Look Out: Bad Audience Behavior Has Escaped the Cinema!

Tony Compton, Managing Director


Rude, disrespectful, self-centered and ignorant behavior has become symptomatic with attending any movie. There are those in the movie-going audience who bring the absence of common sense. But as I’ve been told, common sense isn’t common anymore.

Go to a movie. Any movie. Chances are decent that you’ll sit near that person, or couple, or group of friends who talk during the previews. Or during the movie. Even greater are your chances that you’ll sit behind that person who texts during the previews or during the movie. You know the one: he or she could be sitting five rows down on the other side of the theater and decide to start texting friends. With a 5” smartphone screen designed to be a guiding light in any emergency.

I think you’ll run into more problems going to see a Midnight horror movie with a younger adult audience than you will with an older group seeing Murder on the Orient Express, but no one group has the exclusive title for rotten, annoying attendees.

Granted, some theater chains make a point of enforcing a no talk, text or cell phone rule. Alamo Drafthouse seems to be doing a nice job of it. And this viral video has made the rounds…

But I’ve never been to an Alamo Drafhouse. Others chains such as AMC and CineBistro play those friendly reminders during the previews not to be rude during the film. I’m not sure they really help. Two weeks ago, the lady seated to my right was too busy playing on her phone to see what was on the screen.

Years ago, one regional theater chain in the Midwest used to have a live, in-person usher stand, welcome the audience, and ask everybody to make the necessary adjustments to their mobile devices. That seemed to help, before that chain got bought out. Now they don’t do that anymore.

Breaking News: Be on the Lookout for Bad Behavior at Meetings, Trade Shows, Conferences and Events!

It’s all around you. Like Tom Skeritt’s character Captain Dallas found out in the original Alien film of 1979, it’s moving right towards you. But look out! If you say anything about it to the person causing the problem – you may be the one to blame!

“It” goes hand-in-hand with our “me first” mentality which has permeated so much of society. And by bringing your self-centered attitude with you to the business environment, you:

Prohibit others from hearing the speaker:

You may learn in a modern way, with modern devices, but there are people sitting right next to you in a crowded room trying to listen. The way you bang on your keyboard or mobile device screen is loud and annoying. Once in a while notes are acceptable, but you’re not a court reporter. And the way you check e-mail and take notes and tweetand make noise is distracting.

Prohibit others from learning:

We’re sitting behind you and can see everything you’re doing on your screen during the presentation. Email, PPT, and web surfing and shopping. If you don’t like the speaker, get up and leave. Don’t shop online. It doesn’t help that you’re working multiple devices on the table in front of you, either.

Prohibit others from concentrating:

Could you be a little quieter and/or neater when eating in the meeting room? Yeah, I know food and coffee and dessert and sometimes more come with the business meeting territory, but use your judgement. And would it be too much trouble to clean up when you’re done?

Prohibit others from seeing: (Part One)

Want to take a picture of the presentation, and of the presenter(s)? How about a video? Better yet, how about live stream the video – probably without permission?


Here’s how you do it:

  1. Grab your smartphone with both hands.
  2. Hold it horizontally for that landscape look.
  3. Now stick your arms and hands in the air, and hold your phone up there like you just don’t care.
  4. Leave ’em there like you just don’t care.

Because you don’t.

People are sitting all around you. Behind you. They’re trying to watch and learn, too, you know…

They paid good money for their tickets. To attend that event.

You may not care about spending your company’s money to attend events, but they might.

And I sure as hell do.

Try asking those around you for permission you before you block their view for an indefinite period of time.

Now get your phone out of my face.

Prohibit all from seeing: (Part Two)

This one isn’t for the audience. It’s for the event producers with an “I don’t give a damn” attitude about the entire audience. I love – absolutely love it – when I see somebody share a conference room picture or a trade show video from a session room with 30 rows set classroom style only to have a panel discussion or a one-on-one conversation on a stage three feet off the ground. Lounge chairs on stage, and everybody beyond Row 3 can’t see. Way to provide value in attending. People don’t pay to watch a screen behind or to the side of the stage. That could’ve been done at home.

Prohibit somebody from taking a seat:

Call me old school and traditional, but a gentleman should offer his seat to a woman. Or a disabled person. Or a senior citizen. Stand up. Make room. That’s what I was taught growing up. On the bus, train, or the classroom. I’ve walked into plenty of sold-out, jam packed convention halls and I’ve seen attendees stand and circle the back walls of the hall because there are no available seats. I’ve seen people sitting on the floor. But it’s hard to recall the last time I saw a man give up his seat to a lady. I’m sure it’s happened, but not nearly enough.

A few years ago I attended a Broadway performance at Studio 54 in New York City. (That club you’ve heard so much about from the 70’s is now being used for Broadway performances. It’s a very, very nice theater…) The moment the house lights went down a young man in the row behind continued to use his phone. It caught an usher’s immediate attention.

The usher’s instruction to the young man was clear:

“Turn off your phone. Now.”

(several moments passed)

The usher repeated, “Now.”

The phone was turned off.

Damn right.

Give that usher a raise and usher him to the front of the of line of human beings waiting to be cloned. Offer those clones high paying jobs throughout the business meeting world.

You may feel as if you have certain “rights” to do what you want to do when seated in an audience. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And I’m not suggesting all audience members sit on their hands and remain perfectly quiet for the duration…

A theater usher shouldn’t have to be the one who teaches business professionals the meaning of the words courtesy, awareness, etiquette and respect.

But it does seem as if somebody, somewhere, is teaching people the meaning of one, much smaller word: Me.

If it’s you, please stop it.


For more on Challenging the Status Quo of #Marketing and #Presentation Groupthink, follow me on Twitter: @tonycompton, @GettingPresence

For immediate #presentation & #publicspeaking tips, visit the GettingPresence website.

The Trade Show Picture Worth 1,000 Words – of Waste

Tony Compton, Managing Director

I’m not crazy about the new LinkedIn. The new User Interface is S-L-O-W. Some of the publishing and networking stats that I valued in the past have completely disappeared. And the mobile experience of trying to access LinkedIn’s website leaves a lot to be desired. I admit I had higher expectations from LinkedIn after it was acquired by Microsoft last year for $26 billion (USD). I also know that I’m not alone in expressing my displeasure with the new LinkedIn.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the endless stream of trade show pictures that clog my LinkedIn feed. Pictures of smiling staff, proudly standing shoulder-to-shoulder inside their company’s respective trade show booths. Across industries, from shows spanning the globe, these pictures look the same. Can’t say that I necessarily blame anybody in these photos. Heck, I’ve even been some of them. But one recent “smiling staff in a booth” trade show picture got me to look at it – and all the rest of these event photographs – in a fiscally responsible way.

Instead of wearing my marketing/creative/event/happy to be at the show of the year hat, I put on my CEO/VC/Investor/Owner hat. It made all the difference in the world.

The trade show picture that made me stop was simple enough: six people smiling for the camera in a nearly completed 10’ x 10’ trade show booth situated somewhere deep inside a cavernous convention hall. Proud employees eagerly awaiting the start of a convention. All happy to be there. And judging from the size of the convention hall, I got the feeling it was one of those multi-day events where the exhibit hall is open from 10:00 – 5:00pm everyday for three, maybe four days.

But it’s what I also saw in the picture that made me stop, stare, do the math, and hope that the company’s CEO didn’t see this picture. Or their investors. Or competitors. It was evidence that could be used against the person who made the decision to exhibit at the event, and spend the money and resources the way they were spent. Yes, when a person has been around the trade show and marketing block a few times, this type of information can be gathered just from looking at one photograph.

In addition to the pleasantries above, here’s what I also saw in the picture:

1. Stacks of paper brochures in neat piles on the booth table. 

Survey says that over 80% of this paper collateral junk at trade shows is bound for garbage cans and area landfills. Yet there they still are in this day and age. In booth after trade show booth. Literature rack after lit rack. Two, four, and eight page four color brochures that cost money to write, produce, layout, edit, revise, print, store, ship, distribute, and return to storage after the show. More and more printed collateral that goes from company, to staff, to show floor attendees, to hotel room waste baskets as travelers lighten the load for the trip home. Printed material is largely useless, costs thousands to have on hand, and expires quickly. Too many marketers, salespeople, and executives love the tangibility of printed material at trade shows because you have to have something… The reality is that there are better ways to move your target audience to electronic forms of communication and save the money on stuff that’ll never get read in the first place.

2. The terrible booth location.

I mentioned that cavernous convention hall, and it’ll have been a miracle if anybody found the postage stamp-size booth. They were lost in the wilderness. I’m sure some knew where they were, but most attendees probably found their way to their location by accident wandering the exhibit hall on Day Two or Day Three of the event. After they’ve seen the big players, and those with far more advantageous positions on the show floor. Helpful tip: if you can’t get a good location on the exhibit hall floor, don’t exhibit. You can still attend the show, and your money will be better spent on other marketing activities which don’t place you in the back of the room for a week. (And no, just because you don’t exhibit, the market won’t think you’re out of business.)

3. I couldn’t tell you the exhibiting company name – even if I wanted to.

That’s because the exhibitor’s name was invisible in the picture, even in a nearly completed booth. It’s possible that a magical sign or expertly branded backdrop had yet to be erected – but I doubt it. Consider, do you notice the backdrops now employed at almost every press conference you see? Notice the way the branding is done on those backdrops? Simple, bold, clear, not crowded with illegible text? Yet trade show attendees are treated to signage which says nothing, or far too much. Get your signage act together, and remember that all attendees carry cameras and the ability to live stream from your location, ready or not.

4. The Expense: Personnel and Budget.

The picture I’m thinking about for this post had six people in it. Some booth pictures have 10, 20, or more people standing around posing for the camera. Then I start doing the math any CEO, owner, or investor would do in their heads. Time for each out of the office. Time spent in a booth. Time away from customers. Travel and entertainment. Booth space rental. The cost to put something in the booth space – whether it’s in the back of the hall or not. The cost of paper, pens, giveaways, shirts, etc. The list goes on and on.

You may say that’s the cost of doing business at a trade show. I would say nope – not anymore. I’d have a small, elite, multi-functional group of employees on hand. Only a small, very select handful of company employees would be at any given trade show and that’s it. Event costs have been ballooning out of control for years, and somebody has to answer for it in the weeks after an event. Especially if there’s no return on investment.

5. What I thought about.

Who constructed the booth? Who will tear it down and ship it back? I would never want employees crawling around on the floor and chasing boxes. They have better things to do with their time.

How many more employees were in town for this event? Were there more than six people attending, what were their business reasons for being in the booth, and how much did they expense as part of this endeavor? Was the booth used as luggage storage – yet again?

…and who took the picture?

From the minimum buy-in of $5,000, $10,000 and up for booth space rental at industry shows and conventions, to the five, six-, and seven-figure costs of putting something in the booth space – the trade show math has been adding up for years for CEOs, owners, and investors. They’re catching on. The trade show industry has quickly gained a reputation for growing long in the tooth and is in desperate need of innovation, if not reinvention.

It may be perfectly acceptable for some to treat a wasted outing at a trade show as an annual standard operating procedure, but those days are quickly coming to end. It’s evidenced by the steady stream of pictures of smiling people at trade show booths spending a company’s money and not thinking twice of the business benefits.

And if I’m thinking about what I see and don’t see in your exhibit hall photos, you’d better believe your boss is also thinking about it. Don’t be surprised if somebody, somewhere, in one of your executive conference rooms asks: “How much did that show cost?” “And what did we get out of it?”

And don’t assume you’ll be there to answer, or defend yourself.

Now smile, and say cheese!

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

Don’t Let These 10 Types of Presenters Ruin Your Next Event!

Tony Compton, Managing Director

I’ve watched presentations of all shapes and sizes over the past 30 years.

And I’ve also given a few presentations.

I thought about these 10 over a cup of coffee.

I also thought about another 10 for another time.

And another 20, very good – if not outstanding – presentation types.

But I thought I’d start with these.

Share your own, and add the ones you’ve experienced to this list if you’d like.

1. The Superhero

The show can’t go on without the Superhero. At least that’s what this presenter thinks. Trouble for the Superhero is that the show will go on, if necessary, without their presentation. The Superhero believes that all other presentations are inferior. Yes, the Superhero may be a headliner. Yes, the Superhero may be a keynote. But even if the Superhero’s flight to the next conference is delayed or canceled, life will go on. Never display the attitude that your presence at an event will “save the day” for attendees. The audience will survive, with or without you. Be humble.

2. Captain of The Rudderless Cluster

You’ll encounter this presenter more on virtual presentations vs. in-person sessions. With virtual presentations, there’s usually a defined period of ‘single’ presentation time: 30, 60, or 90-minutes. The “captain” is the one that’s supposed to lead a session that involves multiple presenters. When there’s a lack of coordination on a presentation with multiple speakers, the presentation goes astray by becoming disjointed, erratic, and long-winded. Instead of taking charge, the “captain” leads a rudderless presentation that goes nowhere.

3. The Opinionated

Not that having a business opinion or an industry point of view is a bad thing, but the opinionated can take it too far. This presenter can get personal, critical, and preachy. They’ll even tell you who they support in the upcoming election, even though the business attendees in the audience are there to learn something – not get a political lecture, guilt trip, or twisted arm. Stick to the business issues, and leave opinions on personal matters at the door.

4. The Ill-Prepared Substitute

The ill-prepared substitute is magnanimous in stepping-in for another speaker, but that doesn’t excuse that person from the required presentation preparation work. Simply obtaining another’s slides and materials without proper review and preparation doesn’t work. And standing in front of a crowd and saying “I just got this material because my colleague can’t make it…” isn’t an excuse. Only sub for another speaker if you can do the job.

5. The Time Indifferent

The speaker that doesn’t start the webinar until five minutes after the top of the hour. The long-winded presenter that talks 15 minutes too long and cheats the next presenters out of their time. The group of presenters that trickle one-by-one onto a virtual presentation and make everybody wait. Then they shoot the breeze with chit chat and waste even more time. When 60 minutes isn’t really 60 minutes, you know the time indifferent have arrived. Respect schedules. Be on time.

6. The Panelist and The Moderator

It’s the Fall event season which means panel discussions. Lots of ‘em. And I have thing for panel discussions. Bad panel discussions. Poorly planned and poorly executed panel discussions. You’ll see three types of panel set-ups: those with panelists in cheap hotel conference room chairs, in airport-lounge quality padded chairs that you would never have at home, or on stools. Panelists sit, moderators drone on and ask softball questions. The audience sits and stares. The energy quickly dissipates. The panel comes off as if they’re testifying before Congress. Look at the body language during panel discussions. There are so many ways to be creative and engaging above and beyond tired panel discussion formats!

7. The Salesperson

Is it an educational presentation? Dunno. Will I learn something in this session? Maybe. But sometimes the presentation abstract that tells attendees that they’re going to take away the “Top 3 ways to measure return on marketing investments” can be nothing more than a cover story for a thinly-veiled vendor sales pitch. And when a co-presenter from an end-user client company in your industry doesn’t turn up for a session, watch out. When a vendor goes solo on a session, the sales pitch can’t be far behind.

8. The Up-Sell/Cross-Sell Salesperson

This is different than the ‘salesperson’ giving the thinly-veiled sales pitch. This is when you’ve bought and paid for products and services from a company, and ask for counsel, advice, or insight into meeting challenges you’re having – after you bought whatever they’re selling that was supposed to help. The Up-Sell/Cross-Sell Salesperson will tell you that need to buy more, or something different, or a product from a partner, or a service from another division to fix whatever your problem is. People don’t appreciate it when they’re told that whatever they originally bought won’t completely solve their problems, and that they need to spend more. That helpful presentation just turned into a sales pitch.

9. The Robot

A relative of the substitute, The Robot is somebody who will find a presentation, its slides, and 2012-dated format on an internal portal or “borrow” it from a colleague and regurgitate, everything. This mechanical presenter will prepare but inevitably start with slides entitled “Overview, History, Review, or Background.” Then a company timeline dating back to 1895 will be inserted. Next, somebody else’s content makes up the majority of the presentation. The conclusion? The same old boring stuff on visiting a website, booth, or another generic call to action. You’ll know this person when you see this same presentation and format again, if you stay awake long enough.

10. The Enthusiasm Enforcer

This is the presenter that pounces on stage and screams “HELLO Chi-ca-go!” only to have the unsustainable pep rally injection wear off and yield to a monotone drone about data-driven software platforms for the next 59 minutes. Passion is great, but phony enthusiasm is a turn-off. There’s no reason to scream, yell, or shout at your audience to artificially pump up the excitement.

My next post will explore other types of presenters such as The Mumbler, The Wannabe Statistician, The Insider, and The Content-Driven Presenter. After, I’ll share some thoughts on some of the best presenters I’ve seen and what made their sessions special.

Without slides.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com


Political Stunts and Corporate Events Don’t Mix

Tony Compton, Managing Director

Every attendee should feel welcome at your next corporate event. Every single attendee. No matter their political background. No matter their views on the current US presidential race. Leave politics out of your next business event.

Never plan or permit a political stunt like the one seen during the “entertainment” portion of this past week’s Dreamforce. Dreamforce is the annual tech convention produced by Salesforce, the #software company with its origins in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) industry. Dreamforce welcomed 170,000 attendees to downtown San Francisco this week, and its website billed the rock group U2 as an event headliner.

For the record, I did not attend #Dreamforce.

Also for the record, I’ve seen U2 perform twice – both in the Chicago area. Once in 1986 for Amnesty International, and once at a regular tour stop in 1996 at Soldier Field.

And this article is not in defense of Donald Trump.

When I woke-up Thursday morning, my #Twitter feed alerted me to the political stunt that took place during U2’s Dreamforce benefit concert held Wednesday night outside of the Cow Palace in Daly City, California. During the concert Bono, U2’s lead singer, engaged in a fake conversation with video snippets of Donald Trump, the nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States in the 2016 election. Bono “conversed” with segments of Trump’s campaign trail video recordings on a giant split screen above the Dreamforce stage. Recorded Trump videos on the left, live Bono video on the right. In front of a general crowd of tens of thousands of paid convention attendees at a business event.

If you need a more detailed breakdown of Bono’s conversation with Trump, here’s an article about the event by The Wall Street Journal. And another from TechWorld.

But let’s examine the scenario from an attendee’s point of view. If a Dreamforce attendee paid the full conference registration price to attend, had to fly to/from San Francisco, find an area hotel for several nights, arrange for ground transportation, and budget for food and beverage, the total cost of attendance would be several thousand dollars. (At least.) Plus the work time invested. More, companies sponsoring Dreamforce were presented a menu of event options that included five-, six-, and seven-figure packages. Numerous sponsoring and exhibiting companies sent multiple teams of people this past week to Dreamforce. For those organizations, the cost of participation was substantial. For some, this was their major 2016 sales and marketing expenditure.

So paying customers attended Dreamforce. Companies sponsored the event and sent their people. Event attendees looked forward to seeing U2. Event attendees, at a business function, from all walks of life. Different backgrounds, different political viewpoints. Together, at a concert, at a work function. Only to surprisingly witness Bono tear into the candidate that many in the audience support, blindsiding and alienating paid attendees who do not share Bono’s political viewpoints.

If this political stunt was orchestrated with the permission of #Salesforce executives, that’s wholly unacceptable. Any political stunt held at any business event that alienates any segment of an attendee population should never be allowed. You should never risk alienating even one single attendee. On either side of the political aisle. Get down to business, have fun, but leave politics out of your next event. I wouldn’t permit any stunt against Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine or Mike Pence. Or any candidate, politician, or political party for that matter. Especially one month before a US presidential election.

Yes, US presidents, current and former politicians, and foreign dignitaries often find themselves on the speaking platforms at major international events. Comedians who poke fun at all sides of political issues are hired to entertain large corporate gatherings. And political quips from presenters will always find their way into event #presentations. But in those cases, event producers and paying attendees generally know what to expect. What happened this week during U2’s Dreamforce concert was none of the above.

Bono and his U2 bandmates are entitled to their opinions.

So is Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

So am I, and so are you.

But nobody should have their political viewpoints trashed at a corporate function.


When people pay to attend corporate events, they pay to learn something, to network, to grow their business, and to enjoy themselves.

I’ve worked with many people, from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds and political perspectives. I’ve had my share of debates, discussions, and respectful arguments. But #business is business, and #political stunts that may make people feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or out of place have no place in the office, in a #workplace environment, or at any corporate #event. Certainly not to the extent seen during U2’s #Dreamforce concert.

The Wall Street Journal reported that U2’s concert raised about $10 million for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland. That charity work is outstanding and all would applaud that fundraising effort to help children.

But political stunts and corporate events don’t mix.

It’s ironic to think that a #CRM software company like Salesforce didn’t do a better job of managing all of its Dreamforce customer relationships.

Next time, leave the politics out of it.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

An #OpenLetter to TradeShow Sponsors and Attendees: Demand Excellence

Tony Compton, Managing Director

The calendar reads October 1, 2016, and the #sales and #marketing dash to make Q4 a success is already underway. But you don’t exactly have 90 days to flood Q4 with newly discovered leads, qualified opportunities, and net-new customers, do you? With the Thanksgiving holiday next month in the USA, and the end of the year holiday season quickly approaching, you have seven good business weeks this month and next. That’s it. And though you may pick up some loose change in December, you know that those OOO emails which read “Thanks for your message, I’ll review all emails when I return to the office on Tuesday, January 3, 2017” will start to appear somewhere around December 15.

Happy New Year, indeed.

Not only is Q4 already underway, but the first quarter of 2017 is already at risk. And for those with offset fiscal calendars, the same applies. No matter how you slice it, the next six weeks are critical to the success of the next four months of the sales and marketing calendar. And it all starts with demanding excellence from all those around you at the major industry events you’re about to attend.

With time being a factor, here’s what I advise in this #openletter for your next industry #event, and to hit the ground running in Q4:

1. Demand Excellence from Event Producers

For those senior-level business leaders who chose to cut the five, six, and seven-figure checks to invest in your Q4 events, demand excellence from event organizers. Are you getting full value for your investment, or are you simply spending money because you feel you need to “be there” because you think everybody else is attending? Is your event experience enjoyable? Have the logistics of getting in and out of the event been carefully coordinated? Are the event attendees ones with whom you can do business? Is the educational platform up to your expectations? Are the sessions and the presenters good at delivering lessons learned and actionable information? Or are the event producers only concerned with getting you to resign for next year, without any evaluation of the results of this year’s show? Demand more from those cashing your sponsorship checks, and demand excellent returns from your show investment.

2. Demand Excellence from Sponsors and Exhibitors

Event attendees should hold exhibitors and sponsors to high expectations. When an attendee approaches a booth, no matter how large or small, that attendee should be treated to the best experience an #exhibitor can provide. Is the booth welcoming? Is the staff welcoming, or are they having lunch, working on their laptops, and chatting on their phones? Is somebody staffing the booth, or are you being treated to scattered brochures on a coffee-stained tabletop drape? Some exhibits are painful to see, staffed by congregating employees, who have been handed demos and slide decks that they struggle to deliver. Attendees are investing time by participating in an event, and in return deserve the best from all exhibitors.

3. Demand Excellence from Presenters

The educational platform of any event is critical to delivering value to the attendees. After all, those sitting in #conference sessions and demo rooms are there to learn something. It’s one of the main reasons for attending a show. But while an event’s sessions look good on paper, reality can be quite different. Within minutes of any presentation, you’ll be able to tell if the speaker has prepared for their session. Is it yet another hour with incomprehensible slides? With presenters who are afraid of speaking in public? Who are more concerned with their product, services, and content, versus their ability to interact with an audience? If your next session is yet another data dump with captured screen shots on eye-chart slides delivered by somebody who couldn’t care less about their personal communication skills, find and fill out the session evaluation form and make your voice heard to the show producers. Next time vote with your feet and your wallet. Attendees have been treated to bad presentations for far too long. I’ve sat through poor performances only to see an audience politely and half-heartedly clap at the end. Bad presenters count on business to go on as-is, and repeat itself, at the next conference. You should demand excellence, from all presenters. Attendees deserve it.

4. Demand Excellence from Show Services

When tackling a major industry event, you’re likely to engage third-party providers to help you with everything from designing and providing your physical exhibit, to supplying audio visual equipment, to renting ancillary tech services, to shipping and receiving of materials, etc. The list of show services can be endless. Sometimes an external show services provider will handle most of your exhibitor needs in a one-stop shopping arrangement. No matter how you approach your next event, be certain that those with whom you contract for show services are meeting your needs – well in advance of the show. If you procrastinate or leave exhibit hall problems for when you arrive on-site, it’s too late. I’ve found that there is tremendous value to partnering with a exhibit services company that can handle booth design and show logistics. There are also some things you can do yourself to save thousands. In any case, demand excellence from your show service providers, and always, in every circumstance, respect the established union labor rules in place at your next convention hall!

5. Demand Excellence from Yourself, Your Colleagues, and Your Partners

If you’re sponsoring or exhibiting at a show, or if you’re just attending, your company is spending money on that activity for a reason: to realize economic return from those expenditures. When you get back to the office, somebody will want to know what was accomplished at an event. While outstanding show invoices are being paid, and expense reports are processed, somebody, somewhere, within the four walls of your company will start to ask questions. What were the business benefits of attending? Not anecdotal feel good relationship-building stories, the tangible and measurable business benefits? You won’t get those business benefits by simply just showing up at your next event. In order to stand out in a crowd of tens of thousands, you, your team, and your alliance partners will have to be at peak performance before, during, and after each event to produce favorable results.

The Fall event season is upon us, and your company has a lot riding on event expenditures. Demand excellence from yourself, those working on your events, and those attending and sponsoring your events. Give your events – and their major expenses – the attention, service and support needed to be successful. You have no time to waste in Q4, and January 1, 2017 isn’t far behind.

Demand excellence now, and you’ll be able to stand tall and demonstrate results from all sales and marketing investments you made in every industry event when you report your results to your senior leadership team.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

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.

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com

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?

Visit: http://www.gettingpresence.com, or email: info@gettingpresence.com