How do you know if it’s working?

Having worked in the world of conferences and events my entire working life (to date) I have seen many fads and fashions come and go. Sometimes these have been technology and gimmicks used for the sake of it – clients and producers just wanting to have the latest bleeding edge product. Sometimes it has been a theme or approach inspired by some topical event, TV series or film.(Although I do lay claim to pitching a client an X-Factor theme a good decade before the TV series landed!). Something else that arrived around the mid 90’s but has proved itself much more than a fad (quite rightly), is ‘measurement’.

Previously clients were happy with a good ‘gut feeling’ or a reasonable number of (metaphorical) slaps on the back as the measure of success of a conference or event. But ever increasingly powerful procurement departments decided that just wasn’t good enough any more; it was necessary to prove that objectives were being met, that the return on investment justified the cost, that events work!

Along the way they took a lot of the fun out of the business. Conferences and events by and large grew more sterile, less creative… but at least they had statistics, graphs and balance sheets that proved their value! But there is the problem;  a lot of dry data is produced which is often difficult to digest and even harder to interpret. And who really believes statistics anyway?

Last month I learnt there is an organisation out there called Fr3dom Health, that has realised the problem with this approach and that numbers alone are not enough! Not only that, they have developed a platform to provide a sophisticated quantitative and qualitative measurement service for event owners that goes way beyond the spreadsheet. We were contracted by them to produce video content to support the measurement of the success of a large Department of Health event Innovation Expo 2013. As Toby Knightley-Day, MD of Fr3dom Health puts it

“Its about telling stories”.

That’s music to my ears.

Here is Toby talking about the event…

After the Olympics

What next?

By the end of September “London 2012”, by which I mean the Olympics / Paralympics / Cultural Olympiad and all that good stuff that has so dominated the UK and London in particular over the summer will be a fading memory. It has been an amazing and emotional summer of sport, theatre and music that, much to the pleasant surprise of most Brits (and, it has to be said, against most expectations),  seems to have gone rather well!

We ourselves will be involved in the final event of the Cultural Olympiad on behalf of Peace One Day, when we live stream their concert from Wembley Arena on the 21 September via YouTube. This promises to reach a significantly larger audience than the concert that bookended the season back in June that we streamed live from Derry. This one features Elton John and James Morrison, along with Two Cellos and Peace One Day Ambassador Jude Law.  If you can’t be there in person – I think tickets are still available – then do watch at http://www.youtube.com/peaceoneday

But then the evenings will be getting darker… London will get colder and gloomier as winter approaches… oh no! But its not all doom and gloom; one bright event that I can recommend any business owner, current or aspiring, to attend takes place on Saturday 6 October is “Become a Key Person of Influence – 8 hour Brand Accelerator”
This event will assemble an all-star cast of high performing business leaders to share with you the exact sequence to follow if you have a skill, talent or message that more people should know about. Having taken part in the “KPI Programme” myself I can highly recommend this day.

The Olympics may be over, but there is going to be plenty of inspiration available on that particular Saturday.

Terminal terminology

I have seen two articles appear on the web in the past few days, both in ‘live events’ trade publications, that show there is still much confusion around all the different techniques and terminology that can be applied to creating an “on line life” for live event content. Whether that be streaming a seminar, conference or congress that already exists for a physical audience (often termed a ‘hybrid event’), or one that is created purely for a remote web audience (a ‘virtual event’.)

The first article I saw was by Alison Ledger, Editor of Haymarkets newly launched associationeventplanner.com which succinctly goes straight to the heart of the commercial sense of taking a conference on line. The second was on the website of ACE (The Association for Conferences and Events) which gives a much broader appraisal of different methods of creating an online experience from an audio conference call upwards. The title of this second article…

“Webcast, videoconference, telepresence, teleconference or virtual event???”

…and the fact it ends in three question marks, is for me symptomatic of the confusion that still exists around on line events even in the inside world of event planning and production.

When it comes to giving a conference an on line life, the clearest way to think of it, is replicating the experience (as close as possible) of being in the room. The remote delegate should be able to see and hear what the physical delegate sees and hears and (in an ideal world) actively participaties in questioning and commenting. Once that concept is agreed, we can get the terminology out of the way and the rest is simple.

Shout about it!

You have to be there!

Making bigger gains, whatever that might be in your particular circumstances is often dependent on one’s ability to reach a larger audience. Of course this is the fundamental principle behind advertising; spend to reach a large audience and then let the customer come to you, pre qualified. The key point is that the customer has to know you exist before they can purchase anything from you.

The same principle applies in web broadcasting; the target audience needs to be built, nurtured and promoted-to. It is no good setting up any kind of web broadcast and not preparing and informing your audience in just the same way as you would in setting up a face to face event. In fact you probably need to do a lot more, as without travel involved it is very easy to just not ‘show up’!

Just like the advertising analogy, your audience need to know your event exists and know how to join in – otherwise they won’t buy it. The right people are very unlikely to just come across your web broadcast at the right time without influence. And depending on your relationship with your audience that ‘influencing’ might be a case of telling, persuading, cajoling, telling again… yes shouting about it!

It is imperative your web broadcast is marketed effectively to your audience and they need to be totally informed as to when, where and how it will take place. They must make an appointment with your web broadcast, put it their diary, their Outlook, their Google Calendar, their iCalendar… just as if they were attending a physical conference.