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.





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.





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.





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.