I recently came across this great article from Chris Brogan that highlights the challenge facing many conference marketing teams. Call it a problem of choice, a proliferation of events, an abundance of information in a heavily connected world or whatever you like but either way the benchmark for success continues to rise.
As Chris points out, he can get most of what a conference offers online, with out the strip search at the airport, without dropping his business card in a raffle for a free iPad, and without spending a cent! He can search for presentations on ted.com, you tube or any number of other channels, he can network with people via any number of social networks, he can review any kind of technology solution and most importantly he can be inspired all from the comfort of his home office!
How can a conference compete?
Speaker curation – It’s no longer simply about the best brands. Your speakers must be the ones changing the way people work, defining the new industry standard, changing the rules and defining the future! It might even be a vendor, or a person working for a NGO or some other organization who through necessity has created some ground breaking work! Our speakers must include a combination of inspiration and information. We have to look deeper and further!
Speaker training – Some of these innovators may not be the best presenters, so we owe it to them and the delegates to help them become engaging presenters.
Networking – It’s more than a cocktail. Facilitated networking and one to one meetings should be for more than just sponsors. Networking sessions need to be facilitated and built into the agenda to ensure all attendees get the most out of the event.
Format – We must formulate new connections and debate. Less power points (More on that here).
Provide tools – Delegates should leave armed with new tools, and templates (that they can’t get online) that can help them solve their challenges. Those tools and templates need to be researched ahead of the event, curated and peer reviewed and made available to the delegates when they leave.
Chris also points out “You must attend live events if you want the full effect”, so there’s hope yet! Nothing can replicate the true magic and serendipity of a well curated, researched conference full of like minded individuals looking to the future of their industry or profession.