Insights

The People Puzzle: How to Effectively Segment an Event Audience

Attendee engagement is critical to event success across all parts of the event life cycle. It's because the the strategic engagement of those attendees can make the difference between a program that captivates or one that falls flat. But effectively engaging your program’s audience can feel daunting, especially when presented with wide varieties of attendee types that have different demographics, interests, and motivators. So, what do you do with all of that attendee information? Rely on segmentation.

Group of Event Attendees standing in empty conference room | Global agency, BCD Meetings & Events

6 Steps in Successful Audience Segmentation

Segmenting your audience can function similarly to putting together a puzzle. Each piece of unique attendee information can be arranged in a way that targets the right people, compliments your event experience and in the end creates a robust picture that drives engagement and in turn, revenue and ROI. But before you put it together you’ve got to compile the pieces.

To help get you started, we’ve identified some key components of audience segmentation and broken their benefits down so that you can begin putting the right parts in place to ensure a successful event experience.

Determine your event objectives

It seems like it would go without saying, but one of the most important steps to take in audience segmentation occurs before the event itself. In order to determine what criteria you’ll use to segment your audience you’ll need to define your event objectives first. What do you want attendees to take away from the event? How do you want them to engage while there? Are you looking to change behavior? Each part of the event life cycle should be factored into the determination of your objectives and your audience segmentation strategy.

Select your segmentation criteria

Once you’ve determined your event objectives, you can start thinking through how you want to segment your attendees. There are four key areas to consider when segmenting audiences:

Demographic

This will tell you at the most basic level, who your audience is. Their age, gender, occupation, role at their company, industry type, and income are all important pieces of data that allow you to quickly begin segmenting your audience.

Geographic

Geographic criteria splits your audience by their location. You can be as broad or narrow as you’d like, from an area as specific as a district to an entire continent if the criteria fits. Whatever the location may be, it’s important to take into account if a potential attendee’s location could influence their decision to attend your event.

Psychographic

Psychographic segmentation divides your audience by their personality. Individual interests, attitudes, lifestyles, and values can all factor into an attendees psychographic profile. For example, if you can determine that environmental consciousness is important to a large group of attendees, planning the event in a space that prioritizes sustainable practices could greatly increase engagement with that segment.

Behavioral

This type of segmentation uses previous behavior as a means of dividing your audience. Previous purchases, brand awareness, purchasing patterns, and product usage level can all serve as criteria for behavioral segmentation.

Gather data to shape your attendee journey

After you’ve decided what criteria you want to utilize for segmentation, you can start gathering data to help design your attendee journey (or journeys depending on how many segments you’ve defined). Utilize data rich sources like event information from previous years and website, email, and social media metrics to begin building out your attendee profiles. Some of these data mining methods can also be co-opted as pre-event engagement strategies. Surveys and interviews may provide opportunities to not only gain insight into your attendees, but also develop interest, excitement, and anticipation for your upcoming event.

Customize your pre-event engagement and delivery

Attendees have different demographics, interests, and behaviors and all these criteria are used to develop strategies for segmentation, so why shouldn’t the same thought process apply to the way you approach pre-event engagement? Not all potential customers want to receive information the same way so tailor your strategy to their preferences. A tech savvy or environmentally conscious individual may prefer digital communications via social media and email whereas someone who enjoys personalized messaging may engage better with a piece of direct mail. Adjust your strategy to best accommodate the audiences you’ve segmented thus far to achieve more desirable results. Prospective attendees who can relate and connect with your pre event strategies are more likely to attend and experience higher levels of engagement when your event kicks off.

Group of three female event attendees, wearing masquerade masks at corporate event | Global agency, BCD Meetings & Events

Provide choices when possible

Sometimes you may need to break a larger audience into smaller sized groups for optimal engagement which means you may need to offer a few different options to please each grouping of personas in your audience if you can. This type of “choose your own adventure” programming could take many forms from providing breakout sessions that cater to different learning styles to offering group activities that strengthen attendee connections and are suitable for both single guests and couples alike. Providing attendees with options for engaging with your event gives them the freedom to choose the best way to feel connected to your content and walk away from the event with a positive outlook and a desire to return in the future.

Don’t forget the follow up

Just because the event is over, doesn’t mean the segmentation has to stop. The time after an event has ended is a great time to take a pause, review the data you’ve collected so far, and evaluate your success. Did attendees engage in the ways you anticipated they would? Did they leave more connected to your business or brand than when they came? Post event follow up, surveys, and even gifting are good ways to gauge engagement, gather feedback, and refine your strategy for the future, especially for programs that are executed on a recurring basis. Gathering post-program insights are a great way to not only check if your personas were accurate this time around but can help ensure that your approach is even more accurate in the future.

Using Content to Propel Event Objectives

Although it can require ample thought and preparation, the use of audience segmentation and personas throughout the life cycle of an event is a powerful way to maximize the impact of your program. Begin with the basics by compiling existing audience data and breaking that information out into pieces you can use to structure your approach. Take time to dig deep into what makes your attendees tick—their interests, behaviors, and key demographics—so that you can design a program that anticipates their interests while meeting your event goals, and don’t forget to reengage once your program has ended! Creating an effective segmentation plan is just a matter of putting the right pieces in place to finish your persona puzzle and once that puzzle is complete, you’re sure to have an event experience and an ROI that exceeds your expectations.

Cameron Pettigrew

Written by Cameron Pettigrew

Communications Specialist, BCD Meetings & Events

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