn’t you love it if there was a micro-event that allowed you to network and connect with people just like you?

Your attendees want to get the most out of the event as well and creating personas can help you do that. In fact, it can help everyone to achieve their goals, and the best part is, you’ll know what all those goals are.

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