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!

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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.





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.





2010 conference themes recap: cloud computing

31 01 2011

Is growing and growing, and growing. Cloud services of all varieties are becoming more ubiquitous and fears about security are being decreasing, replaced by interest in cost benefits, efficiencies and improving services (and indeed, improving security). Google has even demonstrated Chrome based laptops running solely in the cloud and with more and more data now being cloud based it’s easy to envision a future where nothing is stored locally but is available everywhere.

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We’re also beginning to see cloud services penetrating further into consumers’ private lives, from Logitech’s collaboration with Google – the Revue, to Onlive’s cloud based gaming service. It’s no wonder cloud computing remains one of our hottest topics moving into 2011.





2010 conference themes recap: healthcare

28 01 2011

Healthcare remained a huge topic throughout 2010, particularly in light of the healthcare reform in the US and budget cuts in the UK. This was pushed by the continuing uptake of telehealth and healthcare IT which was driven not only by cost and efficiency, but also new models of healthcare as a game (think Wii Fit and Microsoft Kinect) and cell phones becoming smart connected objects used to monitor our health.

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Because of this, we also saw healthcare sneaking on to agendas at leading mobile and telecoms events and featuring at some high-level cloud conferences. But there was also a flutter of new healthcare IT events in various emerging markets taking advantage of these advances and the benefits of telehealth.