Recently, I received an invitation to attend a training. The list of who should attend included at least 20 job titles ranging from CEO to IT manager. Who do you think will attend? I predict that the trainees will be predominantly IT managers or their delegates and that attendance will be light. If executives are needed to make this training a success, someone has made a very expensive mistake: The organization did not choose its "ideal audience."
Most companies fail to spend enough time thinking about audiences, which is why I ask almost every client: "Exactly who is sitting, say, in the third row, second seat? And exactly what's in this training for him or her?"
Rarely do I get a consistent answer. Each of the training program's stakeholders will have a different idea. And without a well-articulated definition of who should be in the seats and the value the event will offer them, it is virtually impossible to attract that ideal audience, that is, exactly the size, with the right job titles, who attend, participate, and then leave ready to act upon what they have learned.
Improving Your Odds Ideal audiences are created very deliberately. There is no mathematical formula, but there are disciplined ways to approach and improve your results.
Start by reviewing data about each of the groups you may want to attend your training. Channel or industry studies, focus group results, or history may be enlightening. Next, dig deeper. Learn what you can about their jobs and how they make decisions. What motivates them? What keeps them awake at night? Often, I establish a design team to help me understand each group and construct their "psycho-profile."
Now, ask this question: What is in the training for them? Is it prerelease product information? An opportunity to make money? Prestige? Competitive advantage? Certification? By establishing a clear value proposition for each group, you can make some reasonable inferences about their interests and how they will behave. At this juncture, most companies eliminate some groups from the potential guest list.
Don't Skip the Analysis Consider the invitation I received. Was is it reasonable to expect such disparate groups to coexist in the same training? Could the curriculum, no matter how cleverly described, truly offer enough value to all groups to motivate them to attend?
I understand that in the reality of corporate life, there are pressures to skip this audience analysis. First, there are the senior managers who are fond of broad guests lists. They imagine them to be insurance of a full room. Nothing is further from the truth. When faced with this attitude, I focus the training's stakeholders on the investments in time and money being spent per potential trainee. Every group added beyond the ideal dilutes your effectiveness.
Then there are the more junior managers who think they will save time by skipping the analysis and simply reusing an existing guest list from a previous training event. Ask them: Has anything about your job or the company changed in the months since that event? Of course it has. It is simply not reasonable to assume that an old list (even six months old) is automatically appropriate for a different event.
Choosing your ideal audience takes a bit of effort. But nothing is more work--and more expensive--than empty training rooms. So, next time, challenge your team to focus your energy on identifying your perfect audience. Great audiences don't just materialize. They are created. And unless you are choose deliberately, you could be making a big investment in delegates and doughnut eaters.