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!





Our thoughts on IP Expo

4 11 2011
On the 20th October, we attended the 2011 edition of IP Expo, one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing IT infrastructure events, where some of the biggest names in IT converge annually.One of the biggest attractions of the day was the Google Apps Lab, which demonstrated to visitors how Google Apps helps teams to increase their productivity using real-time collaboration.A multitude of significant players from the IT sector attended, including Neil Crockett from Cisco and David King, CTO of Logica – but the most buzz surrounded one particular speaker: the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, and with the huge media focus and expression of public sadness surrounding Steve Jobs’ recent death, his presence was greatly anticipated.

Wozniak delivered a keynote in which he spoke about his early days at Apple, taking risks in technology, and Fusion-io, his latest gig. However, when delivered, Wozniak’s presentation came off sounding disappointingly like a sales pitch, rather than the inspirational speech that many were expecting. As we have pointed out several times over the last few years, its never a good idea to use a speaking opportunity as a platform for a sales pitch.





Kinect hack for clear presentations

1 11 2011

We stumbled across the ingenious Kinect hack today and just had to share it.

Unless you have the pleasure of presenting at CES or another gala event where the screen can be measured in kilometres rather than feet, getting your positioning right can be a nightmare. Technology like this helps you focus on the presentation itself, rather than where you’re standing and also frees you up to cross the stage to answer questions and engage with the audience.

However, you’ll still need to brush up your presentation skills and make sure your slides are engaging if you want to deliver a truly successful presentation!





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!





Dealing with tough questions from conference audiences

6 05 2011

This morning I came across this piece offering advice for answering tough questions at meetings and events and thought it was worth sharing as tips for dealing with tough questions from the floor at conferences or ambushes from your competitors.

This article offers great advice for ensuring you come over well when without with difficult questions, but doesn’t cover what we believe to be one of the most important steps – preparation. In many cases you will know the likely topics to be raised and can take the time to prepare some stock answers – whether it be making sure you have some helpful facts and figures to hand or just the company line on the issue. This is often overlooked as once you’ve planned your presentation and practiced in front of your mirror all evening it’s easy to forget about the Q&A and making sure you’re prepared for every possibility.

Unfortunately, preparation also has the pitfall of making your response seem prepared and insincere – it’s very important not to appear to be feeding someone a line. You must take the time to digest their question and appear interested. Points 1 and 2 of the linked article go some way to covering this, but it’s also important to pause before answering, helping you look like you’re contemplating the issue rather than towing the company line. Further to point 1, alongside not rushing to offer platitudes you should also be careful not to nod whilst listening to their question (particularly if you’re about to disagree with their opinion!). It’s a very tough line to walk, between being prepared to tackle tough questions and not appear to be fobbing people off with pre-prepared lines, but if you remember to take your time before responding and be prepared to adapt your responses for each question you’ll avoid any disasters.

As a final note, it’s very important to never get angry. Sometimes your competitor will ask an awkward question or make a quip from the show floor that’s solely designed to be inflammatory. It can be hard not to take this personally or see it as an attack, but it’s important not to let this get your back up – if you’re lucky enough to have a keen sense of humour and a quick mind, then quip back and swiftly move on. Otherwise, take the high ground and move the conversation on elsewhere.





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.





Hot conference topics and themes for 2011: mobile devices

11 02 2011

This is an expansion of the mobile theme; with markets continuing to mature and mobile devices growing in affect across markets we expect them to feature more heavily on conference agendas. This will be particularly buoyed by the maturation of the tablet market, which is likely to feature more heavily on mobile event agendas and perhaps spawn tablet specific events.
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Events in the telecoms sector such as the Mobile World Congress and Open Mobile Summit alongside the consumer electronic shows like IFA and CES will continue to be the main arena for mobile device discussions. However, mobile devices will also become an increasing focus at media and advertising events, with delegates wanting to know how to advertise on these platforms, reach new audiences and stay ahead of the curve. The proliferation of devices is also likely to inspire design and interface debate around how to keep user experience the same across devices and allow consumers to move freely between screens and across platforms.