Archive for July, 2009

European Summer Holidays

Today July 17th is my last day before the European summer holidays. It is the first year ever I take 4 weeks off. I know many people in the US will be jealous :-). I need it! I would like to have my ducks in a row to be ready for the upcoming challenges in order to be able to make a difference. I’ll be back mid August.

 And in the meantime don’t forget “Everything is amazing, nobody is happy”.

Don’t forget to appreciate the small things in life.

The Power of a Team

Yesterday I went to see “Sister Act” in the London Theatre District. After a slow start, the show really went off. Just amazing.

The thing that stroke my mind was “Whaw, what I see here is not just the actors on stage but really the power of a team”. From the sound people, the decorators, the amazing set and staging (just incredible, how fast, inventive, creative, flawless) to the actors on stage. This is only possible with a well-oiled machine and the chemistry between the people working on the production. Their hard work and tons of rehearsals all get to a climax when they receive their well deserved standing ovation at the end. That’s why they do it. That’s when they are proud to be part of the team. That’s why they go the extra mile.

Nothings come to live without the passion and chemistry between people. People make things happen. That’s also what drives me in this industry and where I get the most satisfaction. Never forget the people you work with, all of them!!

Events is not a Transactional Business

 This is just like sales. Where sales shouldn’t be the ultimate goal, the final transaction. No, sales should be the beginning of an ongoing relationship, an ongoing conversation. Sales is not spreadsheet management behind a laptop. Sales is a conversation between people, whatever the channel.

 Same with events. They are part of the marketing mix. They are an element of relationship marketing, not a transaction. A recruiting event (for ISV’s on a different platform, for potential new customers, for entering new markets) is the start of an ongoing relationship. Other events targeting existing customers and partners will/may have different objectives (knowledge transfer, brand connection, loyalty, community building, evangelism etc) as part of relationship marketing mix then recruiting events, they are part of an ongoing relationship. They are part of a conversation between people/companies.

 Companies who consider events as a transaction, miss the clue. Lead generation events need to have a clear connection with sales. There needs to be a handover point between marketing (responsible and accountable for the events) and sales for the pipeline follow up and continuing the conversation.

Rock Werchter: Live vs Online – What can we learn?

Rock Werchter – the best music festival in the world (according to the music industry) – came to end over the weekend. This 4-day event attracts 320.000 music lovers from 71 different countries (80.000 per day) with 56 bands performing, among which Coldplay, Metallica, Oasis, Kings of Leon to name a few.

The reason I refer to a rock festival on this blog is simply because it has many similarities to live and online conferences we are talking about here. In the end we are all part of the Event & Entertainment business.

The festival exists for over 30 years now and has become an incredible success story. Not over night but step by step, by re-inventing itself a few times with always the attendees in mind and a clear vision with a strong leader (Herman Schueremans). You can never underestimate the influence of an inspirational leader!

The event typically sells out by using their normal marketing channels. The brand is now so strong that (mostly Belgian) people (their target audience) simply know for years now, “the first weekend of July is Rock Werchter”. Period!

The organizers could stop there and enjoy. Job well done. But of course not. It doesn’t stop there. It doesn’t stop with the live experience itself. The website has links with most recognized social media sites. Fair enough. What I find more interesting is how they “compose” a kind of virtual online music experience. They don’t do it themselves. They connect with the local telco, hosters, TV channels to stream some of the performances (live and on-demand) on their websites. In this way everyone is happy; the organizers since their content scales and gets promoted for next year; all the others because they have valuable content for their own online channels.

What I especially liked this year is that they allowed the public TV channel to build a 3 hour program live on television when the topacts on Sunday evening where performing. They showed interviews with the artists, behind the scene stories, press people, crew, catering, VIP village, the campings etc. The things people (voyeurism) are interested in. Many people that are not attending but are still connected with the event (memories, “when I was younger”, university live) get a “Werchter” experience and at the same time it is the best marketing for the following year.

All these elements together; the live experience, the ” time-limited” online performance streams, the social media connections, the TV program, press coverage, behind the scene interviews etc. It is all part of this ONE WERCHTER. All part of the events marketing/entertainment mix. There is something for everyone.

What we can learn here is the integrated approach to ONE Werchter while the organizers are focussing on their 2 core business components: content – content – content (the best rock bands in the world) and a flawless execution. And all the other channels are taking care of all other aspects of the “there is something for everyone” by being allowed to bring what they do best (content around the actual music content). Clever win-win situation.

Werchter

Cisco Live Networkers: A Hybrid Approach

Last week Cisco Live Networkers took place in San Francisco. Cisco opted for a hybrid event approach; meaning a combination of a “live” event with a “virtual” component.

At the live event, content and interactivity are the keywords; keynote sessions, breakout sessions, expo area, ask-the expert sessions, hands-on labs, instructor-led labs, certification testing , social activities etc. “Knowledge is Power” is a well chosen tagline.

The virtual component – I intentionally write “component” – is not replacing the actual physical event. It is offering an alternative to people. I also see it as an extension where Cisco tries to bridge the gap between offline and online attendees to offer a full event experience beyond the actual live event dates in order to link people with the Cisco brand and products.

The live attendees get full access to the virtual component as an additional benefit, while premier subscribers of the online event get a 2 day full fledged virtual event and access to all sessions and content post event (same package as live attendees) and finally there is a guest entry to the online experience for free (you can see some content).

I clearly see value in these type of leveled offerings in order to reach more people and scale the content. It can help pay the platform investment while reaching more people.

The virtual component is built on the InXpo platform. It is the most extensive hybrid event I have seen so far. It is not just having taped content sessions, a resource centre, an expo area and a lounge area (the 4 traditional components of a live event). This one has more elements; a media and analysts area, links with social media to improve interactivity, blog center, a prize centre, a scavenger hunt. Some of these features can be categorized under one of the four traditional ones.

Most elements are an online representation of the live event component. From earlier posts you know that I am not convinced this is the holy grail in virtual event conferences. Though Cisco in this case adds Web 2.0 features and brings in the social media aspects. The virtual experience is a “website” on its own, where Cisco is playing in the Web 2.0 space.

I am quite sure a lot of work and thinking has gone into setting up and building the “experience”. How do you measure the return on investment in this case; the number of online premier subscribers, the number of guest subscribers, how many can you convert into the higher offering, how long do they stay online, how many interactions, feeding the pipeline, knowledge transfer, brand and product awareness etc.

Interesting. Evolution.