The Art of Butts in Chairs

chairs I run a series of conferences. Logistically, they require the same things most conferences run on: great speakers, relevant exhibitors and sponsors, and eager attendees. The goal is to get the right speakers to draw the right attendees who might also be of interest to the exhibitors and sponsors. It’s a kind of ecosystem. It’s also not exactly the easiest business in the world. People don’t have a lot of budget to spend on attending events. Companies aren’t exactly sending them any more. It’s not all doom and gloom, but it does require more work than it used to, with regards to moving interested people from their office to my conference hall.

Some thoughts.

Be clear about the offer – I try hard to bring the best speakers for the specific content I’m trying to share with my audience. In my event, I’m looking to educate marketers, PR types, and companies representing brands on the theme of “From Strategy Into Action.”

Be open about the request – I try not to bury people in marketing for the event. I send out email marketing about once every two weeks (unless I have a technical accident). Beyond that, I’ll send a tweet every few days (currently around every 3rd day), and that’s about it. I try not to bury folks in advertising for it, but I’m very clear about my ask.

Be empowering – My goal with building events is to put the right people together in a room. I select my exhibitors and sponsors because I believe their tools are the right tools for some of the folks coming to the event. That’s on purpose. Bringing a guy like Chris Kieff from Ripple6 in contact with the kind of people who need what his company sells is exactly why we bother to do a face to face event. But just as much, it’s great to introduce someone who comes as an attendee to Tim O’Reilly or Charlene Li or any of the speakers we have coming. It’s important that we empower people to connect.

Extend the conversation – We’re looking at this right now. I’m selecting the right social platform to wrap around the event so that we can have conversations in and around the event, and not just at the event. The challenge is that no one really wants to join yet another social platform. They’re short term environments and don’t really live beyond the event walls very often. So, I’m looking for other ways to extend the conversation. Hash tags on each session as well as the event might help. Encouraging more flickr and Flip video usage will help. What else, do you think?

Empower Others to Reach Out – One thing I’ve yet to do for this event, but will ask soon, is I ask speakers to make sure to reach out to their constituent bases and invite people who might want to hear them speak. I also encourage exhibitors and sponsors to reach out to prospects. If it’s going to benefit someone to be at an event, I try to connect it all up. By giving speakers a few ways to reach out, I hope to bring the people who might want to gather a way to do so.

Outside of the Event – Sometimes, people can’t make an event for one reason or another. I think it’s always good to build something up outside the event. Some would argue that this might dig into the value of the event itself. Maybe. But I think more of the business networking happens during the event, in between the sessions, than at dinners and tweetups. Sometimes, it’s just nice to blend the location into the experience, and nice to connect with people who can’t make the event for whatever reason. Most events I attend these days have a non-related event like a Tweetup around them. I think it’s prudent.

What Else?

What else do you think face to face events need to have to be of value? What do you want from the events you pay to attend? Are you going to any conferences this year? What makes you choose which events to attend?

Photo credit, daveybot

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