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Who’s at your conference? The delegate persona made easy

Who’s at your conference? The delegate persona made easy

Delegate personas: a nice-to-have, or a core part of your conference strategy?

If it’s the first one, buckle up.

The bad news is, you’re missing out a key piece of your event planning. Here’s the good news: you’re in the right place to fix that – and it’s not that tricky.

Read on to find out how defining your future customer can make the real thing a lot easier to reach.

What is a delegate persona?

According to marketing strategist Ardath Albee, a persona is ‘a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience’. It’s not a real person. It’s a creative, easy-to-use way of defining who you believe your audience is.

stick man

Personas are commonplace in the marketing world. You might see them referred to as customer personas, or buyer personas. If that’s sounds irrelevant to your role, remember: conferences and events don’t market themselves. Your potential delegate is still a customer, even if you’re a not-for-profit event or an academic conference. Hence: delegate personas.

Why do I need them?

Last time, we talked about your conference USP: the unique selling point that makes attendance feel valuable, desirable, even essential.

To identify that USP, you need to understand who you’re talking to.

Sculptures of masks in a park

What do they value? What will make them attend? How are they most likely to hear that message? By creating a delegate persona, you’re doing the necessary groundwork to answer those questions – and in turn, deliver an event that meets the needs of your audience.

It also prompts you to view your event from a user-centred perspective. By creating personas, you give yourself the opportunity to empathise with the real experience your delegates will have.

How do I create a delegate persona?

A delegate persona needs to feel like a distinct individual, with a personality, values and needs of their own. Most of us respond better to the needs of a person than a series of facts and figures or abstract personality traits. That’s why it’s customary to give your persona a name, even a profile photo.

Then you’ll want to fill in that profile, establishing core facts about that persona: demographic information; details of their role; personality traits; financial status; needs and goals.

Personas can look stylish and hyper-real:

Buyer Persona example from Buyer Persona Institute

Or they can be simple:

Buyer Persona from Buffer

A persona can run for many pages, but it doesn’t have to; what matters is that it provides you with the key information that distinguishes that ‘category’ of your customers – and allows you to identify their values and needs.

You’ll find a host of templates and guides online to help you put a persona together, from HubSpot’s cute and friendly Make My Persona tool to OptInMoster’s epic 188 questions.

Data, not dreams

A delegate persona isn’t an imaginary friend: someone you can make up as you go along. They might not be a real individual, but they’re based on real information: from the people you’ve already engaged with, your potential future customers, and your professional knowledge.

It’s temping to sketch out a rough idea of who you think your likely delegate might be. But you’re biased. You already know what’s good about your conference – and you’ll be tempted to assume that’s what drives your delegate too.

Always create your delegate personas using genuine data.

Where do I find that data?

From real people.

There’s no substitute for talking directly with your user, customer or delegate. Running a conference that already has sign-ups? Ask them if you can speak, and give them a call. Repeating a previous event? Talk with past attendees. That interview data will give you a real, fact-based platform on which to begin building personas.

Blue robot standing with a shell

Of course, you won’t be able to speak to every individual. But you can gather valuable data without making direct contact, using analytics. What time of day does your website or social traffic spike, and where in the world is it coming from? Are there industry patterns in who engages with you online? Do your emails get opened on mobile or desktop? Do your emails get opened at all? If so, which ones?

That’s why making delegate personas part of your conference strategy from the start is essential, so you can be sure you’re tracking the right metrics from the very beginning.

How many delegate personas should I create?

For a large high-profile event or a conference over several days, you should be looking at creating between 3 and 6 delegate personas, with the sweet spot around 4 or 5.

Board game pins set up on a desk

Each persona should stand alone as distinct from the rest in terms of their needs and goals as well as broader traits.

If you find too many overlaps, consider merging personas.

How do I use a delegate persona in practice?

Next time, on the blog.

Keen to learn more about user-centred event planning? Check out this complete introduction to customer experience, user experience and empathy.

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