Collaboration – living in the cloud

24 05 2010

Just a quick post today to extol the virtues of living in the cloud!

We’re fortunate enough to work with a lot of tech firms who just ‘get’ the value of the cloud and those clients not already using the cloud are quick to see the benefits when we show them mockups of what we can do with online collaborative software. We’re not dropping names or pushing any particular technology, rather outlining the general benefits of being able to us collaborative tools to bridge the lines between client, agency and customer; in our experience we’ve found that using these collaborative tools is a huge benefit to running a targeted speaking program, streamlining our processes and improving the service we deliver to clients.

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Cloud technology has advanced pretty quickly, and as the capabilities have grown we’ve found more and more uses. We began by keeping our client facing documents in the cloud, allowing us to update these in real time as well as our clients being able to make any alterations without needing to send multiple copies backward and forward. We’ve saved literally hundreds of man hours by just having one living document which we can keep bang up to date (saving periodic hard copies if necessary) and our clients can feedback into. This has varied from databases of events to evaluations of specific conferences and because they’re hosted in the cloud we know they’re instantly accessible when they’re needed, without us needing to raid our server and email a possibly out of date file to a client, never to be seen again. When running speaking campaigns for multiple clients this really helps us ensure everyone is completely up to date and has access to the most recent information, improving reporting and reducing admin.

As the technology has developed, we’ve increased our use beyond client reporting, concocting our own homebrew solutions and processes to automate aspects of speaking campaigns and help close the loop. Through the power of collaboration we are now able to create customer (conference organiser) facing resources, client facing resources and our own internal resources, all of which have separate access rights but can easily share information across each realm when necessary.

As the technology continues to evolve we can only imagine that the ability to innovate and create these useful tools will get easier and more commonplace, allowing previously tailormade software to be recreated inhouse and optimised to suit your business needs and goals. We’ve already created tailor-made solutions for managing conference speaking campaigns that only a few years ago would have cost a small fortune in development and programming with minimal investment beyond our time and creativity. While we appreciate many of you don’t have the time or the (somewhat geeky) skill set to create these tools in-house, this is where an external agency will be able to help you identify which tools will help you most and how to implement them most effectively.

So we’re curious to know – those of you with your head in the clouds; what are the main benefits you’ve found and where are the drawbacks? Those of you who haven’t yet dipped your toe; why not?

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Conference speaking as part of an integrated PR or marketing campaign

6 05 2010

A quick word about how a targeted conference speaking programme fits in with other marketing and communications activity.  It’s important not to silo speaking activity and whereever possible to link it with launches, announcements, or any other activity that is news worthy.

In essence, a speaking programme introduces a live element to an integrated PR or marketing campaign – ideally you want a campaign to live online, in the traditional media and also be live through an integrated speaker programme. The direct nature of conference speaking is simply a much more cost-effective method of personal selling – one of the most important (and expensive!) elements of the marcomms mix and one that allows you to come face to face with your target audience.

Cross-referencing your internal event and activity planner for year with a calendar of targeted external events is an easy way to see where there may be an opportunity to leverage your PR or marketing activity with a decent event.  Such an event may provide you with a pre-convened captive audience of existing customers, prospects and media.





How to network

16 04 2010

So you’ve chosen your target conference, secured a speaking slot and delivered a stellar, perfectly prepared presentation. Mission accomplished, right?

Not quite. Your speaking engagement is just the start, don’t be one of those speakers that flies in, delivers their presentation and then flies out. Half of the value for the delegates and indeed you as a speaker is the networking opportunities and the ability to generate solid leads. In fact for many, networking is the primary reason they attend events.

Generally when people try to network at conferences, it involves wandering around aimlessly, reading a few nametags, drinking lots of bad coffee and then giving up, only to later claim that there was no one worth speaking to and the networking potential was poor. This is because they had no networking plan, and like most everything else in life and business – even networking works better with a plan.

Work out in advance what you would like to achieve in terms of networking with the help of your marketing, PR and sales teams. Setting yourself clear and measurable objectives, whether you’re speaking or attending as a delegate will help you take advantage of the great networking potential conferences provide and get the full benefit from a speaking platform.

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We’ve come up with a list of suggested networking goals and their respective actions to help you make the best of your time at an event:

Sales leads
Get a list of confirmed delegates and speakers from the organiser and identify potential sales targets. Seek out these targets at the event, or see if it’s possible to get a free delegate pass for a member of the sales team to accompany you. Set yourself a realistic target (meeting between 3 and 5 targets) and ask the marketing team for case study material that’s relevant to each of these targets so you have something to talk about (and remember to take it with you!).

Making useful contacts
Use the same delegate and speaker list to find identify anyone else that might be worth meeting, such as influencers, key industry figures, useful suppliers or existing customers. Get input from your own teams (PR, sales, public affairs etc.) for guidance on which contacts would be useful to make.

Meet the media
Ask the organiser for a confirmed press list and have your PR or media relations team contact relevant journalists to set up media briefings for you. Make the media relations team responsible for following up and reporting on any resulting coverage.

By following a simple and manageable plan such as this, you have a much greater chance of getting real value and ROI from a speaking enagement.





Know your enemy

3 03 2010

In our previous post we mentioned being conspicuous by your absence – competitor analysis is a very important aspect of speaking that a lot of companies do very poorly. There are essentially two key elements to this: knowing what your competitors are doing at an event you are speaking at and how this will affect you and overall knowledge of your competitors presence at events throughout the year.

It’s an old cliché – but knowledge really is power. Research the details of your particular session and plan for every possible scenario; it’s not uncommon for a competitor to ask a difficult question from the floor or undermine you in their own session. Much like you would for a media briefing with a journalist, consider the tricky questions you may be asked and prepare a response, particularly if you’re speaking on a panel session as you may be open to questions from any number of stakeholders.

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You should also consider where on the agenda your competitor is speaking; if possible try to get a better speaking slot than them. Morning of the first day is best and the graveyard slot should be avoided (late afternoon of the final day). If you know the producer’s time-line and contact them early enough you have a greater chance to influence the planning of the agenda.

It’s also important to track your competitors’ presence at live events throughout the year. Once you know where they’re speaking, what they’re saying and even how much they’re spending at events you can better plan your own speaking strategy. The best way to do this is by enlisting the help of a specialist third-party who can research this information and build a picture of what your competitors are doing and (if they’re worth their salt) recommend a suitable and strategic course of action.





Starting from the beginning: Looking ahead at 2010

29 01 2010

January. Start of a new year, a new decade even, new beginnings and a new blog! Cruddy weather, post-holiday depression and impossibly ambitious resolutions aside, this is the one time of the year that most people feel optimistic about what they can achieve in the next 12 months – a clean slate (or Pad?) if you will.

So in this, our very first blog post, we thought it appropriate to stick with this theme and offer our thoughts on the conference themes that we think will be big in 2010 and why. They are below in no particular order.

Agree? Disagree? Did I miss some? Drop me a comment – we’d love to hear your thoughts on the hot themes for the year ahead.

Of these six themes, I personally think mobile is the most exciting of the bunch.  What? Recovery you say?  Pah!  Economics can’t find me the nearest pub or give me Doodle Jump. My recent acquisition of an iPhone has me spending more time on it than I care to admit, and my monthly bill for app purchases is rivaling my weekly grocery bill.  My esteemed colleague Chris would disagree with me (hates iPhones – has an HTC), but I think the popularity of the iPhone and all it can do is the reason that ‘mobile’ is on everyone’s lips (consumers and industry alike) this year, and why it will be a hot conference topic.

Over the next week we will be looking in more detail at each of these hot themes, so stay tuned!