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Event Industry Trends
24 February 2021 

6 Virtual Event Attendee Personas for Designing a Better Experience

Bizzabo Blog Staff
6 Virtual Event Attendee Personas for Designing a Better Experience

Using attendee personas can help you understand why people attend your event and provide value. Today we are looking at the importance of designing your event with attendee personas top of mind. 

What are Attendee Personas? 

Before we can dive into how to use attendee personas, we need to define what they are. Attendee personas are fictional characters that represent your attendees. Personas are fictional characters who represent your event audience. You can create attendee personas by conducting extensive research, pulling data, and grouping similar traits together. Attendee personas capture both the needs and goals of your attendees. Personas give you insight into what makes your attendees tick, what they want to experience, and what motivates them to attend your event in the first place. By understanding who is at your event, you can better communicate with attendees and personalize your event for them. 

How Personas Help You Design and Execute Events 

When planning an event, the goal is to design experiences that meet stakeholders’ needs and leave attendees wanting more. To meet goals, exceed KPIs, and drive event outcomes, organizers must change attendees’ behaviors during the event. And to change behavior, we must understand who is at our events. 

According to our Attendee Experience Report, people are attending more virtual events than they used to in-person (34% increase in attending 10+ events yearly online.) In the chart below you can see ½ the survey participants attended 1-2 in-person events, but more than 10 online events in the past year. 

Event Attendance - Attendee PersonasSource: Attendee Experience Report

Despite the rise in virtual events attendance the report also indicated that 26% of attendees are having less fun. They are also having trouble staying engaged or finding networking opportunities. At first glance, this data may seem discouraging; however, you can overcome these challenges when you understand your virtual event attendee personas. Knowing your audience allows you to design an event that gives attendees exactly what they want. 

The Benefit of Designing Experiences Around Attendee Personas 

Keep Attendees Engaged – With the sudden shift to virtual events in the past year, and the rise of hybrid events, attendee engagement and satisfaction remain the #1 challenge the virtual event organizers face. By understanding what personas are at your event, you can tailor your event to their needs and what they desire to experience while attending. By giving attendees what they really want, engagement and satisfaction will be higher. 

Retention – If you give your attendees what they want and they find value from your event, there is a much greater chance they will come back to more. Create attendee advocates and repeat attendees by delivering a tailored and memorable experience.

Refined Marketing Messaging – Make sure to tailor your event promotion and messaging to resonate with each attendee type. You can apply this messaging to promotional materials such as email, ads, and content strategy surrounding your event. 

Personalized Event Experiences –  As we mentioned in our 2021 Event Trends, personalization is on the rise. Attendees expect you to personalize event experiences. Be intentional in your design to make an impact on your audience. Through personas, you can create multiple targeted session tracks to reach different attendees. You could also hold sessions within your event that appeal to different personas, such as a C-Suite lounge for executives to network. Personalizing experiences will lead to higher engagement because you are giving attendees precisely what they want.

Diversification – One message for everyone resonates with no one. People are different, and different messages and activities resonate with diverse audiences. By knowing your personas and what makes them tick, you can speak directly to your audience’s needs. 

Understanding What Motivates Attendees – We are trying to change behavior. To do so, we need to influence people in the direction we want them to go. If you know what motivates attendees to register for your event, you can better understand how to reach them and get them. 

How Do I Determine Attendee Personas? 

Creating attendee personas takes extensive research, that’s why we created 6 universal virtual event attendee personas that apply to any event. To do this, we built a persona research team who set out and find what virtual attendees really wanted. Our personas research team wanted to understand the needs and motivations of virtual attendees. They were determined to understand the effects of the dramatic shift from in-person to virtual, the differences in experiences, and how attendees really perceived virtual events. 

Our Attendee Persona Research

To create personas, you need to look at data; the more data, the better. Our personas research team set out to study and compare attendees’ behavior and perception of in-person vs. virtual events. 

In the research, our data team collected the following data:

  • Analyzed 967 events occurring between September 2019 – September 2020
  • Interviewed 17 attendees 
  • Surveyed 700 (total) attendees 

Persona Research - Attendee Personas

Through internal exploration with stakeholders, data analysis, interviews, and surveys, the personas research team uncovered patterns in behavior that told a story and revealed six universal attendee personas.  You can use these attendee experience personas to understand how attendees engage with your event, their needs, and improve your overall event experience for them. 

Download our Attendee Experience Report packed full of data that tells the story of what attendees really want, and includes our 6 universal attendee personas here!  

6 Universal Virtual Event Attendee Personas 

Solo Learner Sarah 

This persona makes up the largest segment (32%) of online event attendees. This persona registers for multiple free or inexpensive events every week, sometimes up to two events per day. They don’t always show up at the events, but they are very focused on learning and like to avoid social disruptions when they do. Gaining work-related knowledge about their industry is what drives this persona to attend. For Sarah, the impact of virtual events is positive. They can join events that they never could afford to attend in-person. 

Solo Learner - Attendee Personas

Mandated Learner Matthew

Making up 25% of virtual attendees, Matthew’s company requires him to attend events to learn for professional development. Matthew also enjoys the social aspects of events but finds social connections harder to make online. This persona is motivated to attend events to gain knowledge but finds it harder to learn online. 

Mandated Learner - Attendee Personas

Radical Networker Robert 

Making up 18% of virtual attendees, this persona is all about connections. Robert is a serial networker. The social aspects of events mean everything. Robert’s motivation to attend events is to make long-lasting human connections and relationships. However, at virtual events, this persona finds spontaneous conversations harder to spark online and misses in-person events’ serendipitous connections. 

Radical Networker - Attendee Personas

Strategic Networker Sam 

This persona makes up 10% of online attendees. Strategic Networker Sam focuses on making productive business connections. He doesn’t care about learning at virtual events. Networking is a job to him, and going to events to find leads serves as his primary motivation. However, Sam is worried he can’t make enough connections at virtual events.

Strategic Networker - Attendee Personas

Internal Socializer Ian 

Ians make up 8% of virtual events audiences. Ian is motivated to attend events to socialize and have fun with his friends and colleagues. He spends most of his time engaging and having fun with friends and colleagues and typically is not engaging in sessions. Though he misses camaraderie at in-person events, he has found that online events have helped him become a better learner. 

Internal Networker - Attendee Personas

Experience Seeker Emily 

With the smallest percentage of virtual event attendees (7%), Emily attends events to have a good time. She loves to receive gifts and participate in giveaways. In-person she used events to travel, go to dinner and have fun with people while collecting any and all swag along the way. The excitement of being in new places, the wow-factor of events, and meeting new people is what motivates her to attend. Though she finds it easier to become distracted at virtual events, she has found herself networking more, especially if there are built-in event activities that include it. 

Experience Seeker - Attendee Personas

How can you leverage attendee personas? 

Now that you have six universal attendee personas, how can you leverage them to create your best event yet? Below are a few ways to take your personas and use them to design a more impactful event. 

Session Tracks 

Offer attendees the opportunity to create their own schedules during your virtual event, allow them to choose their adventure while suggesting specific sessions to attend based on their personas. 

For example, a C-Suite Executive may want to learn more about leadership and business trends, where an entry-level employee might like to learn more about how to grow their career or more beginner content. Having separate tracks that allow them both to achieve their desired event outcome will improve their overall experiences. 

Segmented Email Campaigns 

Craft specific messages for each attendee persona. You can inform your audience about specific news, features, or sessions they’ll be interested in by using the personas to understand their needs and what motivates them. 

For example, Solo Learner Sarah would be most interested in receiving emails about learning opportunities and upcoming sessions. Strategic Networker Sam wants to learn about networking opportunities and community features that your event will have to maximize his chances of building great business connections. 

Activities at Your Event 

When you understand your attendee personas, you know how they want to experience your event. If your personas are coming to your event with the goal of networking, you’ll want to include ample activities for attendees to connect and engage.  If learning is the primary driver to attend your event, an experience packed full of engaging content and workshops to allow attendees to learn and grow would be more successful. Tailoring your programming to personas will lead to better audience engagement. 

Design with Empathy 

Based on our research, we can see that attendees are still finding their way attending virtual events. Approach your event design with empathy. Take into consideration these six attendee personas and create an attendee-centered experience. 

For example, Experience Seeker Emily finds it difficult to stay focused at virtual events and is often distracted by work. To help Emily have a better experience, consider adding in breaks or making content available on-demand so she could watch after work hours with fewer distractions. 

Key Takeaways When Using Attendee Personas

Understanding your attendee persons helps you anticipate the needs and desires of your audience. Being curious and understanding who attends your event will create opportunities to maximize event engagement and drive behaviors. 

As a recap, here are some of the main points we’ve covered: 

  • Use attendee personas to personalize the event experience and create pathways unique to each persona’s needs. 
  • Understanding your attendee personas will help you design an event that helps you achieve the desired behavioral change you seek in attendees and succeed in your goals and event outcomes. 
  • Virtual events have changed the way attendees interact and perceive events. Meet attendees where they are and provide opportunities to allow them to experience the event the way they desire. 

Personas allow all attendees to enjoy your event because the experience is designed to be more intentional and inclusive. We’ve just scratched the surface on attendee personas, to learn more and see the full picture download our attendee experience report

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