Leveraging attendee experience levels

March 31, 2017


Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle. Click here for a link.


In addition to planning for the generational and learning style differences of your participants, you also want to plan for a variety of experience levels. Leveraging them will lead to more long-term engagement in your meeting. Remember, you can have inexperienced Boomers and experienced Millennials.



Tip #1

Create mentor-mentee opportunities that are based on expertise, not age.

  • Have tech-savvy members coach not-so-tech-savvy members.

  • Match newcomers with long-timers as convention buddies. This will ease the newcomer’s entry into your meeting, plus it engages long-timers who should be tasked with ensuring newbies become

    • familiar with your association;

    • acquainted with industry experts who will be future resources; and

    • comfortable at your meeting…ensuring future attendance.

Tip #2

Offer session content for all experience levels (obvious, but…)

  • Clearly publicize this in advance. They will be more inclined to register because they can see exactly where they will benefit.

  • Hire speakers to present at specific levels instead of leaving it in the speakers’ hands to identify. Speakers asked to describe the level of their own content typically say intermediate, risking the loss of learners on either side of that.

  • Write objectives that reflect outcomes based learning levels. For example, say “Following this session, early professionals (or seasoned pros; or all pros) should be able to …”

Tip #3

Design distinctive spaces for connecting with pros of all experience levels.

  • Set up a Problem-Solvers Pub or a Coffee & Conundrums spot on the show floor for participants to enjoy a (sponsored?) drink as they seek direction for their own problems, or for those you post on tent cards placed at tables.

  • Label tables at meals by experience level, challenge question or other prompt that will naturally mix participants.


Set up an App and Learning Lounge

I first set up an App Lounge in 2011 when my client debuted a conference app. In exchange for a comp registration and hotel, an industry pro who was also a techie sat with his own smart phone in an exhibit hall lounge area and helped participants download the new event app. More importantly, he collected a list of other apps useful to the industry, which we published post-event. As an added bonus, it was a sponsored item.


This is still a good model for associations with slow-to-adapt participants. For those who are past this level, how can you upgrade this idea to create a space for your participants to acquire skills or knowledge on a very individualized basis? How can each leave with something personally beneficial?



Read about the redesign of a 16,000 delegate event and be inspired to find ways you can be innovative for your 60- or 600-delegate event. Click here.


See how one association matches new and experienced professionals at its convention as Conference Buddies. Click here.


Information disclaimer: WANT MORE? references do not imply an endorsement for any company, product, or service.




Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!

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