I go to lots of events. Yes, it’s part of my job, but as a sociable person, I genuinely enjoy attending events. Being a part of the buzz, learning something new and meeting people.
Attending these events is all about investment; time, money and energy. Which means the experience should great, right…?
So, I arrive at the event (sometimes this means trekking East on the DLR, which I do love. It’s still a novelty to sit in the front carriage and feel slightly unnerved at the automation). There are A LOT of people here. It’s Day One, but everyone else seems to know exactly where they’re going. I’m ushered forward into a queue, fumbling in my pockets for the pass I pre-printed, hoping to be all organised. A smiling aide, drowning in an XXXL t-shirt offers me a brightly coloured lanyard covered in unfamiliar brand sponsors. I move forward, To Be Scanned So That I May Enter The Hall
I’m in the wrong place.
This is not my event.
I arrive. There are A LOT of people here. It’s Day One, but everyone else seems to know exactly where they’re going...
So, I’m instructed to walk half a mile to the correct aircraft hangar next door, and eventually my day begins. There are lots of very excited, smiling people. But their enthusiasm doesn’t translate into knowing where to start so many people are pacing the aisles. It’s clear that a lot of people haven’t got any idea about why they’re here and what they should be doing. I mean, it’s not an existential crisis, but a bit of direction is always useful.
The research and insight sector prides itself on getting to the bottom of some complex conundrums, so you’d think having invested thousands of pounds for even the bare minimum of three white walls that there would be a plan. Like we said, it’s also an investment of time. Why waste time wondering around lost?
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. It’s the morning of Day One after all. Maybe the tech isn’t working quite right – perhaps the iPads aren’t charged. Perhaps the people working the event aren’t clear on what is where just yet. Or, quite frankly, not enough thought has gone into how delegates experience the event.
But anyway, I’m at the event - think Olympia and ExCel. It’s huge. Lots of stalls, lots of people, lots of chaos. There seems to be a lot of boasting by stall owners, lists of products and services with trademarked names everywhere, telling people what they absolutely have to do and should buy.
Then two people pass by me, wheeling luggage, looking lost. They can’t find a particular stand. Hang on, it’s their stand they’re looking for! I look at my watch – the show opened over an hour ago.
So, at the end of the day, I take stock of the event. I can’t make it to Day Two so for me, this is it, my entire experience. Unfortunately, I draw the same conclusion I usually do when I evaluate an event that’s as big as this. They didn’t really think about my experience. Yes, all these events have “everything I need” offering me suppliers, senior Keynote speakers and opportunities to network with peers over an overpriced coffee is next door. But what about me and what I needed as their customer? Getting someone “face to face” has an incredible amount of value. This is when to shine when to be truly memorable – for the right reasons.
Shouldn’t it be all be about the customer? When I’m dealing with our customers it is. We ask questions. What are your challenges? What do you want to change? What have you done before that didn’t work? Then we can work out how we’re going to get you there. That’s what was missing at these events. No-one (from organisers, to businesses on the stalls to the people on the ground) truly cared about what my experience was on the day.