Is Your Event a Vitamin, Painkiller or a Candy?

You’ve built your website, your advertising has begun, your social media is buzzing but for some reason people are not registering for your event. Why? There is a good chance you have a messaging problem. In this article we look at how a shift in context can change your messaging so that your website visitors become attendees.


Is your event a painkiller, vitamin or candy?

Painkillers are events (or products) that solve mission critical problems. If your event is a painkiller you are providing a solution for something that is a real headache for your attendees.

Vitamins are events (or products) that would give your attendees a boost or improve their lives in some way. They are ‘nice to haves’ but are not essential.

Candies are events (or products) that are cheap, fun and fulfil a current need or passion. They don’t really improve someone’s life, beyond the immediate gratification of the event itself.

In times of economic stress, vitamins are the first to go. Candy, as long as it is cheap, will stay (a Starbucks coffee is a great example of this). Painkillers always sell, especially in times of economic hardship.

At first blush, most events probably fall into the vitamin or candy categories. When times are tough, events that are perceived as ‘nice to haves’ (vitamins) will be the first to loose their audience. So, how can you avoid this problem and make sure that your event is not put on the shelf?

Turn your Vitamins into Painkillers

If you want to succeed, no matter what the economy is doing, the key is to make sure that you are in the painkiller market. That doesn’t mean that you need to redesign your event. What it means is that you need to adjust your messaging, that is the way you talk about your event, so that it addresses the pain.

What is the headache or the problem that your attendees are dealing with and how will that pain be resolved by attending your event?

Know Your Audience

Your first step in developing a compelling message is getting clear on who you are speaking to. To do this, take a walk in the shoes of your ideal attendee. Think about your best attendee, the one who you would like to have more of, and create an attendee profile of this person. This is not a theoretical exercise, you want to specify an actual person who has come to this event (or one similar) before. Someone with a face and a name.

Is your ideal attendee a man or a woman? How old is s/he? How many events does s/he attend a year? Why does s/he come to your event? What is important to him or her? What websites does s/he visit? What magazines does s/he read? What social media does s/he use?

Here’s an example: –

Shannon is nurse and her mid-forties. She only attends one conference a year. She comes because she wants to stay up to date with the latest developments in nursing. She has attended the conference for the last two years and enjoys meeting the people she met in previous years. She is a mother of two young children. To get to the conference she must deal with leaving home for four days plus the conference and travel fees. She has an iPhone but she doesn’t have much time for Facebook or social media.

Once you have created your attendee profile, she or he becomes your filter for everything else you do. Your ideal attendee will inform your message, where and how you broadcast it, your speakers, even your menu and venue. Whenever you make a decision you can ask “What would Shannon want?” You can also do this work for your ideal sponsor and ideal exhibitor.

What’s your Problem?

Consider that people only attend your event because it solves some need or problem that they have. People only spend their time and money on activities that they perceive as a solution to that problem. Now that you have your ideal attendee in mind, the next question to ask yourself is this: –

What is the problem this event solves for our ideal attendee?

Discovering the problem that you solve can be harder than it seems. It requires you to think like your attendee. One way to access the problem is to think about what your attendee wants. For example: –

  • I want to become an expert in my field
  • I want to build my business
  • I want a new job and I need new skills and to meet new people

To flesh out the problem and make it vivid, try speaking from the perspective of your ideal attendee. When you do this you move from abstract ideas to concrete problems. If we take Shannon, our example attendee, we might phrase the problem this way:

I’m really interested in critical care nursing and I’m hoping to get a promotion in the next couple of years. The problem is, I work really hard and don’t have much time for reading or researching after work or at weekends. How can I keep up to date on the latest developments in nursing and keep my education current and relevant?

Discovering the Pain

Once you have identified the problem, you have access to discovering the pain that results if that problem is unresolved.

In our example, Shannon’s pain might be: –

I am working so hard that I feel too drained and tired to even think about advancing my career. I’m worried that I’ll be left behind and I seem to be constantly concerned about money.

Wow! Suddenly this has become personal. Your attendees have become real people, with real problems that they are dealing with.

If you take the time to do this work and this thinking, you may find you suddenly have new ideas about the content and activities that will be most appealing to your attendees. In this example, our over-worked nurse clearly wants access to the best education, but perhaps she could also benefit from a session on work-life balance, or how to avoid burn-out.

The Cure

Once you have seen the problem and the pain from the point of view of your attendee, your event stops being simply a good idea, or something that would be nice to have. It is transformed into a real solution to a need.

To turn your event into a painkiller, you need to focus your messaging and content on how your event addresses the pain that you have identified.

How your event is the ‘cure’ to your attendee’s problem should be stated in a way that is not fluffy, elaborate or verbose. The cure is concrete. It lays out the facts and makes it clear exactly how this event will deliver real results.

For example:

We deliver a 3 day conference for experienced mid-career nurses who want to upgrade their education in the company of their peers. Daily plenary sessions are followed up by more intimate workshops where you will get hands-on experience working side-by-side with our specially selected experts.

These are tough times for all nurses. We are facing budget cuts, larger wards and long hours. Now, more than ever, it is important to take time out and make sure that your education is current and relevant as well to take the time to re-charge away from the daily demands of work.

Join Linda J. Hunter, author of “The Carers Dilemma”, to find out how you can avoid mid-career burnout and the funny and brilliant Robert Collins to find out the latest developments in Critical Care Nursing.

You will leave the conference energized, educated and with new tools you can use right away. Give your nursing career a boost at Nursing Conference 2015.

Notice how this content describes everything we learned about our ideal attendee, her problem and pain and pulls it all together in a way that is straight-forward and easy to understand.

Summing Up: Practice being a Problem Solver

Most conference and event websites don’t address problems. They are purely informational. They present the when, where, who and what and hope that the agenda and the line of presenters will speak for themselves.

Perhaps there is a perception that in order to be taken seriously content should be dry and informational. However, we live in a very busy world with information coming at us all the time. Even the most serious conference needs to grab people’s attention.

If you are interested in connecting with your attendees in such a way that they understand the value of your event, then you need to practice being a problem solver. This usually takes some effort, as it requires you to think like your attendees, but done well the results will show not just in your messaging but in your entire approach to your event.