Tony Compton, Managing Director
I can see it now.
It’s Sunday. That Football Sunday.
Come one February in the not too distant future, you’ll be watching the Big Game with friends and family. Burgers here, pizza there. Plenty to eat and drink for what has become an unofficial national holiday in the United States.
But instead of advertisers spending millions of dollars for 30-second television ads, prepare yourself to be sent just the content of any in-game commercials. More specifically, just the text of the scripts to all ads during the game. Maybe this content will be sent via text, maybe via email. For those not technically inclined, receiving a black and white sheet of paper with the script to each commercial in the regular mail is also an option.
On second thought, what the heck. Go ahead and add some color to the text, email, or snail mail to make the content look nice and visually appealing. I’ll even throw in some instructions on the top of the page to tell you how to interpret the script for yourself and how to add appropriate background music and relevant sound effects.
One note of caution: if you can’t keep up with multiple companies, sending you multiple pieces of somewhat-similar looking generic content during the game, too bad. You’re on your own.
The Next Day
Look around you. Industry calendars are filled with events that kickoff the day of, or the day after, the Big Game. (Pun intended.) But in the February of the future, there are no more industry events as we now know them. They’ll simply be known as industry collection points.
But hey, you still get to travel.
You’ll fight through the routine of business travel, budget the expense of registration, and invest in the time away from home and office to be at your event of the future. There’ll still be a three-day agenda. And yes, there’ll still be an exhibit hall. But much of this type of “event” will be unfamiliar territory to you.
Upon arrival at the convention site, your smartphone will begin to shake, rattle, and roll. Tracking technology will know when you’re on-site and will flood your device with all sorts of electronic, social, and real-time sponsored content welcoming you to the show. There’s some value there, but it could become overwhelming if not carefully orchestrated.
Next, as you officially register and pick up your badge, you’re handed another bag o’ stuff. More content, including a paper-based event agenda and more touristy stuff about how this city is the best city on the face of the earth.
Of course, the content burning up your smartphone isn’t coordinated with the 1980’s-era content in the registration bag, but who’s keeping track? I’m certain some other pieces of content will explain it all to you. Once you put down your briefcase and newly-acquired registration bag, and regain the feeling in your shoulders, everything will be fine.
Where are the Exhibitors?
In the content-exclusive event of the future, exhibit halls do remain. But instead of convention halls needing tens of thousands of square feet of space to accommodate trade show booths, all exhibitors will be housed in a 500 square foot meeting room. That’s because booths, and presentations, and people are not necessary. Since too many companies in the past didn’t take their exhibits seriously, each exhibitor will now be restricted to a touch screen on their own small, individual table. Attendees can still visit all exhibitors, but now you’ll have to scroll through individual corporate screens for content, and have anything of interest electronically sent to you. Printing out content will be at your own expense, of course.
Oh, I almost forgot… some exhibitors will have demos available to you on their corporate screen. So there’s that. But they’re silent movies, and it’ll up to you to figure out the demo for yourself. Remember, it’ll just be demo content, but given the way so many companies used to butcher their own demo presentations, it’s a dramatic improvement.
Lastly, if you have questions about a product or service and wish to speak with somebody from a exhibiting company, they may or may not be around. In any case, you’re kindly asked to fill out a form and send it in. Ideally, somebody will get back to you shortly after the event. Ideally. On-site reps really aren’t there to interact with attendees or help people. In the past, far too many companies didn’t take the time to prepare their employees for conversations with live customers or prospects. So now the only company rep on-site is supposed to make sure that the company screen is working, but even that may be outsourced to somebody watching over multiple exhibits.
Where are the Sessions, and the Presenters?
Surprise! In the content-exclusive event of the future, conference sessions also remain. But the presenters themselves are a thing of the past. Session rooms still exist, but nothing is in them except for a table with stacks of print outs of the slides that were to be used during that presentation. And a pot of coffee. Since the corporate logo, colors, graphics, and text on the slides are the only things that truly mattered to companies, there’s no point in investing in presenters, sessions, technical elements, and the audience accommodations needed to produce successful outcomes. Yes, there’s an environmentally-friendly electronic version of all presentation slides – and you can hang out in the session rooms if you’d like – but since content is all that’s needed in the future, content is all you’ll receive. And you have to go to each individual session over all three days to pick up the individual session slides you want.
(Note to event producers: add one touch screen in each session room so attendees can request the slides be sent to them.)
Your RSVP for this Future Event
Before we see the next Big Game, the calendar and the league schedule have to play out. Talent will need to be selected, coached, and prepared to take the field. Same goes for your business, but my guess is that you don’t have the benefit of a pre-season.
Content is important, and I value creative writing and business storytelling. And location-based technology can indeed produce real-time communications which, if timed correctly, are seen as valued and not intrusive. But vacuum-sealed content alone won’t produce the sales and marketing outcomes you seek.
Not in commercials.
Not in events.
Certainly not in any presentation.
But enjoy the game!