In a question posed by Greg Hackett on a LinkedIn group that we follow he asked “Can we have our cake and eat it” in the context of whether ambience or content should be the key driver in creating a successful event or if indeed it was important to have both.
There are some examples of venues that are so magnificent or exclusive it isn’t hard to pursuade delegates to attend, even at strange times of the day: for example a breakfast briefing at the House of Lords, London will draw in even the most hardened of industry hacks; and a conference on a hot-topic specialist scientific topic with an industry leading speaker could be held in a dusty lecture theatre with curly sandwiches and still attract a huge number of delegates. So this doesn’t really answer the question either.
However, one thing the group has been able to agree upon is that it is important not to flog the delegates with so much content that it becomes impossible to absorb all, or indeed any, of the information being imparted from the lecturn. This is one area where professional conference organisers and marketers can struggle. In an effort to create an event that is so compelling, so packed full of benefits and so worth having one or more days out of the office to attend it is possible to end up with such a multi-streamed, PowerPoint-packed programme that it becomes a nightmare to navigate and almost impossible to promote.
Erin Handel from Bankerstuff reinforces the point. She cites an example where promoting a five-session live-streaming event in a single mailing failed to deliver any results, but by breaking this down into five single streams, each of which could be marketed with their own specific messaging resulted in a significant number of bookings.
What this illustrates most clearly is a need to get back to straight-forward marketing techniques. In our eagerness (desperation?) to get individuals through the door we have got into the habit of bombarding potential delegates with as many benefits and features as possible. This only serves to hide the real message and make our job harder rather than easier. And to be honest sometimes we just sound desperate.
Greg asked the original question in the context of virtual events, where the debate continues about the complexity (or not) of the technology used to deliver the digital content. The very fact that the responses strayed so quickly back to comparisons with live conferences and the difficulties in marketing them only serves to illustrate that the disciplines driving both are very closely linked. Could it be that digital platforms enable organisers to add all of that extra-value content, for longer giving them (and the delegates) the breathing space to engage more thoroughly in the content and face-to-face networking opportunities provided by a live event?
Most important of all is to ensure that in embracing a new virtual medium we learn from, rather than replicate our existing experience. After all, who wants to go to an event where they are always serving the same cake?