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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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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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.

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The Email Corporate Event Producers Don’t Want to Read

Tony Compton, Managing Director

You’re pumped about your next customer event. Everything is going according to plan. Hotel, check. Meeting room, check. Educational speakers, check. Collateral, check. Catering, check. Cheesy giveaways, check. Signage, decoration, and branding, check. Sponsors and exhibitors, check and double check.

But when you invite people to attend your next event, and you don’t get the positive reaction you were expecting, it’s probably due to the fact you didn’t design a program that aligns with your audience’s expectations. Event and speaker evaluation forms from your last event may have been disregarded and are aging in a dusty file, and the outdated blueprint for event production that was used so commonly in the 1990s has grown long-in-the-tooth.

Corporate event producers shouldn’t be surprised if they receive an email with any or all off the following in response to forthcoming event invitations:

Dear Company Event Producer:

Thank you for inviting me to your next customer event. I’ve applied a great deal of thought to your invitation, and wish to share perspectives on your event, my recent industry show experiences, and my potential participation…

1. There’s Nothing Special About Your Event Experience

I know you think your event is spectacular, but the reality is that the format of your function is no different than much of the rest – right down to the coffee pot in the meeting room hallway. Spending a couple of days in a nondescript hotel ballroom with a stage, predicable seating, and fellow attendees in business casual attire listening to speeches delivered by stuffed suits is so 1995. Please, no more stagnant slides with cool industry buzzwords on big screens adjacent to the stage. I know why I would be attending, and it’s not to be reminded of catch phrases or catchy slogans.
And no, the cheesy entertainment inserted into your program won’t help.

2. The Thrill of Your Destination is Gone

I’m not 21 years old. I’ve already been to Orlando, Vegas, New York, London, Toronto, San Francisco and many other destination cities, numerous times. So have most of my colleagues. All great places. All have their pros and cons. But I’m not going to your event just to see the big city, visit a theme park, walk on the beach, or play a round of golf. It’s your content that matters to me, and the manner in which it’s presented.

3. If Your Event Is Free, You May or May Not Actually See Me

Thanks for the invite, but I only registered to get your inside sales rep to stop bothering me. Since there’s no cost to attend, there’s no risk in my registering for the event. And if I want to turn up on the day of your event, you’ll see me. If I don’t, I won’t, and you can expect any one of a number of absentee excuses which will you never have the ability to verify: unexpected meeting, last minute travel, etc. All are handy and at my disposal for excusing my absence. The risk is all yours. By the way, keep an eye out for a junior member of my staff at your event!

4. I’m Clueless About Your Food, Beverage, and Material Counts

Yes, I know I said my team would attend your last evening reception. And I also know that I said we’d be there for your dinner presentation. But something suddenly came up. It’s unfortunate that you had to tell your hotel catering manager to plan for us,
and it’s mildly concerning that you shipped meeting materials to have on-hand for my team. The fact is that I don’t even think about those things. They’re your problems, not mine.

5. Will Your Exhibitors Take Your Event Seriously?

The last industry event I attended showcased exhibitor tables lined up around a ballroom. The first exhibitor had a wrinkled table drape with a coffee stain above their logo and some brochures scattered on top. Nobody was home. The next exhibitor brought the works and had a credible presence with friendly and knowledgeable staff members. At the same time, I saw a man sitting alone at the third exhibit table wearing headphones and talking on his phone while working on his laptop. Since he was unapproachable, I wondered why he was there, why his company sponsored the event, and if anybody knew that the investment was going to waste.

6. Stop Jammin’ Me

Your event agenda looks good on paper. On paper. But locking me in a meeting room for nine hours a day, on top of networking breakfasts, buffet lunches, refreshment breaks, and group dinners is exhausting. Instead of leaving energized by my event experience, I end up mentally and physically drained. I understand giving attendees their money’s worth, but too many presentations and activities will result in an overloaded event. In the end, it’ll all bleed together.

7. Panel Discussions are for the Birds

Since when has it become compelling to watch four people on stage sit in director’s chairs or padded living room furniture and chit chat for an hour? When I see “Panel Discussion” on an agenda, it usually means that the panelists are going to wing it for an hour or so answering questions. A few of these discussions may include short, five minute slide presentations from the panelists, but those really don’t do anything for me. And it’s no secret that too many panel discussions are moderated by, or filled with, event sponsors. Please eliminate panel discussions, and put some real effort into meaningful presentations.

8. I Won’t Actually Pay Attention

Yes, I’ll be sitting in your sessions: third row, aisle seat. But while your speakers are speaking, I’ll be working on my laptop. And I’ll have my phone by my side on the table. My headphones will be on, and I’ll be listening to voice mail and conference calls while checking email, surfing the web, and typing. Your presenters don’t give me any real reason to pay attention, I can read their slides later, and I couldn’t care less if any of what I do is distracting to other attendees or your presenters. In fact, I’m oblivious.

9. You Won’t See Much of Me on Getaway Day

Though I’d really, really like to attend the last day of your conference, the hotel checkout time is Noon, and my flight is at 4:00 pm. That means I may pop in for a quick breakfast, catch a session or two, and return to my room to pack. And though the thought of your box lunch and can of soda is tempting, I absolutely, positively, must allow several hours to get to the airport. (Even though the airport is only 30 minutes away.) I might take you up on that free box lunch to-go, but I’ll need to hit the road by 1:00.

10. Your Conference Material Still Ends Up in the Garbage

You give me yet another bag of sponsored stuff when I check in upon my arrival, and it’s overwhelmingly useless. I rarely read what’s in it, and it all ends up on the table in my hotel room until I check out. I don’t want to take your collateral with me. What fits in my luggage weighs me down, so most of it ends up in the little oval trashcan in my room. I’m certain none of it is recycled. Please make an attempt to try use electronic forms of communication, and stop giving me sponsored junk that’s bound for landfills.

11. Travel Sucks. Your Event Better Not.

I have a life. I have family, friends, and things that I’d rather being doing than standing in long security lines at the airport. Driving or train travel is no bargain, either.
My company tries to save every penny on travel, so I don’t always get the perks of frequent flyer benefits on my favorite airline. I’m very fluent in the process and procedures of business travel, but I also ask that you realize that any travel is an investment of my time and money. Your event had better be worth that investment.

12. I’m Not Going for Thinly-Veiled Sales Pitches

A certain amount of these comes with the territory. I know what to expect when I sit in on a demo or booth presentation. But when it comes to educational sessions such as case studies that are supposed to be vendor/client co-presentations, please ease off of the sales pitch. I want to hear from the end-user, not the VP of Business Development for North America from HighTech Incorporated. If I want to watch sales presentations, most vendors and service providers will come to my office, and I won’t have to pay for it.

13. I’ve Already Seen Your Show

Your keynote’s terrific, but he’s on the speaking circuit and I saw his presentation earlier this year. The analyst kicking off your second day is also very good, but she just gave a webinar last month on the exact same topic. I’ve already read about your featured customer case study, and your sales team has filled me in on your upcoming software releases, product roadmap, and partner activities. Moreover, I attended your event last year. Ask me again in another 12 months.

14. I’ll Attend, But Don’t Get Too Excited

I’m a Vice President for a very large big shot global company, and I know it’s awesome to have my name, job title, and company on the registered list of attendees. But the dirty little secret is that I’m looking for a new job and will be using your event to network. On second thought, I may be looking to leave my current job to do some free-lance consulting work. Either way, don’t expect to get any more business out of me in my current situation. And though my days are numbered, I’m still going to make the most of my current job title.

15. If You Claim Innovation, You Should Reflect It

I crave exciting business event experiences. I also value continual, year-round interactions with industry-leading companies, as opposed to aging and commonplace once-a-year gatherings. I’ll be happy to travel to and participate in groundbreaking, innovative events that further advanced professional solutions which meet the challenges of executive strategy, organizational teamwork, technological support, customer interactions, and employee communities. I simply won’t get that sitting in Ballroom C in another business hotel or cavernous convention center.

Nevertheless, thanks again for your invitation. I’ll think about attending your event. In the meantime, I have to run. We’ve got user group conversations now underway on Periscope, Meerkat, and Blab, and must customize tomorrow’s sales and marketing campaigns with the feedback we’ll be receiving in a matter of minutes.

Best of luck with your event…

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