4 Simple Tips for a Successful User Conference

Apr 15, 2020

For attendees, a user conference is a little like a mini-vacation.

It’s an opportunity to bask in the luxury of being a valued customer, perhaps with a stay at a beachside resort with catered meals and evenings of receptions with open bars. Not a bad assignment if you can get it.

For the marketing and communications team tasked with seamlessly pulling off a sparkling, well-attended event that woos customers new and old while simultaneously showcasing the best of the organization’s product and service offerings, it’s a whole other story.

From planning a pre-conference messaging strategy to identifying an appropriate venue to staging informative and engaging presentations, there is a seemingly endless list of tasks that go into conducting a successful user conference. No one blog post could cover all of the best practices and important steps, so this post will serve as a brief summary of simple tips and observations from personal experience that virtually any organization can follow.

There’s an app for that: Event apps, such as AttendeeHub, can be customized with important conference information such as schedules, maps, agendas, wifi connectivity, speaker background and more. An event app’s push notification feature is particularly useful when sharing information on last-minute schedule and location changes, ensuring attendees have a source for all the latest news and announcements about the event. At a recent event, I consulted the app several times per day to plan my own activities around agenda items and was happy that I didn’t have to bother the event’s organizers with every little question that popped into my mind.

Go easy on the sales pitch: The beautiful thing about a user conference is that the vast majority of attendees are already your users. They don’t need a “Come to Jesus” moment of conversion that changes them from skeptics to believers. That’s important to remember so your customers/attendees don’t feel like they’re being beaten over the head with constant sales pitches over the course of the entire event. Certainly, it’s ok to mention new product features or service offerings, but as always, keep the focus and orientation on what you can do now and in the future to solve customers’ most pressing problems.

Keep it moving: Freed from the pressures of having to convert nonbelievers, conference organizers should extend this collegial feeling toward the event’s programming. In other words, create a tone for the event that feels light and engaging to attendees. Focus on sharing successes and problems that your solution has helped clients overcome, rather than getting bogged down in minutiae. The last thing you want is roomful of slack-jawed, bored attendees staring at their phones (even if they are just consulting the event app!) while speakers drone on during endless presentations.

Give me a break: Keep individual sessions to an hour or less. Schedule frequent breaks, and why not end programming on one afternoon at 3 or 4 p.m. to give attendees some time to enjoy their surroundings? The more you make your conference feel like a mini-vacation for customers, the more likely they’ll be to return year after year.

Brandon Glenn

Brandon Glenn is a veteran journalist and marketing and communications professional, with experience in content marketing, social media, media relations and news writing. He gained a deep knowledge of the health IT industry while working as a reporter and editor for MedCity News, which covers the business of innovation in healthcare, and as a senior editor with Medical Economics, a publication that focuses on issues of importance to primary care physicians. In these positions, he also wrote extensively about the hospitals, pharmaceuticals and medical devices industries. Brandon began his journalism career as a reporter with Crain's Cleveland Business and, later, Crain's Chicago Business. Earlier, he was an analyst with consulting firm Accenture. Brandon earned a master's in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Purdue University.