How to evaluate an event

23 05 2012

You’ve just received an invitation to speak at an event. You’re flattered and start to imagine yourself presenting to a rapt audience of hundreds who cheer wildly when you’ve finished. 

But what about the event? is it any good? Unless you know the event already, you might not know and could end up presenting to four people in some backwater community hall.

The producer that sent the invite sure thinks so but then they would wouldn’t they? Before you invest the time and energy into preparing for a speaking slot (and money – you will likely have to pay for travel and accommodation), it’s worthwhile to do some due diligence on the event to see if it will meet your expectations or be a complete waste of time. 

OK, so how do I do that? 

There are some key indicators you can use to evaluate the worth of an event:

1. Delegate profile – if the producer hasn’t included this in the invite details, ask for it. Better still, ask for a copy of last year’s delegate list to see exactly who turned up last year – this is the best way to determine who you are likely to meet. Who attends is probably the most important piece of information you can get – there’s no point in going to an event if the people you want to meet aren’t there. 

2. Confirmed speaker list – who else is confirmed (not just invited) to speak? Who spoke last year? Are the other speakers above or below your level? Senior speakers from well-known and respected companies is a good indicator that it will be a decent event. 

3. Sponsors – if well-known and respected companies are sponsoring the event, then this is also a good indicator that it will be a decent event. Companies will not spend that much marketing budget on something they don’t think will be a success – they would have done their own due diligence before sponsoring. 

4. Press and media – if well-known and respected press or broadcast media publications have partnered with the event, then this is also a good indicator that it will be a decent event and a clue that there will be decent media coverage about the event. 

5. Sophistication of event website – if it looks like something from 1995 or that your 5-year-old made, not a good sign. Any conference organiser that is serious about their events will have a decent looking website with useful information. 

6. Location – is the event located at a decent hotel in a city or a school in some regional outpost? Are people likely to travel from far and wide to attend it? I’ll let you decide what the correct answer is.

7. Organiser – are they a well-respected event organiser? What other events have they produced and are they successful? 

8. First time event – is this an inaugural event? If so then there is much more risk involved – see another of our posts for more info on inaugural events. For all the claims of the organiser, they can’t guarantee that anyone will turn up. That’s why information from last year’s event is the best indicator for the success of the current year’s event. 

At the end of the day it’s mainly about common sense. If you get satisfactory answers to most of the indicators listed above, then chances are it will be OK. And if you don’t have the time to look through all this information, have a trusted specialist event consultant help out – they will be able to do this for you quite easily. 

IBC Congress – business stream session wrap-up

13 09 2011

I’m pleased to say that our session at IBC last week was a great success with the room at near full capacity and more questions from the floor than we had time for – always a good sign!

Our Co-Founder, Giles Fraser, set the scene by introducing the speakers and talking briefly about the increasing use of social media by content brands, followed by Claire Tavernier from Fremantle who gave a great opening presentation which included her five rules for integrating social media into television.

This was followed by the panel discussion which delved into what each of the panellists were doing with their companies and looking at issues such as risk, investment, control and what the future holds.

A recap of the key points of the session are covered concisely by Giles Fraser in this short video.

Thanks to all my speakers and all that attended – hope to see you next year!

IBC Congress 2011

5 09 2011

I have the privilege again this year of producing a session for the business stream at the IBC Conference in Amsterdam this week.

It takes place on the Thursday the 8th of September from 13.30 – 15.00 and is titled: Extending the Value of Branded Content Through Social Media and Online Engagement.  It will be in room E102.

We have a great session lined up today, starting with Chairman Giles Fraser, Co-Founder of Brands2Life who will be setting the scene and highlighting relevant trends, followed by Claire Tavernier from Fremantle Media who will be talking about using social media to drive audiences and engagement. Rounding out the session will be what we hope to be a very spirited panel discussion with our guest panellists: Danny McCubbin of, Claire Tavernier of Fremantle, Jurian Van Der Meer of Endemol and Steve Plunkett of RedBee Media about. In addition to outlining their thoughts/experiences on how social media and online engagement can extend brand value, the panel will be tackling questions such as:

  • What are the risks to brands – both content and parent brand?
  • How much should you invest in social media/online engagement and when can you expect payback? Is there payback?
  • What mistakes have been made?
  • How do you maintain your brand voice and values through digital channels
  • Dangers or risks of social media and giving your audience a voice
  • The difference between using existing social media venues and building your own

If you’ll be at IBC this week, please stop by and participate in what we are confident will be a great session!

Get ready, the Autumn conference season is about to begin!

22 08 2011

September is almost upon us, with most people are coming back from their holidays with a renewed vigour – and conference organisers are no exception!

September is typically a very busy month in the conference world with organisers attacking their last bit of planning and marketing for their Autumn events, and starting their planning for their Spring 2012 events.

While it’s probably too late to pitch a speaker for most of the Autumn events, it never hurts to try and sometimes there are drop out slots to be filled, or slots left due to a conference producer being a little behind on their planning!

It’s also a great opportunity to look at early 2012 events and get in touch with the relevant organisers to ask about their timelines and whether they’ve started work on their agenda yet. Remember you should be looking about six months ahead if you want to target events.

For example, below are a few events that are putting their agendas together right now, so it’s an ideal time to get in touch:

Happy pitching!

Making a call on event sponsorship – can you stand out from the crowd?

16 03 2011

Clients ask me all the time if they should sponsor conferences or exhibitions.  Like most PRs and marketers, they are lured by the prospect of engaging with hundreds or even thousands of their target audience at the same time, all in the same place.  A great opportunity, and I get it, I can see the value in that – but is it really ‘engaging’?

Can you spot your brand?....didn't think so.

I read a great example of what I’m talking about today on AdAge Digital in reference to the ever popular SXSW event in Austin, taking place this week.  Here’s an event that has been around for a long time and has always been under the radar, more of a music festival than a business event and for those who know it well – they would like to keep it that way. But aaah the curse of popularity. As the AdAge piece points out, the big brand corporate world has taken over and in the opinion of some, taken the shine off the event, with smaller start ups and brands getting lost in the frenzy – the competition for attendees attention is just too fierce that nothing gets through to them except the down-your-throat big bucks marketing stunts that very few can afford.

And that leads me to my point. What I tell clients when they ask me if they should sponsor an event is, it depends on the event. If you will be the sole sponsor or one of only a handful, you stand a reasonable chance of awareness and engagement among the audience. By contrast, if you’re competing against over 50 brands and their logos, stands, free food, drinks, laptop bags, etc – unless you have the marketing budget to compete with the big boys, you’re not going to get much value.

Evaluate each opportunity as it comes and think about how this is going to help meet your PR/Marketing goals.

Monetising branded content in a social media driven world @ IBC Conference 2010

6 09 2010

I have the privilege this year of producing a session for the business stream at the IBC Conference in Amsterdam next week.

It takes place on the Thursday the 9th of September from 14.30 – 16.00 and is titled: ‘Monetising branded content in a social media driven world‘.  It will be in room E102.

We have a stellar line up including Alex Balfour, head of new media for LOCOG (2012 London Olympics) as our keynote who will explain how he is planning to make the 2012 games the first truly social Summer Olympics; a provoking presentation from Scott Brown of Cisco Media Solutions Group showing how the attraction of produced content combined with the power of social technologies is changing the digital marketing paradigm at media and entertainment companies; rounded off with what we expect to be a fiery panel discussion between Universal Music, BBC Worldwide and Dogwoof about how social entertainment experiences are affecting business models and technology decision-making.

If you’ll be at IBC this week, please stop by and participate in what we are confident will be a great session!

Be patient – success with a speaker programme can be a slow burn

7 08 2010

Those unfamiliar with speaking programmes can get a little frustrated with how long it sometimes takes to see results.  My advice is be patient. The long lead time of conferences (average about six months) means that nothing happens overnight and the development cycle can sometime take months, depending on the conference.

There are other factors that have an impact – your brief for example.  A more narrow a brief, the less events there will be to try and speak at.  For some, there may only be 2 or 3 conferences a year that are appropriate and if you start your speaking programme right after they have just taken place – you’ll have to wait a few months before they start thinking of the next year’s event.

A speaking programme is not a short fix – you may get lucky with one event that happens to be inviting speakers the week that you start out, but you have to give the programme at least a 12 month cycle to see how things go.

Who should own a speaking programme – PR or marketing?

26 07 2010

Taking a look at my current clients, it’s roughly an equal split between PR and marketing in terms of who owns the speaking programme.  There are arguments for both camps:


Apart from the messages to deliver and manage in a presentation itself, there is also the potential for ambush from a hostile in the crowd or a competitor on a panel discussion, on-site media briefings with journalists, conversations with various stakeholders during networking breaks – there really are ample scenarios where you need a PR function to assist.


One of the biggest advantages of conference speaking is that it allows you to go DIRECT to a target audience. This is different from traditional media relations which delivers messages INDIRECTLY to a target audience through the media.  Many marketers argue that “if there’s no press involved, why do we need PR? we know what we want to say to our audience and if there are no journalists there to twist our words, we can handle it.”  After all, conference speaking is, in essence, another form of personal selling – probably the most effective element of the marcomms mix.

So who’s right?

In my experience – they both are.  You need marketing involved to capitalise on the outstanding business development opportunity that conference speaking provides, while you need PR to manage the many different elements of a conference speaking opportunity that can turn into a two-way dialogue with stakeholders, manage any on-site media, and to prepare for any hostilities.  I’ll even go one step further and say that you should get the sales team involved as well.

So involve everyone and get the most out of every speaking opportunity!

Blogs, apps and paywalls: how digital media is transforming journalism – Oriella PR Network study

7 07 2010

This may seem a little bit of a jump from our normal content on our blog, but given that many of the conference organisers we deal with are units of media publications (FT, Economist, Forbes, Business Week, Total Telecom, Haymarket, MediaGuardian, etc, etc, etc) this great report from the Oriella PR Network has relevance and potential repercussions for the business conference world.

(In the spirit of transparency, the company I work for, Brands2Life is a member of the Oriella PR Network)

Nevertheless, it’s a substantial study into the impact digital and social media are having on journalism. The study has found that journalists have to produce more content on more platforms, are working longer hours, and have less time to research stories. However, job satisfaction remains high, and almost half of the journalists Oriella spoke to said that digital and social media have increased the quality of their work.

The research also explored publications approaches to paid-for content. Rupert Murdoch’s controversial decision to build paywalls around The Times and The Sunday Times is being watched closely by media executives worldwide: the study found that two thirds of publications are evaluating – or have implemented – some form of paid-for content model, be it smartphone apps, pay-per-view or special formats for e-readers, such as the iPad.

These findings shine a light on some big changes to come in the way the media gathers, presents, and raises revenues from the news – with knock on impacts on how organisations to manage their global communications.

Have a read if you can!

PR Week: PR and Digital Media conference

25 06 2010

I attended this PR Week conference  this week and would like to talk about this from two different angles. 1) my key take-aways from the event in terms of content, and 2) some examples of good and bad practice I noticed from the speakers in terms of the delivery of their presentations.

Key take-aways:

  • AVE as a metric is dead (this is no surprise to most but I was amazed it was included in a speaker’s presentation!)
  • Need to get digital and social media involved in the planning stage for large campaigns – can’t go to the digital team at the end of the planning and ask them to ‘socialise’ or ‘digitise’ something.
  • This is from an agency perspectice, but many brands are still hungry for knowledge about social media and digital and for some there is still a long way to go to educate them. A colleague who has just done a 8-month stint in-house thinks this is because many brands don’t have regular access to the same intelligence that agencies do.
  • There is a fear of social media due to the worry that it will go wrong – no doubt due in part to the high profile social media disasters that are picked up and covered widely in the mainstream media. Crisis management is a big issue and there were two very good and candid presentations from Mary Walsh, Director of Comms for Eurostar and Stuart Ross, Director of News for Transport for London.
  • Control of social media – discussion over who owns it in an org – marketing, comms, customer services, sales, etc. Also an issue of control – legal departments often quash ambitious campaigns.  Advice was that involving legal teams in the planning stage gets them on board easier.

Good and bad practice:

  • I won’t name names but there were examples of great presenters, and not so great. Also slide presentation differed greatly. 
  • One speaker’s slides were so full of text that I lost track of what message he was trying to get across. He moved on to the next slide when I was still reading the second paragraph – yes…I said PARAGRAPH! I took a photo of his slides on my iPhone to document it – that’s the photo at the top of this post. By contrast, another speaker used mainly images and it was much easier to follow.
  • One guy shunned PPT in favour of a something called which worked well and was a nice change – bravo.
  • Finally, most were good with this, but some went on a little too long explaining what they did before getting into the content of the discussion.