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.

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.

Making a call on event sponsorship – can you stand out from the crowd?

16 03 2011

Clients ask me all the time if they should sponsor conferences or exhibitions.  Like most PRs and marketers, they are lured by the prospect of engaging with hundreds or even thousands of their target audience at the same time, all in the same place.  A great opportunity, and I get it, I can see the value in that – but is it really ‘engaging’?

Can you spot your brand?....didn't think so.

I read a great example of what I’m talking about today on AdAge Digital in reference to the ever popular SXSW event in Austin, taking place this week.  Here’s an event that has been around for a long time and has always been under the radar, more of a music festival than a business event and for those who know it well – they would like to keep it that way. But aaah the curse of popularity. As the AdAge piece points out, the big brand corporate world has taken over and in the opinion of some, taken the shine off the event, with smaller start ups and brands getting lost in the frenzy – the competition for attendees attention is just too fierce that nothing gets through to them except the down-your-throat big bucks marketing stunts that very few can afford.

And that leads me to my point. What I tell clients when they ask me if they should sponsor an event is, it depends on the event. If you will be the sole sponsor or one of only a handful, you stand a reasonable chance of awareness and engagement among the audience. By contrast, if you’re competing against over 50 brands and their logos, stands, free food, drinks, laptop bags, etc – unless you have the marketing budget to compete with the big boys, you’re not going to get much value.

Evaluate each opportunity as it comes and think about how this is going to help meet your PR/Marketing goals.

Hot conference topics and themes for 2011: social media

17 02 2011

Social Media will continue to be important in the conference landscape as our lives become more connected; TVs now even let you tell your friends what you’re watching. Communities are continuing to grow around all aspects of our connected lives and monetising and engaging with these audiences is becoming increasingly important to marketers and advertisers alike.

While there are a lot of established pure play social media events, it is likely that more will surface and that more and more traditional business focused events will incorporate social media streams looking at how to leverage social media beyond the marketing department. Gamification, crowd sourcing, merging and blurring work and social lives and collaboration as a driver of innovation, business and efficiency will all find their way onto more conference agendas.

Further to this, although many events already utilise social tools (such as a Facebook page or a LinkedIn events page, live Twitter walls and blogs), their use should increase as delegates and speakers look to extend their influence beyond the stage and the networking breaks. Some conferences already have great communities built around their content (think TED) and many more are starting to follow in their footsteps.

Looking ahead to 2011’s hot conference topics and themes

9 02 2011

Having looked back at 2010, it’s the perfect opportunity to reignite our tradition of outlining our thoughts on the hot topics and themes in this year’s conference landscape. They are below in no particular order:

As you can see there are a few old favourites on here but also some new arrivals. We’d love to get your thoughts in the comments on whether we’ve missed any or even got some wrong.

Personally I’m really excited by the mobile and apps space at the moment, there’s so much innovative stuff going on – dual core phones, connected everything and new device formats. However, there’s increasing crossover between these topics, apps are, of course, available in your mobile, but now apple has launched the Mac app store, Google launched the Chrome Web Store and Amazon has hinted heavily that there’s an Amazon Appstore on the way too. I can also access Dropbox on my phone, edit my Google Docs and use other cloud services on the move; there’s going to be a real challenge around the ‘liquid experience’ whereby my apps look familiar and interact with each other across platforms.

These game changing advances and disruptors like the iPad will continue to drive conference agendas as senior management is put under increasing pressure to keep up in the social media age. This should see attendance rates remaining high at industry leading events and a great deal of press and media interest in conference content as the consumerisation of IT marches on.

However, we’re also likely to see some conference producers attempting to cash in on these trends, launching new, low quality events pandering to the latest trends. Knowing how to spot, and avoid these events is key. A specialist agency can help you plan for the year ahead, identify your key targets and evaluate any invitations you might receive to speak at (or even attend) new conferences and ensure that your speaking programme really takes off in 2011.

ad:tech – still pulling in the numbers

4 10 2010

I visited ad:tech last week and took a few laps of the exhibition and thought I’d quickly share my thoughts with you. As usual for a free exhibition the Olympia was rammed (as were the local pubs!); whilst a lot of the footfall will have been tire kickers and junior staffers sent to check out the vibe and the competition for their bosses. This is normally always the case with ‘free to attend’ events – it really dilutes the quality of the audience. The paid-for conference is one area of the event where the quality of the audience increases, and there was a very good line up of speakers this year.

The seminar sessions (that take place on the exhibition floor and again, are free to attend) were surprisingly well attended, with delegates pouring out the doors and a fairly impressive line-up of speakers compared to the usual free exhibition dregs; of course ad:tech also monitors delegate attendance and flow by scanning barcodes, helping speakers follow up with attendees.

However, there seemed to be less money being spent by exhibitors on average this year, with most resigned to the default white gazebo and a small stand; although many used their space creatively and came up with a nice gimmick or hook to create footfall.

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.


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?

Measurement – an open call for your thoughts on measuring speaking programmes!

11 05 2010

We’ve been thinking a lot about measurement recently, the various things our clients want to know about their speaking campaigns and the things that we track internally. In our experience, just counting bums on seats is not really a decent measurement tool – there’s a plethora of useful information to collect from an events programme, but everyone is looking for something different and measurement is hard to enforce.


Most people simply don’t have the time or the resource to collect and analyse the wealth of data potentially available in a speaking campaign, and this is where a specialist agency can help. Whether you’re trying to demonstrate the value of your conference speaking programme – or just deciding whether to speak at the same events next year, it’s necessary to be able to call on data outlining the value of your activity. Of course, depending on your goals, there are different aspects of your speaking campaigns you can track, such as sales leads from conference networking or how many decision-makers from your target group that you met; so this is our open call to you, our readers: what do you measure in your speaking campaigns? What do you wish you could measure?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the value you get from conference speaking and what’s important to you in terms of measurement and how you go about it.