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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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.