Have you thought about attendees from rural areas?

A subject not discussed widely in the events industry is trying to incorporate content for attendees that hail from rural areas. An excellent article, “The Problem with Statewide Meetings That Ignore Rural” by Becky McCray, shares how meetings can and should incorporate more sessions for attendees that live outside a large city. Many meetings miss the chance to reach this demographic. For example, the article states:

“every session at your conference that you haven’t tailor-made to include rural is urban biased by default. Rural attendees are left trying to figure out how to scale those huge ideas down, or decide whether they might work at all in a small town.”

Roughly 20 percent of Americans are considered to live in rural areas. Rural is defined by the US Census Bureau as a town with less than 2,500 people. The next 10 percent of Americans live in towns with populations that range from 2,500-50,000.  

Do you have an idea of the percentage of rural attendees at your events? For a quick visual load all the addresses of your attendees from a previous registration into an excel sheet. You can then upload it into Google Maps to give you a general idea of where your attendees are from.

Here are three ideas to adding content for rural attendees.

  1. Hold rural round tables. This can be an easy addition to your event. Reserve a room, provide a moderator, and let them have the floor. Go listen and take notes for future session topics.
  2. Include rural speakers on existing panels and topics. While you are planning a panel for a topic, find speakers that may have expertise on that topic, but maybe on a smaller scale. Invite them to the panel. They will be able to help attendees incorporate the ideas.
  3. Offer a rural-themed keynote for everyone. By having a rural themed keynote speaker, it can increase understanding between small town and urban. Furthermore, urban attendees can still adapt the lessons for their neighborhoods and communities.

Special thanks to Becky McCray for the ideas on how to better serve attendees from rural areas

If you have any questions, I encourage you to reach out to me. Luke Wiggins, Meetings & Conventions Sales Manager, Visit Rogers. 479-619-3191 Luke@RogersLowell.com