The Modern Conference Dilemma – It’s a problem of choice

23 02 2015

ChoiceI 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, 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.

Good Marketing Manager / Bad Marketing Manager*

12 08 2014

good badGood Marketing Manager’s (MM’s) know they can influence results and they measure the impact. They measure everything, followers, traffic, social mentions, inbound leads and other metrics, but they know the only one that matters has a $.  They are disciplined with their time and use data to help make decisions. Bad MM’s have no time or data.

Good MM’s influence the product, they get involved. They work with producers to influence the agenda, topics, speakers, workshops and even the social events. They take the time to learn about the customer and the industry and use that knowledge to build powerful marketing strategies and deep buyer persona’s. Bad MM’s blame the product.

Good MM’s know the products benefits, but they craft a story. They create content that adds value to the community even if they don’t attend. They take the initiative to create communication pieces and work with producers to refine it.  Good MM’s understand the nuances of all communication channels and tailor the message accordingly. Bad MM’s focus on the speakers, the topics and a discount, then repeat again and again in a different order.

Good MM’s seek out win-win partnerships with difficult to get organizations. They pick up the phone and speak to the partners, if possible they go and shake their hand. They use empathy and industry understanding to create strategic alliances with associations, sponsors, speakers and the media. Good MM’s find the influencers and engage them. Bad MM’s send two emails and wait for a response.

Good MM’s work with sales to create powerful sales funnels that generate quality leads. Good MM’s understand the sales pipeline, they partner with the sales exec’s to understand the objections and then create highly relevant engaging content that can help convert prospects. Bad MM’s don’t know their sales exec’s name.

Good MM’s are passionate marketers, oracles of information and sage advice, colleagues from inside and outside marketing seek them out. People want them on their teams, they do more than marketing, they take ownership and pride.

Good MM’s are ideas people, but they also know how to execute. Good MM’s seek out inspiration from all forms of marketing, art, science and life. They are generous with their ideas and apply their inspiration to the communication strategy, constantly innovating and testing.  Good MM’s understand process and how it helps execution, but they also know when to follow it and when to adapt it.  Bad MM’s hide behind templates and processes.

Good MM’s are valuable members of any team and colleagues for life.

* This post was inspired by The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. One of the best business books I have ever read and recommended for any Marketing Director, General Manager, Managing Director or CEO. You can also read more about that inspiration here at Ben’s blog.

The Good, the bad, and the ugly of marketing conferences

7 05 2014

Marketing companionI came across this great Marketing Companion Podcast (Link to podcast) with Tom Webster and Mark W Shaefer a while ago, but have only just got around to sharing!

Apart from being a great marketing podcast and blog, this particular session is unique for conference marketers. It’s essentially first hand customer  insight into attending, sponsoring, and speaking at marketing conferences by a couple of marketing guys I follow (it’s basically an interesting customer insight in my opinion).

I think it gives some real insight into our customers and highlights some universal truths, in case you don’t have time here’s my take aways:

  • High level executives only go to conferences because they were invited to speak?
  • Attendees want to be inspired, made to think.
  • Pay to play (or sponsored) conferences are ok, but only if there is a beating heart behind it, someone curating the speaker content, vetting their material, coaching the speakers!
  • Big room / Small interactions – even at the biggest industry events true value comes from spending time with speakers and those tiny interactions that happen around the formal sessions.
  • Having smaller consultants (or solution providers) who can’t sponsor but have real cutting edge research can be a win win!
  • Scholarships can help change the perception of the event

Hope you find it interesting…you can also download it at itunes.


I share, therefore I am

9 10 2013

This is the strangest and one of the most interesting videos I’ve seen in a long time. Conceptually I think it has implications for the events business, good and bad. It’s not new that social media is revolutionizing many aspects of marketing and some of the social aspects of life, I’ve blogged about it a few times and a Google search will flood you with information. But this video does a great job of capturing some of the more unique customer level issues.

For the B2B conference marketer:

  • Interactivity at events is more important than ever, but it’s also probably going to become harder to get people to interact.  We must move beyond speed dating into formats that can create in-depth conversations and potential connections between buyers and sellers.
  • The ideal number of people in a break out session may be changing?
  • If you are using social media to promote your event, driving engagement may be linked to the your ability to provide social recognition amongst peers and a deeper role in facilitating peer to peer interaction.
  • B2B online communities around events must drive real long term value and interaction beyond the events. They also need to make sure they provide ways for people to validate their skills in the community.
  • Similarly for events, endorsements and accreditation will become key. Exhibitions should also gamify the experience!

Food for thought – Anyone feeling lonely?

The Future of Conference Video …Prepare for a Video Sprint!

15 10 2012

I’ve written about the emerging part I think video has to play in the future of B2B events many times (Here, here, and here amongst a few…).  



I believe it can help promote events, enhance the on-site experience, and extend learning beyond the conference room or exhibition hall into the wider community, all of which helps promote your event.

Through an excellent guest post on the excellent site Conference basics (and @gchicco) by Gabriel Shalom, founder of the KS12 Creative Studio I just had an insight into what that future might look like. You can read all about here:  (including some great examples) or better still visit this post on Conference Basics and here Gabriel tell you about his business model.

The most interesting aspects of Gabriels model is the image above (I also liked how there wasn’t any shots of a speaker podium or power points, or people entering and leaving the conference hall but I digress). Gabriel outlines how video can help extend the conversation, the sharing, the learning and the networking both at the event, into the hallways, the online back channels, and after the event into the wider business community by leveraging social media. The future of conference marketing involves video, but like all tools, it will be how you wield it that will make the difference.

10 Years at IQPC

5 04 2012

This week marks a bit of a personal land mark, 10 years with IQPC. 

That’s a long time to spend with one group and the longest stint of my career, but it’s also not a co-incidence. I’d be lying if I told you 10 years at IQPC was all roses, so why stay for 10 years?

It’s pretty simple, the people.

I have worked with some of the best managers in the business, and I have learnt something from all of them. I have many people to thank for opportunities in the past and I currently work with a great management team, who continue to inspire me and share their insight, there is no greater teacher than experience.

The people I work with directly are also some of the best marketing managers in the business. Together they bring a unique set of skills that in itself motivates me and their teams. We have some truly talented people, some of which we have taken the time to develop internally, which is even more rewarding, but some who have also been attracted to the fast paced marketing of B2B events and the entrepreneurial or innovative culture at IQPC.

I believe the culture at IQPC encourages team effort and innovative thinking. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a team start with nothing and build a successful event that meets our commercial targets and makes sponsors, delegates and partners happy. Similarly, in the past few years seeing our online communities grow beyond our expectations has been very rewarding.  

I’ve also been lucky enough to work around the world in this business, including long stints in Chile, New York, Sydney and Dubai. I have also worked closely with teams in Argentina, India, Singapore, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Canada, Brazil and the UK. No two offices or events have been the same, it makes going to work fun!

It’s been a rewarding career, and made me think, so what I have learnt in 10 years with IQPC:

Great product solves 80% of all your problems.

Continually learn – most importantly, every event is different, learn from each experience and read (a lot). 

Learn to listen more than you talk. People who do this are always more successful in this business. Also be great at the art of questioning.

Answers to problems can come from anyone on the team. A great event or marketing plan takes team work.

Trust your gut.

Get the basics right, tackle the 4 p’s, use industry or economic models to explain the dynamics of your product.

Research, research, research. Speak to your target audience and partners, gain a first hand understanding of their challenges, and build a product and story that resonates. And challenge all assumptions.

Plan, Execute, Monitor and encourage innovation, testing or experimentation at every corner.

Find an anchor or driver for your event that evokes passion in your audience. Use this to drive all communication.

Great systems and processes help you sleep at night! But people make it happen.

The conference industry in general can be challenging at the best of times, constant time and budget constraints combined with the need to innovate every marketing plan will keep you on your toes. It’s never boring…even after 10 years.

The State of B2B Event Marketing

11 01 2012

I believe it’s a great time to be in marketing and in events. Social media, social networking and the internet in general are driving sweeping changes.

So with this in mind I recently watched a webinar on the State of B2B Event Marketing put together by B2B magazine featuring John DiStefano, Research Director at B2B, and Maria Pergolino, Senior Director of Marketing for Marketo. Unfortunately it was more directed at the potential impact of marketing automation rather than the actual state of B2B events, it would have also been nice to get a few big event sponsors on the panel, but it did raise some good points based on some very good scientific research.

According to the research B2B companies invest in 26 events a year, 14 of their own company led events and 12 third-party events, representing 20% of their marketing budget. Interesting this is versus 5% on social media! Even more interesting in terms of driving results, third-party events delivered 61% of all the revenue from events.

Not surprisingly, the three top goals for B2B companies with their events is lead generation, customer engagement and branding. As a result of the focus on lead generation, the measurement of those leads through the corporate sales funnels is becoming even more important. This is where more marketing automation can kick in.

But more importantly for professional B2B event organizes, we must ensure we are delivering the right level of leads and are driving customer engagement for sponsors through our events. Even more importantly, we need to recognize this new focus on measurement and help our sponsors (or partners) gain more intelligence through the process. As sponsorship revenues become more and more important to third-party event organizers so to does ensuring we exceed their expectations.

I think this means third-party organizers also need to consider more changes:

Creating products that may be designed for sponsors customers at various levels of the sales funnel. Segmenting or streaming events to allow customers at different stages of the buying cycle to have different information and different interactions with sponsors. Creating mini events for existing customers vs new leads. Crafting the content to help drive new engagements or up/cross sell existing customers into deeper engagements. Also providing pre and post event opportunities for enhanced networking both online and off.

From a marketing point of view it may also mean crafting different messages or content marketing to the various stages of the vendors buying cycle. And as always tailoring those messages to different channels.

It also means (capturing and) providing more data to our sponsors, pre and post event. More information on who is attending, why, what they hope to get out of the event, what their budgets are etc. and then helping sponsors with the measurement and tracking of these leads post event. Providing the data and utilizing our social networks to make sure we continue the engagement for sponsors post event will mean more return sponsors.