Conference speaking as part of an integrated PR or marketing campaign

6 05 2010

A quick word about how a targeted conference speaking programme fits in with other marketing and communications activity.  It’s important not to silo speaking activity and whereever possible to link it with launches, announcements, or any other activity that is news worthy.

In essence, a speaking programme introduces a live element to an integrated PR or marketing campaign – ideally you want a campaign to live online, in the traditional media and also be live through an integrated speaker programme. The direct nature of conference speaking is simply a much more cost-effective method of personal selling – one of the most important (and expensive!) elements of the marcomms mix and one that allows you to come face to face with your target audience.

Cross-referencing your internal event and activity planner for year with a calendar of targeted external events is an easy way to see where there may be an opportunity to leverage your PR or marketing activity with a decent event.  Such an event may provide you with a pre-convened captive audience of existing customers, prospects and media.





How to network

16 04 2010

So you’ve chosen your target conference, secured a speaking slot and delivered a stellar, perfectly prepared presentation. Mission accomplished, right?

Not quite. Your speaking engagement is just the start, don’t be one of those speakers that flies in, delivers their presentation and then flies out. Half of the value for the delegates and indeed you as a speaker is the networking opportunities and the ability to generate solid leads. In fact for many, networking is the primary reason they attend events.

Generally when people try to network at conferences, it involves wandering around aimlessly, reading a few nametags, drinking lots of bad coffee and then giving up, only to later claim that there was no one worth speaking to and the networking potential was poor. This is because they had no networking plan, and like most everything else in life and business – even networking works better with a plan.

Work out in advance what you would like to achieve in terms of networking with the help of your marketing, PR and sales teams. Setting yourself clear and measurable objectives, whether you’re speaking or attending as a delegate will help you take advantage of the great networking potential conferences provide and get the full benefit from a speaking platform.

Photobucket

We’ve come up with a list of suggested networking goals and their respective actions to help you make the best of your time at an event:

Sales leads
Get a list of confirmed delegates and speakers from the organiser and identify potential sales targets. Seek out these targets at the event, or see if it’s possible to get a free delegate pass for a member of the sales team to accompany you. Set yourself a realistic target (meeting between 3 and 5 targets) and ask the marketing team for case study material that’s relevant to each of these targets so you have something to talk about (and remember to take it with you!).

Making useful contacts
Use the same delegate and speaker list to find identify anyone else that might be worth meeting, such as influencers, key industry figures, useful suppliers or existing customers. Get input from your own teams (PR, sales, public affairs etc.) for guidance on which contacts would be useful to make.

Meet the media
Ask the organiser for a confirmed press list and have your PR or media relations team contact relevant journalists to set up media briefings for you. Make the media relations team responsible for following up and reporting on any resulting coverage.

By following a simple and manageable plan such as this, you have a much greater chance of getting real value and ROI from a speaking enagement.





Know your enemy

3 03 2010

In our previous post we mentioned being conspicuous by your absence – competitor analysis is a very important aspect of speaking that a lot of companies do very poorly. There are essentially two key elements to this: knowing what your competitors are doing at an event you are speaking at and how this will affect you and overall knowledge of your competitors presence at events throughout the year.

It’s an old cliché – but knowledge really is power. Research the details of your particular session and plan for every possible scenario; it’s not uncommon for a competitor to ask a difficult question from the floor or undermine you in their own session. Much like you would for a media briefing with a journalist, consider the tricky questions you may be asked and prepare a response, particularly if you’re speaking on a panel session as you may be open to questions from any number of stakeholders.

Photobucket

You should also consider where on the agenda your competitor is speaking; if possible try to get a better speaking slot than them. Morning of the first day is best and the graveyard slot should be avoided (late afternoon of the final day). If you know the producer’s time-line and contact them early enough you have a greater chance to influence the planning of the agenda.

It’s also important to track your competitors’ presence at live events throughout the year. Once you know where they’re speaking, what they’re saying and even how much they’re spending at events you can better plan your own speaking strategy. The best way to do this is by enlisting the help of a specialist third-party who can research this information and build a picture of what your competitors are doing and (if they’re worth their salt) recommend a suitable and strategic course of action.





Getting it just right

25 02 2010

So you’ve looked high and low and identified all the events you want in your pipeline for 2010 and you’ve come up with a list as long as your arm (particularly if you’re planning to attempt to secure ‘free’ speaking opportunities rather than sponsoring). This is the perfect time to take a step back and consider whether you’re aiming to do too much or too little.

Photobucket

If you speak at too many events you risk spreading your message too thin and sending your busy spokespeople to lower quality events. If you speak at too few events you risk missing the key events and the opportunity to engage directly with key prospects, you may also be conspicuous by your absence if your key competitors are present.

There are 4 factors you should take into consideration to make sure that you get your speaking programme just right:

Resource: do you have the staff to manage the speaking programme and support the level of activity involved? Do you have enough trained spokespeople to handle the number of speaking opps?

Strength, depth and breadth of content: Do you have enough content to present a fresh story each time you speak or do you risk presenting the same story at every event and damaging your brand?

Number of relevant events: is the event a “must attend” or a “nice to attend”? Have you drilled down deep enough to identify whether the event is superficially interesting or will really benefit your brand?

Budget: Staff resource is the only investment you need to make if handling your speaking activity in house. However, if partnering with a specialist agency there will, of course, be a cost involved. By only speaking at the ‘must attend’ events you can trim the fat, deliver ROI and save money in the long-term.

And if you don’t have time for all of that… quality over quantity is the guiding principle. This doesn’t necessarily mean the largest, highest-profile events; clients often come to us wanting to speak at an FT or Economist conference. While these conferences are very respected and high level it doesn’t always mean they’re right for you. Sometimes it’s smaller, niche events that offer the best opportunities.

Let us know in the comments if you think we’ve left off any factors you should consider when planning your speaking programme – or perhaps we’ve considered too many?





Quality over quantity – a targeted approach to running a speaker programme

19 02 2010

It always amazes us when we start a new year and look ahead to the expanse of conferences on our radar; every year without fail many well known organisations blindly speak at or sponsor the same events again and again. Often, seemingly, without having a clear idea of what they want to get out of the event or if it will meet their business goals.

By using this blanket ‘more is better’ approach these companies lose a great deal of money and resource; their frustrated spokespeople likely come back from poorly targeted conferences wondering why they travelled for two days and spent hours working on a slide deck to speak to 12 people who are not even in their target audience – worse if they suffered the same slog the previous year!

Photobucket

This is why we believe it’s essential to re-assess your speaking goals constantly and to seek feedback from your spokespeople – how many people did they speak to, did they get any sales leads and was the event well run? The organisations that get this right start with a proper brief, do the necessary research and map out all the events they would like to speak at for the year, evaluating them against a set of criteria based on business goals and ROI.

If you don’t know the conference landscape well and haven’t got the experience with organisers to be able to map out the entire year in advance you should consider looking to an external specialist agency. The ability to pre-plan your strategy and ensure you focus on only the most relevant events will help target your message and decrease your costs.