One of the best things about attending industry events is what my friend C.C. Chapman calls "hallway magic"—running to friends you had no idea would be there but you're incredibly happy to see.
Hallway magic was in full effect recently at the Y'all Connect conference in Alabama, where I ran into Mack Collier, author (Think Like a Rock Star), social strategist, and good friend of MarketingProfs.
Like many of our fellow marketing professionals, we attend quite a few conferences each year, either to cover them or to present, and we both really enjoyed Y'all Connect.
As we discussed what makes a conference worth the investment of time and money (and whether live events still matter with the advent of webinars), I realized that covering the issue on this podcast could help conference organizers better plan events and attract high-quality speakers, as well as help marketers make the most of their investment when attending conferences.
I invited Mack to Marketing Smarts to continue our conference confab! Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Smart conference organizers build in "introvert breaks" (04:32): "I think it's a difficult line for event organizers to walk. They want to put as much stuff in so that...people see...[the] value and they see there's constantly something planned, but at the same time there's something to be said for maybe putting in a block of an hour or two at the end of the day. For instance, I see a lot of events that the conference will end at 5 o'clock and...you go immediately into a two-hour reception and after that you might have a dinner plan or something. A lot of people just skip the reception because they need some time off...to kind of recharge."
Smart conference attendees plan ahead to get the most out of every event (06:09): "This is what a lot of attendees really don't do a good job of, I think. Just simply doing your homework and actually taking some time...to look at who's going to be there and what companies do they work for.... Is there anyone that's going to be there that I need to set up a meeting with, either to discuss something work-related? Or maybe I just want to grab someone and do a quick, ten-minute interview for my podcast. There's just so many opportunities to create content during the event that I think a lot of attendees...don't fully realize that."
As Andrew Davis says, "find a niche to get rich." (10:10): "There are too many general, one-size-fits all...conferences that are focused on social media.... There's too many people out there that are copying that format and still bringing out more conferences. We need to get away from having conferences that are focused on the general social media stuff. The real money and the real opportunity is in focusing on events that are tailored to a specific industry or a specific space, and it can even be a little bit broader. Something like the B2B Forum that MarketingProfs has. That's such a success because it's still a unique event. There's not a lot of events out there that are tailored to the B2B space....
"When you go to most of the general social media or marketing events, a lot of the discussion you hear in the hallway from attendees is focused more on the tools. 'How do you use Facebook? How do you use Twitter? What kind of results are you seeing with Instagram?' But when I started going to these industry-specific events, everyone was pretty much doing the same work, so the conversations...were focused more on strategy."
Mack and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Show opener music credit: Noam Weinstein.