Conference Management: Crowdsourcing Conference Topics

WHAT:

Crowdsourcing topics for conferences gathers input from your prospective conference attendees prior to the event, to engage them into the decision-making process and ensure that their interests are considered. Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining ideas or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people rather than from traditional employees (Gasca, 2013).

The process consists of 5 simple steps:

  1. Prospective conference attendees identify the topics they would like included at the event.
  2. Conference organizing team combines the ideas/topics into like-themes.
  3. Prospective attendees vote on their top choices and provide their rationale.
  4. Conference organizing team closes the loop with attendees by sharing vote results.
  5. Optional: Solicit attendee ideas on how the content could be conveyed for each of the topics (speaker suggestions, best practices to address, Q&A, etc.)

WHY: 

Strategically and effectively decide which topics should be addressed to benefit the greatest number of people. Tapping into your stakeholders to generate ideas and vote on their top choices empowers them and generates excitement about the event, resulting in higher attendance (Gasca, 2013).  

“Traditional program committees predict less than half the sessions that attendees actually want” (Segar, 2011). By engaging your conference attendees through crowdsourcing, you get to know those who care about your organization and its services, thus building and strengthening your relationships (Ghose, 2014). 

HOW:

  1. NOODLE: What topics would you like included at our upcoming conference? 
  2. COMBINE to eliminate duplicates and condense to only unique ideas. 
  3. VOTE for the topics you would find most valuable to include at our conference. In the comments section, include your rationale for each vote (comments have been hidden to minimize influence). 
    *Powernoodle guideline is to enable 1 vote for every 5 ideas generated (20%), or assign the appropriate number of votes for the number of topics you want to include.
  4. CLOSE THE LOOP with your stakeholders (and build excitement for the conference) by sharing the final voting results.
    Optional: Export the top ideas to an additional topic and use the comments section to gather attendee feedback on how they would like the information in the chosen topics presented (speaker suggestions, best practices to address, Q&A, etc.).

 
[Screenshot from Decision Space template]

RESULTS:

  • Prioritized list of the conference topics that your stakeholders (prospective attendees) would value
  • Suggested ways to present the information at the conference
  • Valuable insight into why your stakeholders are interested in certain topics
  • ‘Idea bank’ of potential topics for future conferences, or to address via other mediums (newsletters, supplementary events etc.)

Benefits & Impact

This exercise will enable:

Confidence - Eliminate the guesswork of planning conference topics and instill confidence in your management team by knowing that your event reflects your stakeholder’s wants and needs. 

Culture - Increase conference participation. Engaging your stakeholders in the decision-making process achieves deeper buy-in and will attract more attendees. 

Efficiency - Make the best use of your stakeholders’ time at the conference by addressing what they want to learn and showing them what they want to see. 

Effectiveness - By engaging stakeholders in the planning process, they will be more likely to participate in the conference, and attend future events. 

Intelligence - Gain critical insight into your stakeholders wants and needs, and understand why your audience is interested in certain topics over others. 

Innovation - Bring technology and new methodologies to your conference planning process. Enable creative thinking and identify un-tapped ideas by engaging a wider and more diverse spectrum of people in your planning. 
    

References

Gasca, P. (2013). 6 Reasons to Use Crowdsourcing. Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/peter-gasca/6-reasons-to-use-crowdsourcing.html

Ghose, A. (2014). Benefits of Crowdsourcing. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/benefits-of-crowdsourcing-1414625224

Powernoodle. (2015). Powernoodle Sends Conference Participation Through the Roof. Powernoodle. https://www.powernoodle.com/case-studies/ 

Segar, A. (2011). Demystifying the Unconference. Conferences That Work. Retrieved from http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/event-design/2011/01/demystifying-the-unconference/