You Attend an Event, You Own It

Tony Compton, Managing Director

Ah, Springtime. Another week, another round of “gotta be here” industry events.

Finding the activity from these events is easy. Just find event Tweet streams by hashtag or look on your LinkedIn profile page and eventually you’ll see all kinds of evidence from shows which span the globe: pictures, quotes, comments, etc. from attendees on the scene. Smiling pictures of people at the event are the norm, but pictures of booth giveaways, convention food, and the host city from a hotel room view are also par for the course.

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, the boss probably wants to know why you’re attending that event. I’m not talking about being an employee of a company sponsoring an event or a member of the corporate team producing the event. (Those attendees have their own separate challenges justifying their reasons for attending an event.) I’m talking about being a regular event attendee.

Oh, and let’s cut through the clutter about what an event is called. Trade Show, Convention, Conference, Summit, Workshop, Meeting, User Group… it’s all the same here. If you attend an event, you own your attendance.

So let’s get right to the point. The boss should want to know two things upon your arrival from your event attendance:

1. What did you learn at that event?

2. What were the business reasons you attended that event?

If I’m sitting in the boss’ chair, I’ll go one further:

3. Tell me what you learned, and show me the business reasons for attendance.

Do it without charts, a dashboard, slides, or electronics. And no paper printouts.


Note I wrote that the boss should want to know, vs. will want to know. Some just don’t give a damn. Bad boss, and maybe you should be the boss or your company should get another one who does give a damn. Or at least care enough to know why you attended that event, how much it cost, and what were the results.

But aside from a few platitudes, I wonder if many event-goers could articulate what they learned at an event, let alone speak intelligently about the business benefits, and results, shortly-after the conclusion of an event.

Here are some reasons why:

The Inactive Event Learning Experience

Go back to that event Tweet stream or review your LinkedIn profile and look at those event pictures. What do you see? Attendees sitting in sessions from keynotes to track breakouts. Some watch. Some listen. Many are playing on their electronic devices. Few learn little of anything. And when one session ends, it’s on to the next. Rinse and repeat. If an attendee has stuck around long enough for the last session on the last day, chances are they’re part of the dwindling group. Many others have left for the airport before the event concludes. It’s standard practice for the conference and trade show industry to conduct “educational” sessions this way. Tidbits are gained, and stories are told. But two or three days worth of cramming an information overload in this type of event format down the throats of stagnant audiences isn’t conducive to effective learning. I know ‘cause I’ve been there, done that…

Speaking of Keynotes…

So you’re an attendee sitting in Row 49 in the back of a crammed ballroom attempting to watch a keynote speaker. The speaker seems to be genuinely interested in delivering a good performance but is somebody using eye-chart graphics worthy of inclusion in the Ophthalmology Hall of Fame. More, the keynote session is wrapped around with cornball entertainment meant for others who clearly don’t get out of the house often enough. Exactly what would you say is of value in that cheesy and cramped ballroom setting?

Shopping, Anyone?

Are you attending an event to wander the exhibit hall and go shopping for your next piece of technology? Newsflash: you don’t have to. Vendors will come to you, at no cost to you. But hey, if getting endless sales pitches and gathering trade show junk that will go from a vendor’s booth, to your bag, to the nearest garbage can is worth your time and investment, have at it. But what are you learning from that exercise? And why are you paying for it?

Ill-Prepared Presenters

There are some phenomenal public speakers in business. But they are in the minority. Most speakers are more worried about the content of their presentation vs. their ability to communicate their content. They’re more concerned with slick slides than audience value, and the learning experience. The end result is a poor attendee experience where little is gained.

I’m all-too-aware that most speakers don’t prepare or adequately practice before their presentations. Heck, most don’t practice their communication skills at all – ever. Either out of fear, or arrogance, or laziness. And most companies do little or nothing to help. But you, the attendee, are still paying thousands to sit in those sessions and learn nothing. Nothing you can deliver with confidence back in the office.

You Attend, You Own It

So be prepared to answer what you learned, and describe in detail the business benefits of your attendance. Because all of that vendor stuff you brought back with you on the plane doesn’t count. Neither does your electronic file of endless slides. Nobody is going to read those. Those pictures of smiling people at the registration counter don’t count. And that smartphone video of the entertainment act is worthless.

If I’m the boss, and you just spent four days out-of-the-office attending an event to the tune of thousands of dollars, you’d better come prepared on Monday morning with clear, concise, concrete answers about your attendance. But taking a look at what I’m seeing on these Tweet streams, what’s going to be learned is that event attendees aren’t really learning anything useful at all – except how to spend money and create excuses for being OOO.

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Exposing a CMO’s Worst Fears

Tony Compton, Managing Director

I can’t sing. Not yet, anyway. I suppose if I apply myself to a few singing lessons, I may be able to work my way through a few tunes. Country music, or tunes with a lot of Issac Hayes-type soul, perhaps… Sure, I can sing along in my car to my favorite songs from The Police to The Monkees, and I even mouthed along to an all-too-appropriate Tom Petty song while driving on a sunburnt Interstate 75 in Northern Florida yesterday afternoon, but still, I’m challenged in the singing department. For now.

A few years back, my then-girlfriend and I caught a New York City Broadway performance of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54. (The famous 70’s club has been converted into a theater.) As expected, it was a outstanding production, and the performances were phenomenal. What struck me the most is how the actors could voice an appropriate British-accent (they’re not all the same, you know) and sing at the same time. And not just sing, sing well. Broadway performance in Midtown Manhattan well.

Days after the show, I mentioned this to friends when one innocently stopped me and said “That’s what Broadway actors do. They’re trained. They practice and prepare for their performances.” A spot-on observation, and I applied that to the working world of marketing.

Because so much is expected out of marketing, yet so little is done to ensure a world-class, top caliber performance in each and every aspect of the department. And exposing this is exposing a marketing leader’s worst fears.

Broadway actors are never, ever, just thrown out on the stage, yet it’s done to marketers all the time. In more ways than one:

1. Public Speaking and Presentations

Ok, way too obvious, but this topic works in the lead-off spot. Chief Marketing Officers are so damned worried about digital this, and content that… That the key element of a marketer’s ability to stand and deliver messages and value props – without electronics – is never coached, trained, or nurtured. Yet all are expected to deliver world-class audience grabbing performances when they take stage. Any stage. But without adequate practice and preparation, how is this supposed to happen?

By the way, the power went out at 7:00 am in my Central Alabama business class hotel this morning, It was out for over an hour. If your marketers had a meeting with a prospect or customer this morning at 8:00 and had to present in a dimly sunlit room with no slides, tablet, smartphone or laptop, what would they do? How effective would they be on their own – on the fly? Would they bag their performance, use the obvious excuse, or still nail it?

2. Voice and Video Production

You read about the dominance of video marketing and hear about it every day. And now you’re treated to the daily drip of stories that highlight how ‘voice’ is the new User Interface.

I don’t have to look, and I can cover my ears to know that your marketing leadership and your internal teams are totally unprepared for either.

Somehow, somewhere, amateur hour has taken over and it that reminds some of the way Kinescope was used in the early days of television.

In plain language… It’s unacceptable to thrown garbage in, and expect an audience-grabbing, lead-generating, groundbreaking programming to come out on the other side. No, it’s not acceptable to put two people in an echoing back office and stick them on camera. No, it’s not acceptable to put a boring four-person panel discussion on a streaming media feed and expect people to watch. No, it’s not acceptable to throw digital marketers at a problem when they’re concerned with keywords and search engines and have zero experience coaching talent.

And, no, you’re not going to want Siri, or Alexa, or whatever generic voice Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, or Facebook offer to vocally represent your business.

Sticking somebody from your marketing team in the back office with a smartphone camera and its microphone headset won’t cut it. It never did, and it never will.

Video and voice are here to stay at the center of your marketing efforts. They impact everything from Product Information Management to the Customer Experience; from branding, lead generation, data gathering and usage, to marketing, communication, service, and customer loyalty; and from strategic investments, to financial management, to corporate profitability.

3. Sales Enablement

Instead of “Love and Marriage” Frank Sinatra could have sung an updated version of his Married with Children theme song using “Marketing and Sales Enablement”. (Although the syllables are way off. I can’t get it to work with the music in my head.) But you get my point. How are marketers expected to enable sales without understanding what salespeople need and want to be enabled, efficient, and effective? Meaning… marketers aren’t spending time with salespeople in the field. Hell, they hardly spend time with them in the office. And if the entire operation if virtual, forget it. Disconnected marketers sitting in a room somewhere cut-off from the daily sales efforts of people grinding it out is a recipe for disaster. Yet, marketers are supposed to be great sales enablers? How? When exactly does this transformation take place? Again, marketers are thrown ‘out there’ and into sales enablement with unrealistic expectations.

4. Digital Marketing

This one I’ll take in reverse. Just as you’ve seen widely-used, common job descriptions for ‘product marketing’ positions, and the often-published stories of video and voice dominance, now comes the onslaught of ‘digital marketing’ careers. But there are two problems with this. One, digital marketing positions usually aren’t just digital marketing positions, and two, if any positions are truly just digital marketing positions, those people are in trouble. Big trouble.

In my experience, ‘digital’ marketing will inevitably include some, if not all of: lead and revenue generation, creative writing, sales enablement, managing trade shows and events, managing marketing automation, social media and CRM systems, leading internal meetings, staff supervision, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training and coaching, content production, public speaking, financial management, departmental strategy, product launches, media and analyst relations, etc… Of course nobody is preparing digital marketers to handle much of that list – one that barely scrapes the surface.

Calling somebody a digital marketer nowadays is largely inaccurate. Their work will encompass more than heads-down Internet and social media work on a laptop. But it seems as if labeling marketing positions as merely ‘digital’ is the new hip comfort zone of HR everywhere.

They’re wrong. And preparing nobody for all that those ‘digital’ positions require.

Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. The many discrepancies in how marketing is being handled today don’t really need to be pointed out to expose a CMO’s worst fears. It’s not that the marketing team hasn’t been prepared to be public speakers or outstanding presenters, or that they’re not up to the physical, creative, or technical demands of streaming video production, event management, and vocal user experiences. It’s not the unreasonable expectation that marketers are automatically supposed to be sales enablers in a vacuum or that digital marketing is more of a title-in-name-only function.

I think exposing a CMO’s worst fear would be to secure a speaking spot on a Broadway stage and ask for a two hour performance, without the opportunity to rehearse. No prep, practice, rehearsal before going on stage. In fact, this is a good way to expose the worst fear of most anybody on the executive, board of directors, and investment teams.

After all, if a marketer can be thrown into any one of a number of situations without adequate preparation, practice, coaching, training, rehearsal, or resources before being expected to crush a task or performance, why shouldn’t senior leadership be expected to do the same?

Somethings can be outsourced, but marketers are being sorely short-changed by companies when its employees are not afforded the investment and opportunity to do their jobs well.

No Broadway actor would take the stage and sing without daily hard work and preparation.

No senior-level executive would give a speech or presentation without practice and rehearsal.

But marketing is expected to perform at equally high levels with little or no help, across-the-board, in numerous assignments.

While you think about that, I have to hit the road. It’s a beautiful day in the Southern USA, and it’s time for the open road and some traveling music.

And another chance to work on my singing voice…

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The CEO-CMO 1:1 Post-Event Stress Test

Tony Compton, Managing Director

One business week after any trade show, conference, or regional event concludes, a 60-minute 1:1 meeting between the CEO and CMO should be held. Not a 61-minute meeting, or 90, or 120. 60 minutes, and a not one second more.

Of course, the CMO can (and should) prepare for this meeting and have notes, but no slides, computers, or mobile devices. No technology whatsoever. A whiteboard or a flip chart with markers is acceptable.

During that meeting, the CEO should ask the CMO:

  • All-in, what did it cost us to do that event?
  • How do those costs breakdown?

…tell me about our sponsorships, exhibits, travel, marketing, content, and event technology.

  • What quantifiable business benefits did we get out of that event, for that investment?
  • How many qualified business opportunities were sourced from that investment?

…tell me about them: by industry, region, products, services of interest…

  • What are those revenue opportunities worth?
  • Who is following up on those opportunities?

…how and when?

  • How many qualified business opportunities were helped by that event?
  • Who is following up on those opportunities?

…how and when?

  • How many leads were sourced from that investment?
  • Who is following up on those leads?

…how and when?

  • Which accounts and customers did we strengthen – and protect – by attending?
  • What’s the economic value of those accounts?


  • Are all of the event leads, opportunities, and new contacts in our CRM/CX/Marketing/Customer Service tools?

…including all relevant individual contact and account information?


  • What was our partner involvement in the event?


  • Do we have the content and technology to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in follow-up?
  • Can those in sales and marketing pursuits effectively communicate, and close business?

…without using technology?

  • If not, what do we need, why, and how much will it cost?
  • What will sales say about what you just told me about the business benefits of that event?


  • How effective was our exhibit hall booth, and other branded/supporting locations on-site?

…how do you know?

  • What did we do to drive show attendance, and promote our appearance at this event?
  • How was traffic in our company locations, and the number of visitors?
  • What were there job titles? …from which companies, in which regions, in which industries?
  • Which days and what hours did you work staffing the booth?
  • Which show provider shipped, installed, dismantled, returned, and is storing the physical elements we used?
  • Who from our team helped them before, during, and after the show?
  • Is that company doing a good job?
  • Do we need any additional external event professionals to help produce our next event appearance?


  • How many staff members did we send to that event?
  • What were their specific, individual, on-site responsibilities?
  • Did any of our people speak or present at the event?

…about what topic and with whom?

  • What did their session evaluations reveal?
  • Did you attend our sessions?
  • How many general attendees were in attendance in their sessions?
  • What questions did they ask our presenters?
  • How did our presenters prepare for their sessions?
  • Were our session attendees welcomed at the door by our staff?
  • What did those interactions reveal, and what intel did we gain?
  • What additional market, prospect, customer and competitive intelligence was gathered at the event? …how did you gather that information?


  • What did you personally learn about our industry/marketing/other business areas?
  • Which members of the media did you meet on-site?
  • Did you meet with any industry analysts at the event?


  • What worked and what didn’t work for us at this event?
  • How about for the event itself?
  • Could we have achieved similar results by just sending one or two people to attend?


  • When is next year’s event and where is it being held?
  • Did you sign a contract for next year’s event?
  • Why, and how much will that cost, and when is the first payment due?


  • When is your next meeting with sales about following-up on this show’s activity?
  • Which customers and prospects from the show will you be seeing first, and when?


  • When will you share these event results with the sales, marketing, executive, and general company teams?
  • How are you going to do that?
  • How are you thanking each of your event team members for their personal contributions?


  • If you could brag about any of your colleagues, customers, vendors, or partners who helped to produce and deliver a successful event, what would you say?

Time’s up.

This is a general list that I broke up into sections on the fly that assumes the CEO didn’t attend the most recent corporate event. Not a big deal. There are a few other assumptions, too. But it really doesn’t matter. As you read through this list, you can modify the wording if the CEO did attend the event and make any necessary adjustments in the line of questioning. And if the CMO didn’t attend the most recent event, bigger problems may exist. I would expect most any CMO to attend major company events.

That’s enough for a rapid fire, post-event, 60-minute stress test meeting between a CEO and a CMO. Yes, this back and forth can be achieved in an hour. It’s one hell of a stress test.

The Chief Marketing Officer needs to know the answers to those questions well beforethis meeting. If the CMO doesn’t, or doesn’t want to know, get a new CMO. The Chief Executive Officer should want to know the answers to each and every one of those questions. If the CEO doesn’t want to know, get a new CEO. And if sales doesn’t want to cooperate with marketing (and vice versa) find new business leaders who will implement the lead and revenue-generating processes required for success. You know the process, where sales and marketing actually work together.

I’m sure #sales, #marketing, and #event professionals can add to the list I provided. While you do that, I’ll work on a rapid-fire list of questions investors can ask CEOs about their marketing and event activities, and a third list of questions sales leaders can ask marketers about business development, #content, #communication, and enabling #technology at the end of any quarter.

Oh, and if it looks as if marketers are being given the excessive third degree about the business results of their activities, damn right. They should be.

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You Forgot that Attendees are People

Tony Compton, Managing Director

Some of you are heading to a large #tradeshow in San Francisco. Or Chicago. Maybe Vegas. Some of you have already done your time at your big industry event this Fall. (That’s alright, there’ll be other shows.) And for a few frequent-fliers, it’s a different show every week.

Some of you work for a company that is sponsoring, exhibiting, and sending a sizable team to your next event. It’s all part of a major #sales and #marketing investment that some feel compelled to make, yet they won’t be able to even begin to measure the results of the expenditures the day they return to the office. Some of you will just attend your next event, possibly at little or no cost.

Your company may be one of those cluttering my LinkedIn home page feed with message after message inviting me your event, to see your booth, to watch your demo, and come to your party, so that you can market and sell me your products and services.

In the crush of these never-ending messages, open invites, and posts, I must be missing something. Has a company sent an invitation around an upcoming event to hear what attendees are facing? To listen, learn, and truly understand what’s keeping them up at night? To take a moment and relate, and to demonstrate that their staff knows the business of the attendeestheir industry challenges, and their problems?

My imagination sees your defensive posturing as you read this post. And I’m sure you really do believe that you listen to your customers and prospects. I have no doubt that sometimes you do. But in the crush of the “hey look at us” messages leading up to an event, I wish companies would extend themselves at make room for time to talk to attendees. Not at a party. Not at a hospitality suite. Not a fancy dinner. Not at a session or in a demo hall. I get the need (desire) to do all of those, but find room to just sit and talk to listen and learn.

I’ve learned to two lessons, one over the course of 30 years, the second in the course of the last two months. Both are applicable to your next trade show appearance. And mine.

I called downtown Chicago home for over 20 years. Before that, I went to college in the city. And for the longest time I used to say if I had an information booth on a street corner and charged one dollar to answer a local question, I could make a fortune. That’s because I continually get stopped and asked for directions, and help. For advice on where to eat. Which bus to catch. The nearest subway station. But I soon realized that it would be counterproductive to have an information booth. People weren’t coming up to me and asking me questions because I had a booth with a giant question mark on the front. It was because my appearance led them to believe that I was knowledgable, credible, friendly, local, and able to help. It didn’t matter if I wore a suit and tie and carried a briefcase, or wore shorts and a t-shirt with a backward baseball hat carrying groceries. People asked for help, and I was glad to provide it. No booth, logo’d shirt, or #conference badge required to provide the value, solution, relief, and happiness I provided. Downtown Chicago was my #exhibit hall, and my fellow pedestrians were attendees. Which brings me to my next story.

One Friday evening this summer, I was driving northbound on Interstate 75 in northern Florida when a thunderstorm struck. Those who have travelled along the Gulf Coast in U.S. will know the smell of the humid air, and the sight of the towering clouds, fat lightening bolts, and torrential rain.

This was Mother Nature’s trade show, and her rain made it feel as if I was driving through a car wash. My fellow motorists and I were impromptu #attendees of this natural event: all on the same path, facing the same problems, looking for answers and reassurance that everything will safely work out.

The immediate option for safety was to pull into a rest area between Gainesville and Lake City, Florida. As I did, a steady stream of cars and trucks began to flow into the rest area behind me. After parking, my next decision was to make a run for a covered area at the center of the oasis. Though the dash took only fifteen seconds, the result was a drenching. I took a shower with my clothes on.

Now picture the scene. I sprinted to a location that resembles a car port. An open-air overhang, behind a State of Florida information booth. Individual bathroom entrances flanked the sides, roughly 20 feet apart. I stood underneath, dripping wet. Then the most interesting thing started to happen, and I didn’t have to say a word to start any conversation. Fellow drivers saw me, and started talking to me. Mostly one-by-one. They knew I was a fellow motorist caught in the storm. But instead of going to visit the man in the Information Booth, I became the source of information, and a courteous ear. One woman quizzed me about stopping because she had to convince her boyfriend to pull over for safety reasons. A truck driver with a thick southern accent gave me the low down on an accident on the Interstate that had shut down traffic. Still another snowbird wearing his best golf shirt and shorts engaged in conversation. All the while the man in the information booth went undisturbed. I spoke with people from many walks of life because we were sharing a common experience. Like in downtown Chicago, I looked as if I understood what others were facing, would listen, and help, if needed. But this time, I was one of them. We were all in it together.

No booth required.

No pressed logo’d collared shirt required.

No demo required.

No money required.

None of this would have happened to me either in Chicago or Florida if I was disengaged, continuously yapping on my cell phone. Or if I remained in my (booth) car. Or if I didn’t bother to listen, learn, and help. Or take the initiative when I saw somebody unfold a 50-year old paper map while wanderingly my neighborhood. Or smile when a fellow motorist came in out of the rain.

What does this mean for your next trade show?

Here are some hints:

Be Approachable

You’re not attending a show to impress people with the image of you conducting big business on your phone. You’re there to add value to the attendee experience and your business relationships. Put the phone down and be approachable. Close the laptop, too.

Listen to the Attendees

Create scenarios in order to listen and learn from attendees away from the crush of the event activities where you can see each other and hear each other talk.

There is no dress code for this.

In the sea of collared company shirts, business casual sport coats, and pressed khakis, be different. Stand out, professionally. People talked to me while I was soaking wet, dressed for business, the gym, and everything in between.

I bet the State of Florida spent a ton of money on building their information booth, and staffing it. Chances are your company is doing something similar at a trade show this Fall. But if you’re going to the show, make sure you remember your audience is the attendees. And they’re people. After all, the event is for and about them, not you.

Make sure each and every one gets the time and attention they deserve.

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Seven Audiences Itching to KO Marketing

Tony Compton, Managing Director

It’s time for a marketing ego check.

It’s time for a marketing ego check because audiences can, and will, bring arrogant marketing back down to Earth in an instant.

It’s a great time for marketing to be humbled. And deservedly so.

An Overflowing Industry Cup

So, which marketer hasn’t miraculously solved the problems of maintaining an impeccable customer database? Of implementing an octopus-like marketing automation solution that seamlessly ties all CRM, web, and social media tools together in an easy-to-understand, cost-effective, and low-maintenance fashion? Of creating and disseminating content that cuts through clutter and positions a team as expert storytellers capable of generating countless qualified leads and opportunities? (Even though few actually work with their colleagues on the personal communication skills needed to be effective storytellers…) Of designing and executing truly unique event experiences? Of filling the sales pipeline with more revenue-generating opportunities than any one team can handle?

The list of proclaimed marketing accomplishments is endless. And it matches the bravado audiences endure every single day by far-too-many self-centered marketing departments.

Your Audience Is Keeping Everything In Check

I know you’re doing a great job in marketing. All I have to do is watch and listen to your self-promotion. But I’ve leaned that as soon as you start drinking your own Kool-Aid, becoming too full of yourself, and becoming too big for your britches, the audience universe places a much needed wake-up call.

A nod to the audiences. All of them. Thankfully, they’re keeping overhyped marketing bravado in check.

So I’m writing this to give you a heads up. A warning. Let your marketing ego run wild, and you, too, will soon discover how an audience can snap anybody back to reality in an instant.

Sometimes, it’s when you least expect it. Usually, marketing is the last to know.

The Seven Audiences Itching to KO Marketing

1. Sales

This audience includes all those in inside sales and external business development.

It’s appropriate that we’re nearing March 31, because it’s usually near the end of a quarter when the separation between sales and marketing is most pronounced. Salespeople are fighting for deals. For revenue. For their jobs and livelihood. Marketing is notorious for being oblivious during this time, even absent. Nevertheless, marketing is infamous for claiming numerous accomplishments throughout any given quarter. But while marketing is reporting an abundance of qualified leads, opportunities, and meetings driven from content and social media campaigns that were supposed to be helpful, sales may not see the world the same way. While marketing was playing online, sales wanted partners to interact with prospects in-person. Sales didn’t want an avalanche of 1000 names on a spreadsheet, they wanted a highly-qualified group of targeted accounts. They wanted customized content, case studies, and personal communication skills they can immediately use. They didn’t want to be hung out to dry, directed to an internal portal or an overblown and outdated company website to rummage through years-old material. Sales wants to spend their time closing new business, not wasting it on the dissection of incomprehensible marketing programs.

But they’ll never tell marketing how they feel until it’s too late.

It’s not easy for marketing to keep sales happy.

Experience will teach you that one.

2. Customers and Prospects

Rarely do I inject politics into my posts, but there’s something I want to share in this one. This past week, I watched Dennis Miller on The O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel. Dennis compared the anti-establishment voting pattern in the Republican Party’s U.S. presidential primaries to the recent challenges faced by the fast-food chain Chipotle. Each was making their own customers sick. I understood the point, and laughed.

While marketing shouldn’t make their customers or prospects sick, it frequently does the very opposite of maintaining healthy business relationships. Spamming customers, neglecting prospects, and allowing data to spoil have become pandemic. Ever receive a nonsensical and poorly formatted email? With another name at the top? How about a snail mail box filled with postal junk?

Ever unsubscribe to KO a company’s ability to market to you?

You bet you did, and so have I.

3. Executives, Investors, and Board Members

Some in this group just don’t understand marketing, so instead of trying to knock it out, many executives, investors, and board members simply try to keep marketing in a box and at arm’s length. This audience usually just wants the facts: leads, opportunities, marketing-sourced revenue, expenditures, etc. There’s little room for creativity, and it’s generally a waste of time to try to explain it to those who have no interest. For some, marketing will never have a seat in the boardroom. Many in this audience don’t view marketing’s wonderful achievements the same way those in the department do. But two problems immediately arise in this scenario. The first is this executive audience’s pre-disposition that marketing isn’t strategic, while the second is that anything marketing is the first to be put on the chopping block when times are tough.

Both perspectives are grossly short-sighted.

For those executive teams that believe that marketing is purely a robotic, social, and online tactical cost center, they couldn’t be more out of touch. The marketing function has become the most strategic function under the corporate umbrella. Marketing strategy should provide a quantitative and qualitative foundation with business rationale for all corporate initiatives, including product development, business development, human capital, partner communities, global alliances, economic investments, and marketing program execution.

Marketing has, in fact, taken the internal lead at many forward-thinking companies. Unfortunately, for those stuck under the jurisdiction of laggards, marketing will continue to be undervalued and ignored until it’s knocked out in the financial cross-hairs.

4. Analysts and The Media

I’ve enjoyed meeting every analyst I’ve ever encountered. And I’ve developed great relationships with many in the media. But let’s be honest. Analysts have their own personalities, and especially their own opinions. So do many within the media. Contested debates and heated discussions with these audiences are common. Keep in mind that we’re not all wired the same way. Even though you may love your product, and everybody is friends with everybody else, analysts will never automatically see things the way you do. They will (and should) professionally challenge you about your product, customer base, and revenue accomplishments. Same thing for reporters. They’ll ask any one of a number of questions about your company and its products, services, and performance. And each member in this audience will definitely see through any of your spin.

For those dealing with any analyst or member of the media, if you turn up weak, unprepared, or arrogant, do so at your own risk. Your marketing efforts will be knocked down and you’ll be out in the first round.

5. Partners

How many of your partner companies are exclusively your partner? That’s right.
I haven’t run across a company yet that didn’t have multiple partners, if they had any at all. Each partner in that utopian alliance ecosystem of yours is competing for the same things: a greater attention of sales team mindshare, that five-six-or-seven-figure piece of business, and a seat at the table when the multi-pronged solution is built by the contract-winning vendors.

All partners will want in on any new deal. Many want control. Don’t kid yourself. If two or more competing partners are working on the same pursuit, the competition will ramp up. Your friends, er, partners will become your competitors and attempt to knock you out. Your marketing, sales enablement, and positioning within partner communities will come under heavy fire.

And there are few answers to this problem to be found in heads buried in online and social media channels, disconnected from the challenges of marketing into complex channels.

6. Competitors

Sometimes it’s behind the scenes. Sometimes it’s out in the open.

Your competitors are looking for the knockout punch every chance they get. Your approach to the market will be scrutinized by multiple competitors. Some will pick apart your content. Some will discredit your people. Some will steal from you. Some will team up against you.

All competitors are trying to put you out of business. (Or at least they should be.)

Whether it’s behind the scenes or in public, always remember that there are those who are trying to take your customers, your market share, and your revenue.

The competition is out there, waiting, and itching to exploit any opening to KO your marketing.

7. Event Attendees

(This audience is a blend of all of the above, but astute marketers would never allow competitors to attend their owned and operated corporate events.)

Today, every event must be about the attendee experience. And while far too many event producers – and their companies – embrace worn-out formats of past trade shows, conferences, and meetings, a different type of event attendee awaits. This new breed of event attendee demands more. More than classroom-style seating in cavernous convention centers. More than panel discussions with ill-prepared speakers in oversized, energy-sapping lounge chairs. And more than what was once an acceptable investment of time, energy, travel, and resources that’s turned into another event filled with mediocre demos and presentations, thinly veiled sales pitches, and pedestrian content of little practical use.

There’s an ample supply of event marketers who point to the diminished tangibles of their now run-of-the-mill events. Unfortunately for them, event audiences are looking for more. More meaning. Better content. Upgraded learning opportunities. And an event experience unlike anything they’ve ever witnessed.

Arrogant Marketing Should Expect to Be Humbled, or Even KO’d

If you think you know your audiences, check again. If you think you know your buyer persona, check again. If you think you know your buyer’s journey, check that again, too.

Don’t ever assume anything your audiences. Work hard to address all of them, and do so ruthlessly. But don’t ever think or act as if you know it all.

Because when you least expect it, an audience will KO your marketing efforts for any one of a number of reasons.

Unless you professionally hit ‘em so hard first with valued, innovative marketing, that they’ll always think twice about ever throwing that counterpunch.


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10 Ideas for Immersive Corporate Events and the Next-Generation Audience

Tony Compton, Managing Director

The other day I saw a picture. You may have also seen it. I’ve seen similar versions of the same picture a thousand times. And so have you.

It’s that picture of a business classroom setting. Rows of classroom style tables and chairs occupied by wide-eyed smiling attendees gazing at an instructor leading a session and standing next to a white board with faint scribbling on it.

Briefcases, purses, notebooks, pens, and all sorts of electronic extras decorate the meeting room. I’ve sat in that meeting room. Chances are so have you. On occasion, I’ve stood in front of that room to deliver a presentation. Maybe you have, too. Maybe you haven’t.

All good, well-meaning, people in that room. Attendees (customers) likely have paid to be there. The instructor is (hopefully) armed with knowledge, information, and an idea about what the audience will learn from the presentation. All are investing their time.

I’m certain you know about the business picture that I’m describing. It takes on different shapes and sizes. It can apply to any event, no matter how large or small. It’s intent is to demonstrate the value of an event which has just concluded, or convey the importance of an event that’s about to take place. After all, you see attendees diligently taking notes during a session embedded in an industry event which promises to unveil game-changing solutions that can be found nowhere else. Something important must be happening! Maybe. But the slog through another traditional three-day event of session, note taking, session, multitasking, session, lunch, session, reception, session, exhibit hall, session, airport has become outdated. There are better, more exciting methods to valued learning, content sharing, information retention, personal performance and event outcomes.

Performance Measures and Event Outcomes

Whenever I’ve produced a corporate event or have participated in one as a marketer from a sponsoring company, the primary objectives were clear: uncover new business opportunities within the current customer base, discover new opportunities outside the install base, help protect the current customer base and its revenue, and do so cost-effectively. That’s why time, money, and resources are invested. Yes, there’s a multitude of additional and very important objectives for any event which includes logistics, customer satisfaction, travel, alliance nurturing, etc. but the main goal of any event is to produce opportunities, generate demand, and secure downstream revenue. But while setting attendees adrift through three-days of a generic corporate event can produced some results, this approach has turned far too many programs into a global comfort zone of tedium. So many are so eager to overemphasize content lectures over learning, retention, and usage that the audience experience suffers. And it’s become a pandemic reoccurrence across industries, and companies.

When I look at that business picture of the hotel meeting room-turned-classroom,
I know. I know from experience that some (a handful) are actually paying attention.
I imagine a subset of that group will attempt to put presented solutions into practice. Conversely, I also know that a large portion of the audience is simply going through the motions. Through the motions of registration, travel, attendance, exhibit hall window shopping, and event expense reporting. Hard to find in that picture will be the attendee who isn’t distracted by some sort of electronic device. Easy to recall is the wear and tear on all attendees who are unreasonably expected to immediately implement newly-acquired subject matter on a moment’s notice upon their return to the office. And what you don’t see in the picture is all-too-common: salespeople on the periphery of every meeting room, trade show booth, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner activity with business cards in hand and account plans in mind.

Been there, done that.

I’ve produced multi-day commercial business conferences. I’ve sponsored and exhibited at large trade shows. I’ve hit the road for half-day, regional, owned and operated corporate events. But times have changed, and it’s time for a new combination of evolved content, instruction, and learning for next-generation events, involved audiences, and advanced outcomes.

Here are 10 next-gen ideas to consider:

1. Design a Radically New Event Experience

Instead of three-days of hotel-classroom-style seating in front of 15 presentations, add to – or change – the event environment. I’ve kicked around the idea of a week-long event that shares content ahead of time, then asks an audience to get on its feet to work with the content throughout the event itself. Instead of meeting rooms, cycle teams through a voice recording studio, video or television studio, or soundstage. Use material throughout a process which builds content that can presented, and retained, by the audience. Don’t lecture content, share it, and guide its usage on-site. Personal communication skills (especially on video) have never been more important. Tap into the trend.

2. Be Selective in Inviting Your Audience

Not discriminatory, but selective. There’s a difference in an attendee who only wants to travel to Vegas, sit in the back of the meeting room, see a show, and then go home, versus an next-generation attendee who wants to actively participate in a multiple day event which will enhance personal communication performance, information retention, storytelling abilities, and solution-developing skills.

3. Include New Instruction (and Instructors)

Frequently, event attendees are treated to an educational platform of product managers, sales leaders, technical engineers, solution marketers, and corporate executives. Some of those experts just love hearing themselves talk; few actually prepare for their sessions because the task of communication readiness is beneath them and they don’t feel as if they need to put in the work. (Wake me up when those sessions are over.) Instead, I suggest bringing in voice coaches, video instructors, and communication talent to lead event ‘sessions’ and activities. Different types of instructors who will know how to work with event attendees and creatively incorporate event content.

4. Rethink Event Sponsorships, and Exhibitor Opportunities

Instead of sponsoring more junk shoved into conference bags bound for the trash can, offer sponsorships for live video streaming broadcasts before, during, and after an event. Streams which create user groups bound for the event that share, build upon, and improve content instead of wasting it on one-off lectures and paper-based recyclables.

If you want an exhibit area or full-blown exhibit hall, you can still have one. But have one with purpose. Instead of attendees zombie-walking from booth to booth, require interaction and instruction in every booth location. The next-gen attendee will be informed, active, participatory, and in possession of high expectations from every event sponsor and exhibitor. No longer can an exhibitor simply show up – and check out – during a next-gen event. If the attendees are working hard during an event, so, too, should the exhibitors.

5. Cut Your Audience Size

Some equate a well-attended event with automatic success. Not me. The cost of hosting an event for attendees who do nothing but simply drain resources is a tough one to report at the end of the quarter. I’d rather host four or five teams of six-to-eight energetic executives for a week than a group of 200 or 300 disconnected passers-by.

6. Expand Desired Event Outcomes

Event producers are in the same boat of wanting new opportunities, customers, and revenue. And there is a point to working with your audience on their communication skills, with your event content, and its usage. Think. The next time your next-gen audience is asked to deliver an informed industry presentation, which material will they use – almost by default? When asked to talk to analysts in support of your submission for the annual technology report, how well will they be able to provide a reference and add the stories that they learned at your event – as opposed to mind numbing experiences provided by your competitors?

7. Expand Event Timeframes

Instead of one-off events, provide ongoing interactions with attendees who form user groups facing the same business and technology challenges. Guide these conversations. Use live, video apps such as Periscope, Meerkat, Blab, and Facebook Live. Anchor regular interactions to your corporate events. Remember, in radio the saying is “frequency sells” because it’s true. Apply ‘frequency’ to your event audience interactions before, during, and after an event.

8. Get Uncomfortable

Sure, it’s easy to keep doing the same thing. To keep hosting and participating in the same type of events, with the same pedestrian expectations. But I’m not talking about adding a trip to local golf course or fashionable restaurant district as part of your upcoming meeting. I’m suggesting that you throw out the playbook and give the audience what they’re craving: an exceptional event experience unlike anything that currently exists. An event experience that sends them home in a professional standing better than the one with which they arrived.

9. Ask Sales

Maybe you should “inform sales” instead of asking. Because any experienced salesperson knows. They know what goes into – and what goes on – at every single business conference, trade show, and corporate event. They know what it takes to produce a successful event, and how poorly planned and outdated events chip away at the effort to uncover opportunities and secure revenue. Ask sales if they want to you to keep doing what you’re doing with events, or if they would entertain the notion of a radically new type of corporate event that hosts targeted groups of passionate executive attendees. (We both know what the answer will be.)

10. It’s Next-Generation All Around

To produce next-generation events, not only will you need next-gen content, but next-gen sales and marketing personnel to execute. To interact and work with your audience. You’ll need the personal skills and communication expertise on staff, and the supporting technologies to complete the work. And you’ll need a next-generation approach.

Keep in mind the picture of that traditional classroom setting at a business conference. And the traditional outcomes those settings produce. Next time, leave most of the tables and chairs in the hotel’s back hallway. Find your targeted audience, create a powerful event process and program, work through content instead of lecturing, and measure the results.

I’ll take the business benefits of working with an elite, agile group of engaged event attendees over a room full of disinterested show-goers any day of the week.

So will sales, and anybody interested in fanatical customers and their revenue contributions.

My Ideal Next-Generation Event

As I wrote, I’ve thought about a radically-new type of a week-long corporate event. One that places small teams of executive attendees on microphones, on camera, and on stage. Using relevant corporate, partner, and industry content to create material that’s used in both short-form and long-form settings. Subject matter experts and communication coaches instruct active and engaged attendees. Sponsors sponsor event elements, while sales and marketing benefit from the deep and meaningful relationships built over the duration before, during, and after this type of event. I’d figure 30 or 40 senior-level attendees could be accommodated. And a great combination of presence, voice, branding, personal strength would be a fraction of the benefits. I haven’t worked out all of the details of such an event, but if for those wanting specifics, there’s a handful.

What are your thoughts on the state of the learning environments offered by traditional business and corporate events, and your ideas for producing next-generation events?

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Finding #MyIndustry’s Future in the Sweat of Marketing Performance

Tony Compton, Managing Director

If any of the US presidential candidates saw me on a debate stage passionately fighting for my products, my services, my company, my family, my friends, my beliefs, and my country, they’d see me sweat, too…

In a good way.

In a passionate way.

It means I’m into the subject matter, and into the matter at hand.

You’d see it too, and you definitely would hear it.

But I’m not running for office, and that’s enough about politics.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to pick up two of the last remaining tickets to see a performance of The Iceman Cometh starring Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Those ‘last remaining’ seats were in the front row.

It was a treat to see that play. With four acts, three intermissions, and nearly five hours of performance, any production of that show severely taxes even the most durable of actors. Plus, the financials of such a lengthy stage event make it difficult to economically sustain. For a host of complex reasons, it can take years for this particular production to return to the stage. I read that people flew in from all over to see this rarity of the theatre, and I felt fortunate to have been in the audience.

The critics’ reviews of the play were overwhelming positive. One theme in the write-ups was that the actors added something extra to their performances. They upped their game to match the experience of participating in this rare opportunity. And it showed.

I read that Nathan Lane was proud of his role in this play. It sure looked and sounded that way. Watching the final act from the front row, not only could I hear his words, I could see his words. Lane put everything into his lead character, and through the upward-facing lighting on the stage lip, the emotional delivery of his defining speech was visible. That night, he left it all out on the stage.

When was the last time you did something like that in one of your presentations?

When was the last time you prepared to do that?

Doesn’t your audience deserve that from you?

It’s amazing how fast five hours flies by when you’re treated to an exceptional performance.

It’s also amazing to wonder why we’re not treated to more exceptional performances, and experiences, in our business lives.

Of Sloth and Stagnation

The current rigidity of sales, marketing, and executive communication skills has become disappointing. Look no further than the communication and presentation skills on display during typical, everyday business activities. I rarely see, hear, or feel the passion. Little sweat. The carefree and oblivious attitudes of the communication sloth and spotlight-stagnated cheat us all.

Working from home, people sit. People travel to the office, and sit. Coworkers sit. You sit in front of your computer. No doubt you sit in most of your meetings. You may travel to a trade show. Get to your booth, and sit. Attend a session, and you sit alongside your fellow attendees.

You get the idea, but this isn’t about walking around during the business day. I know many who are adamant about maintaining active, healthy lifestyles. But personal communication performance for business has now become much, much more than eating right and staying active.

It takes practice, skill, and a performer’s physical approach to bring content to life with personality, passion, attitude, tone, inflection, timing, and credibility. Moreover, it takes movement. Movement on stage, behind a microphone, even during a webinar.

Marketing’s Future Value through Personal Communication Ability

The business communication, public speaking, and presentation game has permanently changed. Mobile technology, and high-definition cameras in every pocket, purse, and briefcase have assured us of that.

Those in #myindustry need to know that their audiences await, right now. And if you don’t address them, somebody else will. Immediately. Facebook, Periscope, Meerkat, Blab are counted among those in the surging #livestreaming space. Few eagerly await email campaigns.

No marketer can automatically enter this competitive arena from an office environment which has slipped into a state of sloth and stagnation. No salesperson or executive, either.

Which brings me back to my main point about the future of sweat in marketing performance.

An audience deserves your best performance. Always. You don’t have to be a world-class actor or a physically fit marathon runner to be successful, but you do have to get out of your chair, stand up, and practice. Move. Ready your voice, your body, and your content. It doesn’t matter if it’s an audience of 1 or 1,000, make the audience feel your passion about your content and give them your best by bringing your content to life.

No actor would just stand there an read a script, so don’t just stand there and read your content.

My Communication Workout

I’ve started a formal entry into the world of professional voiceovers. It’s a helluva complement to the world of marketing communication, events, and sales enablement. What I’ve learned about myself is that in order to be successful behind a microphone,

I have to mark up my script well in advance, and prepare myself to move. To act. To bring my content to life.

Because for me, it’s that marketing sweat that brings content in #myindustry to life, and that personal sweat that I try to give an audience when I perform. I want to leave it all out there whenever and wherever I perform.

So should you.

To meet the demands of the new ‘round-the-clock and around-the-world audiences, we must.

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