Writing in a notebook

Approach “Pain Points” Properly: Differentiate Between Symptoms and Root Causes

Doing things right vs. doing the right things.

Event consultant Jeff Hurt contributes often to a widely read blog hosted by Velvet Chainsaw, a consulting firm that works with associations and corporations to improve their education and event efforts. A recent post, “Five steps to take your education programming from blah to wickedly smart“, illustrates the kind of practical advice that makes Velvet Chainshaw a resource.

After outlining the components of “authentic curation for education programming” (deep explanation, illustration, discussion and perspective shifting), Hurt offers his five core ideas:

  1. Carefully identify target markets and related pain points
  2. Use the conference schedule to tell a story
  3. Use data to understand both topics and speaker performance
  4. Help presenters improve
  5. Focus on content quality more than breadth of programming

As Hurt concludes, “When you transition from a scheduler of experts based on the call for proposals to a education programmer curator, you can drive target market attendance and bottom line results!”

As you can tell, I appreciate the work that Hurt and the crew at Velvet Chainsaw are doing. There was one point that I wished had been made a bit more plainly, though.

Each of the first three ideas addressed the importance of addressing a target audience’s “pain points.” In many of the conferences I’ve joined, there’s a tendency to equate “pain point” with my most pressing, current problem, without differentiating between symptom and root cause.

It’s the difference between “doing things right,” in the most efficient manner, and “doing the right things,” which may mean shifting someone’s market perspective or mental model. For clients—including publishers—whose core businesses may be changing radically, simply addressing the most pressing pain points could be a disservice.

Hurt could say that certain target audiences need the most immediate fix, and I’d be hard-pressed to argue otherwise. Perhaps the answer is in the fourth component of his call for curation: “encouraging education participants to try on different perspectives of events, issues, and topics.” We could all do more of that.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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