An audience-centric approach to defining your event objectives and messaging


The unprecedented change triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions and new practices of the resulting lockdown has left an indelible mark on the face of many industries, with events being no exception. As the demand for effective virtual / hybrid events continues to grow, factoring in how you define your approach by focusing on who your audience really is, and using those insights to design the outcomes and content for your event, has never been more important.  Recalibrating how you assess event objectives as an event organiser makes all the difference when it comes to creating experiences for your delegates which drive engagement, impact, legacy and behaviour change. This is the case whether the event is landing in the ‘real world’, virtually, or a hybrid of both.

What does this mean for events…what can we do?

The lockdown has taken us on an unforgettable journey; we have moved from an entirely virtual world, where we weren’t allowed to have physical contact with anyone outside the confines of our homes, to an easing of restrictions which allows us to see each other, with some distancing measures still in place. However, with some sectors still due to reopen for business – and the undeniable toll taken by the travel and hospitality industries, there is a requirement, and arguably an opportunity, to pivot away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to creating bespoke events  for different audiences.

Planning your approach

This enforced quieter, reflective period will soon be followed by a flurry of activity and concern about how to deliver well in the post-pandemic climate, where things are still not fully back to normal. If they haven’t already started to do so, senior stakeholders in organisations will soon be turning to you as event organisers and asking, “So what should we do and how can we do it?” Being on the front foot by being able to engage them in a forward looking, proactive conversation about building your event from the ground up by considering people first, will stand you in good stead. It’s all about considering the ‘personas’ who will be at your event. These are the characters or different personalities that will attend/and/or who use your company’s services, products, website, or otherwise engage with your brand. Identifying the personas upfront will help you understand your delegates’ experiences, behaviours, goals, and needs. Doing that in combination with applying audience segmentation techniques is a powerful lens to apply to event design (see checklist overleaf).

By thinking laterally about the implications of the latest government guidance, plus the societal implications of those sectors which are reopening Vs those which aren’t – we can turn event planning on its head and find new ways to innovate in our physical and virtual event spaces.

You can start from a blank piece of paper and create new ways to create engagement, for example, making a feature of digital by rolling content out over the course of a few days, pre-recording set pieces or livestreaming keynotes and panel discussions.  There is so much opportunity to do things differently and create an immersive experience for attendees by designing with the goal of gathering people together (perhaps from disparate locations from across the globe to collaborate and ideate.

Checklist – a step-by-step approach

1. Identifying your personas

The best way to achieve compelling personas is to think of real people and consider:

  • Who they are, where they come from and the kind of jobs they do.
  • What has happened to them since (including, but not restricted to, the lockdown)?
  • How will this have affected their perceptions – in general and of your business?
  • What communication preferences, if any, have emerged from the lockdown which might impact the way you engage them before, during and after the event?
  • What is their main goal?
  • What are your goals for them in attending the event?
  • What challenges do you see – what are the barriers which might get in the way of these goals being achieved?

2. Applying audience segmentation

Typical marketing segmentation techniques can be a helpful consideration to overlay onto your persona mapping. This typically spans four main areas:

  • Demographics – e.g. age, race, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, education, and employment type.
  • Psychographic – e.g. psychological characteristics and traits such as values, desires, goals, interests, and lifestyle choices to get a better understanding of your audiences’ emotions and values.
  • Behavioural – e.g. how do your audience typically behave? What was their last event experience? What feedback did they give?
  • Geographic – e.g. where do your audience work and live? What is the span of regions and culture across your event attendees? What is the range of cultural/societal climates you will be addressing? What is the approximate split, percentage-wise, across your total event population?

3. Defining your event outcomes & driving behaviour change

Taking all these observations and learnings into account, and having carefully constructed a detailed picture of who your audience is, the final step is to define your objectives and messaging by using the wider context of your answers to the questions and stages 1 and 2 – and distilling them into what you want the main take-outs to be. Imagine your event is over – and consider the following:


  • What is the audience perception in response to the messages you landed and the interactions you facilitated?
  • What is on your audiences’ mind as a result of your event/intervention?


  • What do your audience now know that they didn’t before?
  • How do you know that they know it?
  • How will you test that they have absorbed and processed the information?


  • What do you want/your audience to do as a result of attending your event?
  • What are they saying about their event experience?
  • What is the call to action?
  • How will you inspire them to act?

By using these elements as an additional filter, you can construct and demonstrate a logical approach to building the foundations of your event plan.


(This article was first published on Marketing Profs)