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I’m a huge fan of the TED conferences. I find much of their content inspiring and I’m happy to spread the word by tweeting and blogging with links to their presentations. That’s good for TED as it helps increase their brand awareness and demand for their tickets.

My experience is that most conferences are not like TED.

Many conferences operate with the old school mentality that little or nothing is shared outside of the event. Of course, this reduces the potential impact of a conference’s marketing, sustainability and ultimate value. The opposite of the TED strategy.

Furthermore, (and this a pet peeve of mine) many speakers at many conferences think it’s ok to give sales pitches when the audience has paid (with their time and/or money) to gain insights. Except for talks explicitly centered around a company’s products or services and excusing a brief introduction that can include an elevator pitch, speakers at conferences are there as “knowledge brokers” first and company representatives second.

Our industry – whether that’s Place-Based Networks, DOOH, OOH, Location-Based Services, Digital Signage, Narrowcasting… is moving so fast we need more openness and sharing of best practices at conferences rather than sales pitches.

I’d like to promote the following three guiding principals in the interests of getting better and more valuable conferences.

1. Conference collateral (e.g. presentations, papers, videos) should be freely available and spreadable. I use Slideshare. You can find my conference presentations here and various other documents (white papers and articles) here. This is neither difficult nor expensive to implement.

2. Conferences should be as connected as possible. 1. Don’t ban or charge extortionate sums for WiFi! 2. Have real-time streams displayed on screens and websites displaying conference messages, related hash-tags and checkins. This helps promote and extend a conference’s impact and could even be up-sold to sponsors. Again, it’s easy and inexpensive and can more than pay for itself in terms of marketing and enhanced user experience.

3. Conference speakers should not be allowed to pitch on a stage set up to help educate, engage or entertain. Maybe a brave conference organizer could use a gong on stage – if a speaker pitches, they get gonged. That will definitely stop pitches!

I’m speaking at the following conferences in the coming weeks (and am happy to connect with you at any of those events or via email at srandall at locamoda dot com or via twitter stephenrandall):

- Geoworld Summit, May 12th 2011, Brooklyn, NYC
- ScreenMedia Expo 2011, May 18-19th, Earls Court, London
- Digital Signage Forum, May 24th Sydney
- Digital Signage Forum, May 26th Melbourne
- Digital Signage Forum, May 31st Auckland

I believe I walk the walk as well as talk the talk – so by all means, heckle me if you don’t agree!

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5 Responses to “3 Simple and Inexpensive Ways To Improve DOOH Conferences”

  1. Dave Haynes Says:

    Could not agree more, and it is why I rarely even try to attend presentations at the shows in my industry. It’s not why people attend and it’s not what the organizers intended.

    A positive note: I have been watching the live stream from MediaPost’s DOOH forum in NYC today and have not yet seen any shameless pitching by anyone. So it IS possible.

    That stated, the responsibility is really on the individuals who get mike time and while some are hopeless, oblivious knuckleheads, most know damn well what they are doing.

    Nothing bugs me more than keynote speakers who only have a slot because their company is a major sponsor. Keynotes should be about what people have to say, not how deep their pockets may be.

  2. Lawrence Dvorchik Says:

    Stephen:

    Like Dave, I could not agree with you more. I have been deeply involved with conferences and trade show educational sessions for the last 15 years, and one thing I can promise you is that we at CETW have always made it abundantly clear to all speakers that sales pitches will not be allowed in the educational environment.

    CETW’s Board of Advisors put a standard program into place many years ago for vetting speakers, mentoring both speakers and session chairpeople on the proper and acceptable way to present at CETW. The attendees are there to learn about the specific topic of the session. It’s the presenter’s responsibility to deliver that.

    We are very firm with the way we recruit speakers, and make sure that they deliver what the audience is expecting to be delivered, and more. Without the side of salesmanship.

  3. srandall Says:

    I’m happy to hear your and Dave’s support on this topic. I think it’s especially important for a show with the words Customer Engagement in its title to do everything possible to engage its own customers!

  4. Barnaby Page Says:

    All good suggestions, and here are another trio:

    4. Don’t preach to the converted. Most people at a DOOH event already think DOOH is A Good Idea or they wouldn’t be there; they don’t need gushy speakers hyping the medium or going over the basics yet again (unless the presentation is pitched as a DOOH 101 introductory session, of course).

    5. Acknowledge the downsides. DOOH is not a panacea for every single advertising, marketing and communications challenge. Recognising this gives speakers a lot more credibility.

    6. Don’t mention Minority Report. It is getting really, really tedious.

  5. srandall Says:

    Great points! I especially like #6. See “Why Minority Report Is Not The Future Of Out Of Home Advertising” which I posted in July 2010. Would love to ban mentions of QR codes too but let’s not get carried away!

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