Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

10 Marketing Lessons From Conferences.


What started as a list of observations derived from recent experiences at conferences and speaking events has evolved into a somewhat contrived list of general marketing lessons designed to improve "customer satisfaction". As always, they can be extrapolated to other situations as well as making conferences more successful. For audience read customer, for speaker read product/service.

1) Know Your Subject.
The curator/organiser must be someone who really understands their subject - not some PR person focussed on selling, but someone who will craft an event that will have resonance and relevance to its audience.

2) Stay Focussed.
Keep it brief. Lectures like business books are too often padded out with extraneous examples and bogus rationalisation. Focus your speakers' minds by creating a time limit and you'll focus the minds of the audience.

3) Facilitate Interaction.
Ensure the speaker is visible to everyone at some stage so that even if sightlines are imperfect, the audience will know who to collar later when they want to follow up a point. Good talks stimulate conversations. Make sure you facilitate them.

4) Maintain Engagement.
Presentations are distilled and information-rich. They demand concentration of their audience. So don't bombard them late into the day. Inform them when they are likely to be receptive. Give them time to ruminate, relax and rehash when they are not.

5) Avoid Downtime.
Start when you said you would start. Ensure that your technology is double-teamed and flawless. Provide a seamless experience with no unexpected downtime that interrupts the flow.

6) Believe.
Trust your speaker. If you have say Sir Tim Berners-Lee in a room (not that I'm talking from recent experience), you don't need to put him on a panel. That only distracts attention from what brought you an audience in the first place and leaves your audience bemused and disgruntled.

7) Dialogue Not Monologue.
The audience is there to listen to the speaker not the egocentric ramblings of questioners, so when you open up the conversation, insist that questions are limited to one sentence and start with an interrogative. Maximise the exposure of the speaker, minimise distractions.

8) Disintermediate.
Discussion works best when one person speaks and another responds to them, so don't invoke the inefficient democratistion of taking groups of questions. The questions will be forgotten and/or unanswered and the whole process requires the unnecessary expansion of a chairman's role as intermediary. Speakers can hold their own conversations.

9) Ensure Relevance.
Ban speakers from dissipating their initial impact by laying out the structure of their talk. It's good they know where they're going but it's a creative aid not an insight. Audiences want to hear what speakers have to say, not what they are going to say.

10) Demand Passion.
The speaker must want to be there and want to tell the audience something. Speakers who dial in their talks, hate the experience or merely restate the obvious in an obvious way are anathema. If they don't care, then why should the audience care about what they're saying?

Image via planebuzz

8 Comments:

Blogger Cynical Rob said...

This is going to come out wrong because it implies your other posts aren't very good [though some are shite, ha!] but this is a bloody great post and if you don't mind, I'm going to get a number of people to check it out because you have detailed why so many conferences are crap when the opportunity to make them not just memorable, but valuable - is there for the taking.

5:27 AM, July 16, 2008  
Blogger lauren said...

whereas rob only implies it, i'm going to say it outright - all your other posts are crap.

i jest. this one is absolutely brilliant, though.

[although you should change the title to just 10 Lessons about Conferences - scrap that marketing bit erm, make it history..].

6:09 AM, July 16, 2008  
Blogger Niko H (nom du guerre) said...

or get into the conference consulting business with russell davis, because this reads like the blueprint for interesting conference he did; time to disrupt the stat quo like cirque du soleil, but without the tights and crap frech canadians running the show

7:05 AM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

Niko - not far wrong. Both Interesting's were highly enjoyable and by far the best conferences I've attended, but if I'm being very picky fell foul of a couple of aspects listed here

5:09 PM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

Rob & Lauren What would I do without you guys?

5:10 PM, July 17, 2008  
Blogger Cynical Rob said...

Have the Samaritans on speed dial?

5:13 PM, July 17, 2008  
Anonymous Andrea said...

My verification word is 'jobaly' which sounds to me like 'job' and 'anomaly' a bit..that's a bit off-topic.

I think what bothers me most of all those things you talked about is downtime - speakers not being on time or technological downtime. "I made this on a mac, oh, wait, it has no file extension, what do we do, will it work, it's on my USB stick," etc.

I've found out that many people forget to have a backup plan which can be unnerving.

It should also be mentioned that the place you'll be speaking at is so important - the most boring conference I went to was in a badly lit place on the subject of ActionScript and other things and no one did anything about it. Could have taken a nap, as interesting as the presentation may have been...zzz no interaction with the medium :/

5:39 AM, July 23, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

I agree Andrea - it amazes me how many tech conferences are blighted by this.

12:44 PM, August 05, 2008  

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