Getting to know attendees on a personal level might be the secret to better meetings

No matter the meeting purpose, it’s every event’s goal to deliver an exceptional meeting experience. And if recent research is any indication, a stellar event experience starts with personalization.

A study from Marriott International and the PCMA Foundation found that, rather than one-size-fits-all events, guests want to be treated as individuals. In other words, they want meeting experiences to be tailored to them specifically, rather than the collected group or audience segment (“millennial attendees,” for example). And it’s not just that they want such treatment, about 74 percent of consumers also expect it, according to a survey from Selligent Marketing Cloud.

For planners, this research underscores the importance of anticipating guests’ needs before they arrive. Here are three key ways planners might do so:

Use a meeting app to build attendee profiles.

You’ll likely gather some basic information about attendees during the registration process, but to dive deeper into who they are—and what they’re looking for in your meeting—set up an event app that includes more built-out attendee profiles. You might have them answer certain specifics, such as job title, but also give them the opportunity to fill in their own bios, too. The information they provide could end up giving you valuable insight you wouldn’t have known otherwise. 

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that unless attendees have incentive to create a profile, they likely won’t just hand over their personal information. So, think about what attendees might gain by joining your app. Will they be able to network with other guests prior to the meeting? Interact with speakers? Whatever it might be, make sure to include that information in your pre-event communications to incentivize sign-ups. 

And remember: Under GDPR regulations, planners are responsible for making sure any third-party vendors processing data on their behalf are fulfilling their legal responsibilities. Be sure to vet your meeting app vendor’s data security practices so you can guarantee that guests’ personal information is safe.

Lean on tech.

One of the biggest sources of attendee data: technology. In fact, come 2022, consumer devices will know more about a person’s emotional state than his or her own family, according to Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner. 

Although it might be hard for planners to access such information before an event, designing an augmented reality experience, for example, will give attendees the opportunity to explore and personalize their meeting experience on their own—not to mention help you gather information on their preferences in real time, which you can leverage in future events.

Train staff accordingly.

Part of emotional intelligence is just that—emotional. And though tech might try, it can’t quite replicate human-to-human connection. So, talk to your team about how they can better anticipate attendee needs. Maybe you host a special training on body language and other social cues, for example, that staff can use to identify behavior where might need help. 

For more information, download a copy of the full Marriott International and PCMA Foundation’s study, “The Future of Meetings & Events”.