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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Inaugural conferences – should you speak?

22 04 2011

In the current conference landscape there are a lot of new events emerging, catering to specific niches and addressing the latest topics and trends. Some are extensions of existing events (like D’s Dive into Mobile) and others are entirely new events.

However, not all of these events are of the same quality and it can be hard to decide which invitations for your CEO you accept, which you repurpose for one of your VPs or Directors and which you politely decline. Even when the organiser has successfully run a ‘rock star’ event for a number of years you can’t guarantee that your CEO will be amongst his peers on a highly visible platform.

We always recommend erring on the side of caution for inaugural events. Even if you’re hoping to get your speakers out to ‘cool’ and upcoming events, you need to be certain that the right speaker takes the stage. If the organiser asks for your CEO for their inaugural event but can’t name any confirmed speakers, give you proof points about who’ll show up and which media will cover the event, then the alarm bells should be ringing.

All conference producers have ‘pressing deadlines’ – brochures need to be printed, agendas finalized and so forth, but the truth is you can usually wait until the event fleshes out a little more before confirming your speaker. Try giving the organiser some time to confirm other senior speakers and take some time to check for any buzz around the event. If the organiser has only managed to name a few directors and managers as confirmed speakers politely decline to speak this year, but signal your interest for next year’s event (when there’ll be ample proof points for you to pore over).

Of course, there’ll always be those events that are simply guaranteed to succeed due to the strength of the organisers brand and those will be no brainers. But where there’s doubt, don’t be afraid to substitute a lower level speaker in the inaugural year to scope out the event… You can always send your CEO to steal the show next year.

Finally, where these opportunities are not clear-cut a trusted third party speaker bureau consultancy will be able to help evaluate events and invitations and recommend the best course of action.