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Disney-Inspired Conference Experiences

Mickey Mouse and Minnie MouseHave you ever wondered what attracts nearly 17 million guests a year to “The Happiest Place on Earth”? Surprisingly, it’s not magic. As our members, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees struggle to allocate limited resources, including time and money, they’re making tough decisions about whether or not to participate in our events. Regardless of attendance, revenue and other key performance indicators, there’s always room for improvement.

During a recent ORGPRO breakout session for the Michigan Society of Association Executives, I helped association professionals and industry partners apply Disney’s secret sauce of innovation, quality, community, storytelling, optimism and decency to their own conference experiences to foster loyalty, to grow repeat attendance and to generate buzz.

According to Disney’s culture statement, following are the core values of Disney’s approach to guest experiences:

  • Innovation – We are committed to a tradition of innovation and technology.
  • Quality – We strive to set a high standard of excellence. We maintain high-quality standards across all product categories.
  • Community – We create positive and inclusive ideas about families. We provide entertainment experiences for all generations to share.
  • Storytelling – Timeless and engaging stories delight and inspire.
  • Optimism – At The Walt Disney Company, entertainment is about hope, aspiration and positive outcomes.
  • Decency – We honor and respect the trust people place in us. Our fun is about laughing at our experiences and ourselves.

If we dive a bit more deeply into this aspirational culture statement it’s easy to see how the values that make The Walt Disney Company an extraordinary place to work are the same values that are capable of transforming association events into member-centric conference experiences.

Member Centric Data Model

Consider, for a moment, your organization’s events, particularly its major annual meeting. How do you and your team:

  • Infuse innovation and technology into the design, development and implementation phases?
  • Demonstrate a high standard of excellence?
  • Create positive and inclusive experiences for attendees of all generations?
  • Identify, capture and share member stories and testimonials?
  • Foster positive learning and networking outcomes?
  • Honor and respect your key stakeholders (e.g., board of directors, volunteers, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees)?

While I had a number of ideas for how associations might translate these core values into member-centric conference experiences, the session participants simply blew me away with the robust list they developed. In the meantime, what ideas might you add to this list? What have you learned from your most memorable customer service experience (good, bad or ugly)?

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