I’ve written previously about the importance of carefully selecting which business conferences to attend and – more importantly – which to avoid. With an ever-tightening squeeze on marketing budgets and mounting pressure to “do more with less”, some event management companies face tough trading months ahead.
But not every player in the conference business needs to worry. Those companies who have invested wisely in great content and sought to give their delegates a great experience before, during and after every event should have nothing to fear.
The guys who should be worried are those event management businesses who routinely and deliberately fail to create great experiences for their delegates. Many of these organisations find themselves in what I fondly call the “event management cycle of despair” (right) where each poorly delivered conference leads to a subsequent more depressed event, where any scope for investment in great content is gone. These conferences and seminars are typified by an excessive reliance on sponsor companies, often hawking their wares from exhibition stands and being given speakers slots and a voice in panel discussions.
For the event delegates, this is almost tolerable if entry to the event is free and they came along hoping only to gather information from vendors. But if a delegate has paid for a ticket to the event or incurred significant cost and inconvenience to be there, it’s only fair that they should be rewarded with access to non-commercial, supplier-agnostic expertise, not sold at relentlessly like a captive blank cheque.
Why do I care about this? As a professional speaker (amongst other things) I’m often asked if I can speak at an event. And so begins a well-worn process where my agent or office explain what my speaker fees will be and why. I charge fees not because I’m greedy or unreasonable but to pay the bills, grow the company and feed my family. And I ensure that every penny of that investment goes into making sure the support I give to the event is as great as I can possibly make it. You shouldn’t expect anything less from a professional speaker.
Every once in a while I give a talk for free, often for groups or causes that I consider would really value my help. My internet safety talks to parents at UK schools are an example of this, but I can only afford to give away a small amount of my time like this so have to be highly selective.
What’s the solution for event companies spinning in the cycle of despair? Invest in content and great experiences for your delegates. There are lots of great speakers who are ready to share their expertise with your delegates but you only get what you pay for, as should the delegates who come to your events. Even if some events won’t turn an immediate profit, the inclusion of great quality speakers who understand that content is king is a smart way to escape the cycle of despair and start building a loyal base or repeat customers.
And if you’re a delegate wondering which conferences or training programmes to sign up to this year, think very carefully about how to invest your time. Look for independent, experienced speakers and events that seem tailored to support your organisation’s and your personal development goals. If in doubt, drop me a note and I’ll let you know what I think.