Better Understand Your Event Attendees by Creating Personas

There’s a moment in the movie “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (either the ‘50s, ‘70s, or ‘90s version, it doesn’t matter) where a crowd of people surrounds the hero of the film. Yet, as the hero looks around, even though the faces look recognizable, the people are entirely unfamiliar. The hero is lost in a crowd, isolated and unaware.

Event planners who fail to identify personas for their attendees are in a similar situation as our isolated friend: adrift in a sea of people. There may be a crowd at this year’s event, but without personalization and customization of the attendee journey, you will notice those crowds start to dwindle.

Think of designing your event for specific attendee personas as being similar to preparing a holiday meal. You always think you make enough mashed potatoes, yet you still run out because people can’t get enough. Meanwhile, you know there will be leftover green bean casserole, but you still make it because a couple of people really like it. There are some items that appeal to everybody, and some that are targeted toward a select few.


This is similar to how you can create an event that appeals to all attendees and still comes across as thoughtful and personalized. Successful event planners fully comprehend the desires of their attendees and plan their events accordingly.

In the past, events were planned to appeal to specific demographics. For example, there might be a track designed for a marketing executive and another geared toward a sales associate. The problem is that this approach makes very superficial assumptions about the motivations of attendees. Not every marketing executive is driven by the same incentives. To understand someone’s true drivers, you need to gain a full understanding of their personality.

Gathering Attendee Data to Create Persona

Personas are creations you develop to represent specific segments of your event attendees.

Since you likely have more than one target audience segment, you will also need to create a variety of attendee personas; however, do not try to segment every single aspect of your audience immediately out of the gate. Trying to do too much will just be frustrating and could torpedo your efforts before they truly begin.

Instead, start with the big picture. What you will discover is, once you have created an overarching persona for a particular segment, your research will reveal ways to divide these groups further.

Define Your Criteria

Data is a haystack, and you can spend all day sifting through valuable information and still come up with nothing but straw. Should that happen, it’s because you didn’t know what you were looking for in the first place.

Before you go searching for personas for your attendees, set up a series of conditions that you need to achieve. Some of these benchmarks must be demographic. However, once you get past the basics, you will need to discover some emotionally based information. It may help to look online and find a persona template, or create one of your own, to assist in organizing your search.


Possible persona criteria include:

  • Age

  • Industry

  • Job title

  • City and state

  • Introvert or extrovert personality

  • Analytical or creative

  • Conservative or liberal

  • Passive or active

  • Active on social media (and which channels)

  • Goals

  • Pain points

  • Key purchase factors

  • Speed of decision-making

Start with Internal Data

Gather everything you personally know about your attendees. Peruse surveys from previous events and reach out to internal departments.

Your sales team is a wealth of information since they routinely deal with your customers and understand their motivations and pain points. Your company’s customer relationship management (CRM) database will contain plenty of information regarding interactions with your specific consumers.

Dig through your website analytics, as well. The dwell time and pages visited can tell you a lot about your audience. You will also learn how visitors arrived at your site, whether through a mobile device or a laptop.

Send out Surveys

Once you’ve mined your internal data, you will likely find several holes in your persona templates that you would like to fill. Sending out some surveys will help you to fill in those blanks so you can really begin to understand your audience’s behaviors and preferences.

Surveys can also help you better understand your attendee’s decision-making process in very specific scenarios. Give respondents a series of questions with definitive answers (e.g. Which would you prefer, A or B?)

By reviewing the answers to these questions, you will begin to see patterns emerge that can help you predict attendee behavior.

Creating Attendee Personas

Now that you have gathered relevant attendee information, the next step is to pair similar data sets together. The goal is not to create a persona for every single attendee. Instead, you want to create archetypes of your attendees.

Remember, this is about more than strictly demographic data; however, that is a good place to start. You can begin by separating people by age and job title. From there, you need to further divide these groups by their motivations and aspirations.

Once you have created a picture of your various attendees, you need to give them a personality. This will help as you attempt to personalize elements of your event for specific attendees.

You will want to create a name for your persona and even write a brief biography that describes the person, their goals, and pain points.

Example Personas

 Bill, age 23

Marketing Assistant

Bill is a frequent user of social media. He spends the most time on Twitter and the least on Facebook.

He does not watch network TV; however, he is an avid Twitch viewer, where he follows several popular streamers.

Bill is invested in his role at the company and worries that he is not progressing as quickly as his contemporaries. 

He has not attended many (if any) industry events, and this is his first time at this event.

He is eager to learn about the industry so he can advance his career.


Susan, age 56

Chief Executive Officer

Susan nurtured a startup through a difficult early stage and is now experiencing success and ready to grow.

Her primary fear is a downturn in the economy and a return to the struggles she recently moved past.

Susan does not spend much time on social media. When she does, her primary channels are LinkedIn and Facebook.

She is very active in the industry and has participated in panel discussions at other events.

Susan has attended this event a few times before. She is currently thinking about either exhibiting or sponsoring next year’s event. However, she will need to be convinced that the event will earn a return on her investment.

As you divide your audience and refine these personas, you will discover that it becomes easier to create attendee journeys that make your visitors feel like the event was designed just for them. Need help doing so? Give The Trade Group a call at 214-343-2000.