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. 

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Looking back at the hot conference topics in 2011

13 12 2011

At the start of the year, we made some predictions about the topics that were likely to dominate the conference landscape in 2011 and, as is now traditional, we want to take a moment to reflect on the year. You may remember that in our original post(hyperlink) we thought the hot topics in 2011 would be:

Many of our suggestions were right on the money – a number of these topics have been growing for years now and are almost sure to continue to be important going forward. However, we also missed a few runaway trends (like Big Data), so want to spend the next few posts looking back, analysing the hot topics and providing insight on the conference industry in 2011.

We’ll also be making our predictions for 2012 in the next few weeks, so don’t forget to check back regularly!





Wired 2011 1st day roundup

14 10 2011

We’re sure you’re already aware that Wired’s inaugural conference in the UK is taking place right now. But if, like us, you didn’t manage to bag a ticket, you can follow the action online – Wired’s posted the following video of the highlights from day 1 and many of the sessions are already written up posted here.

It’s great to see these brilliant events, highlighting innovation, but it can sometimes be difficult to see where the business benefit lies with these more ‘inspirational’ events. Of course Wired gets around this by being a very widely read magazine, with broad reach and influence in the business world, but it’s always worth keeping in the back of your mind the reason why you’re running your speaking programme in the first place (be it to increase sales, profile an exec or something entirely different).

 

UPDATED – day 2 here:





Virtual Conferences and Events – Does the Hybrid Model Work?

4 10 2011

We’ve spoken previously about the value of virtual events – you may remember we weren’t keen. However, the conference landscape trundles on and, like it or not, virtual events are here to stay.

While many seem dead set on reproducing the ‘real world’ event experience online, with avatars and mocked up convention centres – a business Second Life, if you will – we’re now seeing the market begin to mature, with better, hybrid approaches appearing.

Particularly successful approaches we’ve seen are live physical events with sophisticated digital platforms behind them, that run beyond the event itself, and ‘live’ virtual events, which run on a set date, with all sessions following a traditional agenda (but remaining online after the event). Both styles generally share the sophisticated online element, which lasts beyond the event and no doubt adds value – a place to find information, speak to experts and review content; but take a different approach to the ‘live’ element.

In all honesty, attending an event in the flesh is still a much more valuable than watching it on a computer screen. If you can attend the conference, network with the delegates and alter your speech as you go (based on the room’s reactions), you’ll generate more leads and have a more successful day. Being able to follow this up by viewing footage from the event and downloading reports and whitepapers over the next few days definitely adds value, allowing you to see the session you really wanted to that conflicted with your own, upload the whitepapers you referenced in your session and generally increase and improve upon your event presence.

If you’re invited to speak at a virtual event think carefully about what value this event will add to your speaking program. It’s easy to be seduced by large ‘delegate’ numbers and the promise that your content will remain live for months to be viewed by thousands – but you need to consider whether the output from a virtual event will align with your objectives, and whether you will be able to connect and engage with the delegates. A dedicated speaker bureau will be able to help you weigh these pros and cons on a per-event basis, helping ensure that your senior executives are only speaking where there’s real value to be gained.





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!





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!





What makes a good conference?

27 05 2011

There’s no big mystery behind what makes a good event, but we know a lot of you simply don’t have the time to cut through the organizer’s marketing and decide if an event is a ‘must attend’ ‘must speak’ or ‘must avoid’. There are a few simple tricks that will help you cut through the fluff and get to the core of an event quickly.

Firstly, how much does it cost to attend? Not all the best events in the world cost a month’s salary, but you can get a good feel for how prestigious an event is by how much they charge.

Who attends? If you dig deep enough, most organizers provide delegate stats or at least something a little more substantial than the front page claim of ‘the number one event for CIOs!’. If your speaker is C-level and the event mostly receives director level delegates, you’re going to look rather silly.

Who covers it? Most events have some media presence (unless they’re held under Chatham House rules – an entirely different kettle of fish) and you will generally find details of previous coverage on the site. If not, check the media sponsors and partners for an idea of who will be there. Also check if sessions will be filmed and hosted online.

Who else is speaking? Often speakers won’t be announced until near the event, but checking the event’s twitter stream, looking at previous speakers and talking to the organiser will usually give you a good indication. Keep a particular eye out for competitors!

Who sponsors? Often the sponsors at an event give you a strong feel for who sees the most value in it. If the sponsors are all blue chip companies in your field there’s a good chance it’s a worthwhile event. If they’re smaller and quite specialized then you’ll be able to infer which field sees the most value in being at this event.

This is by no means a conclusive list, but once you’ve worked through this list you should have a much better feel for the conference and so be in a stronger position to decide whether to get involved. However, for those cases where it isn’t so clear cut, or if you simply don’t have the time and resource to spend investigating events, a specialist Speaker Bureau can help provide clear and concise advise to help you make the right decision.