You Attend an Event, You Own It

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

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.

Go.

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.

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

10 Reasons Not to Worry About Being a Good Public Speaker

 

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

Next time you’ve logged onto LinkedIn (or any social business site) – scroll down. Scroll, scroll, scroll until you reach the first picture you see from a recent industry event. Don’t worry, it’s in there. A picture that shows the audience at the latest “can’t miss, we’re so happy to be here!” event in front of a formulaic stage set-up that’s been employed in hotel and #convention ballrooms worldwide since the 1970s.

It’s the picture you’ll see where the audience is:

Pre-occupied.

On their laptops.

Holding tablets.

And their phones.

Doing something else – other than paying attention to their surroundings, and the presenter(s).

You read about it and hear about it everyday. People are most afraid of public speaking. But fear no more, the business world has now evolved to such a state that the fear of public speaking has become outdated. Irrelevant. Why? Here are 10 reasons:

1. Few Are Paying Attention

Just look at that posted, boastful picture of the last great industry event. I’ve seen that picture and I’ve attended that event. There used to be a time when event presenters actually had to connect with audiences and deliver value for the time and monetary investment. Not anymore. With the onset of multiple mobile devices, most in the audience find it perfectly acceptable to show up, but tune into something else during presentations. Yes, it’s rude, inconsiderate, and a complete waste of time. But who cares? It happens everyday, at every event, and nothing is done about it. Don’t worry about your next presentation, most aren’t watching or listening. And when it’s done, rest assured you’ll receive a pleasant, gratifying round of applause.

2. You’re Given Little to No Help

Your company would never spend a dime on helping you improve your presentation skills, so you have the perfect excuse for another poor, nerve-wracking performance. Despite your best efforts and pleas for help, your corporate leaders don’t feel as if your professional development is worth the time or the money. They’ll sweat you about that $50 you spent because you took a more convenient nonstop flight to get home to your family, and they’ll throw away thousands on marketing programs that don’t payoff, but any request for presentation help is ignored. Again, don’t be afraid. They certainly can’t blame you for another poor performance if they won’t help.

3. Mediocrity Rules

It’s not just mediocrity, it’s simply getting through a presentation and hoping nobody says anything or does anything about it. Example: the build-up to your next webinar is tremendous. Hundreds register – and actually turn up. Your webinar technology rocks. Your mind-numbing slides are in place. And while you go on and on and on for 58 minutes of your allotted hour, the audience multi-tasks. (Kinda like point #1.) When you finish, that’s it. The reviews are in. The performance was ok. The report is filed away, any sponsorship checks have been cashed, and it’s on to the next thing. Audiences have been so used to accepting watered down performances that it’s become routine. Don’t worry if your next presentation is nothing special. You’ll fit right in.

4. Everybody Rocks!

Not only do some of your colleagues and company big shots think they’re great presenters, but they’ll be the first to tell you that whatever they do easily transfers to other forms of media: video, ebooks, podcasting, interviews, etc. This means anything goes – consistent, developed talent or not. So even if you can’t stand in front of an audience, it doesn’t matter. Neither can they. Oh sure, they may be magnanimous and say they can use some help here and there, but they’ll never give it any more than a passing thought. And if they don’t need public speaking coaching and practice, neither do you. Just follow their example of self-absorbed communication performance and you’ll be on your way.

5. Panel Discussion? Just show up for those…

I never heard anybody say, “Gee, I wish this convention had more panel discussions. I just love sitting in cavernous ballrooms watching six people on stage drone on about software…” Rest easy, if you’re on a panel discussion all you have to do is show up. You should only get one or two questions. You’ll have a few minutes to provide some nonsensical answer about a mundane topic. Kinda like those political tv talk shows with eight guests – and a host. Each person only gets a few minutes to say what they have to say. Relax, you’ll be in and out of that panel discussion before you know it.

6. Who Cares? It’s a One-Time Assignment

You’re a digital marketer. A damn good one. Your company doesn’t care whether or not you can stand up and tell a story. Or influence an audience. Or motivate your customers. Your job is heads down on your laptop all day. But some genius thought it’d be a good idea for everybody to present at the next departmental meeting, so you have to do it. But it’ll all be over in an instant. You don’t have to make a good impression on sales, or the C-suite, or partners, or your marketing colleagues. Get through it and go back to your desk. It’s not worth worrying about. Or caring about. Or applying any energy, thought, or passion. Dumb assignment, anyway.

7. Your Slides (or Demo, or Video) Will Do the Talking

Yes, yes, yes — your presentation is coming up but you’re clever enough to not have to practice, prepare, or even give a damn. That’s because you have an ace up your sleeve. The “this presentation has already been given, and I have the slides” trick. Good for you. That’s a great way to beat the system. And you’re correct in assuming that nobody will notice that you’re reading somebody else’s presentation. Ot that’s it’s outdated. But it’s a tremendous way to not worry about being a good presenter – and it’s an even better way to cheat the audience.

8. You’re Only Presenting for 5, 10, or 15 Minutes

You have that all-important 30 minute presentation that your company sponsored, but you’re only speaking for 15 minutes. That analyst (customer, vendor, academic, etc. ) is speaking for the other half. All you have to do is cobble together five or six slides and talk about a company history, roadmap, or filler content, then turn it over to the next speaker. A few planted questions and answers at the end of it all and you’re home free. Nothing to fear, except that somebody paid $15,000 to sponsor that presentation. Whatever.

9. Forget About the Audience

Who cares about them? Why bother? They’re not spending their money going to Las Vegas to attend that show, it’s their company’s money. So why bother putting in the extra effort in your presentation? Boring panel discussions are perfectly acceptable to most. So are text-filled slides presented by sleep-inducing speakers. Chances are you won’t draw much of a crowd anyway, so it’s not worth putting in the extra effort. Just sit there, shut up, and speak when spoken to. Don’t rock the boat and be a hero by putting on a performance that stands out in the crowd of sessions. In fact, you’ve spoken a dozen times to other groups about the same subject. You’ve put in your time, the audience doesn’t care, so don’t worry about having to give that 13th performance. You’ve done it plenty, and I’m sure your sick of it by now.

10. You’re Just Not a Public Speaker

Nobody is going to blame you for not being able to deliver a good presentation. It’s not who you are and you never have to worry about how you look and sound in front of an audience. You’ll never be called into action, so it should be the furthest thing from your mind. Look at where you work! Nobody at your company takes presentation skills seriously, especially at the executive level. If they don’t care about things like that, somebody like you shouldn’t care – let alone worry. You’re simply not a public speaker, and you never will be.

#sarcasm

Absurd? You bet. But the vast majority deliver presentation performances and event experiences that demonstrate otherwise. And I refuse to accept mediocrity, not to mention subpar personal communication performances.

What’s really riding on your next public speaking performance?

  • Your business communication ability to connect with distracted audiences.
  • Your ability to perform, with little to no corporate help.
  • Your company’s investment in the event sponsorship, but not your professional development.
  • Sales.
  • Jobs.
  • Your professional reputation.

If you don’t think your business #communication, #presentation ability, or impromptu public speaking skill set will ever come into play, that’s misguided. But for those who recognize and put into practice skills and techniques to handle any public speaking and presentation opportunity, you’ll have an arrow in your quiver that’ll rock your competition. They’ll not only fear competing with you, and they’ll still fear having to give that competing presentation.

And that’s your winning combination.

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

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

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

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

Sales & Marketing Quotes I Didn’t Hear in 2016, and Shouldn’t in 2017

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

The opportunity to immediately possess sales, marketing, trade show, online, business #communication, and social #media competitive differentiators exists. I’ve itemized a number of these problems that are just waiting for you (and me) to solve them. For one lazy reason or another, these problems are tolerated by many and lackadaisically accepted by others. They persist. But if you can solve any one of them, the business opportunities are endless.

Over 25 years of experience allows one to see and separate #marketing fiction, wishful thinking, #sales bravado, and wasteful corporate spending from smart business investments, real lead generation results, and the economic value and opportunities offered by improving functional areas of sales and marketing performance. To me, problems are hiding in plain sight and I’m not surprised I haven’t heard anybody say any of the following quotes in 2016.

Allow me to present a handful of evasive quotes, and allow them to describe the problems and opportunities:

1. “Wow. That seven-person panel discussion was AMAZING!”

First, I detest the overuse of the word “amazing” but felt it appropriate here. Second, I’ve seen pictures from recent panel discussions where three to six people are on stage sitting in chairs or on stools. I’m sure you’ve seen many of the same photos. All share the same slumped drooping body language of panelists with microphones in hand, often wearing the same business casual attire. No positive body movement on stage, no physical presentation energy. The audience sits, stares, and strains to listen. With the demand for more memorable event experiences, why do event producers still employ near-valueless panel discussions? It’s an educational session format relic from a long-gone event era. There are so many better ways to actively engage event audiences. (By the way, posting pictures of these panel discussions doesn’t help.)

2. “Our postage-stamp size exhibit with cheap misfit filler pieces DOMINATED!” 

If you’re going to exhibit at an event, own the event. Just securing a undersized booth space in the back of the convention hall and cobbling together a cheap presence with misfit equipment and misaligned messaging won’t cut it. If all you’re doing is throwing together an ineffective trade show presence, don’t. You’ll get the more value from just attending, shaking hands and making the rounds versus waiting for attendees to wander to the back of the hall to find you.

3. “That team was AWESOME jamming 100 slides into an incomprehensible 60 minutes!”

Make that an incomprehensible 55 minutes. Maybe even shorter. Whether its an online conference call or in-person presentation, an audience deserves better than a crush of unreadable sides while uncoordinated, multiple presenters with various levels of communication skill and preparation “pass the ball” around the virtual conference room. Worse is when 60 minutes are scheduled, but the presentation leader doesn’t show up until five minutes after the top of the hour to start the show. As if you’ll get through all of those slides anyway.

4. “The lackluster monotone #presentation of your media content is INSPIRING!”

It’s all about #content, isn’t it? But effectively communicating content doesn’t seem to matter to some. The predisposition to overworking mind-numbing text and slides is common, but spending quality time on the #audio or #video portion that accompanies web and #mobile material nowadays is frequently short-changed by poor production values. It’s easy to find business material produced by somebody using a cheap smartphone, camera, or microphone in a back office or spare room to simply “get it done”. Content is important, but presenting it involves how a person looks and sounds. When amateur efforts are employed and development is rushed, your content, and marketing, sales, and branding efforts will suffer in this new era of dynamic media.

5. “Video Marketing is EASY! All I have to do is turn on my smartphone!”

The way some go about #video marketing today is reminiscent of the way kinescope was first used in the 1940s. There’s a new wave of video #technology that’s hot and trending today, just as it was 70 years ago. But somebody needs to remind people that an audience still needs to find what’s being produced as interesting, entertaining, and informative. Nobody is going to care if your video is in HD, in 4K, and was brought to us via your smartphone and selfie stick if it’s not capable of holding an audience’s attention. There’s more to video marketing than simply turning on your camera, sticking somebody in front of it, and posting a video on Facebook.

6. “It was worth it to send our team to the good-time trade show and get NO ROI!”

Similar to the first quote, I recently saw two more social-media-circulated #convention pictures of healthy teams of people gathered in their company’s respective trade show booths. Happy. Smiling. Enjoying themselves. Displaying great forms of teamwork. Duly noted.

What I also saw in one picture were stacks of garbage-bound paper brochures sitting on a counter. Pens and other assorted giveaways that will go from the company, to the attendees, and to the dumpster. In my mind I also saw the expense reports for each of the on-site staff members and the invoices for the company premiums. What I didn’t see was bold and effective messaging in the booths. I also saw one booth’s position on the show floor. A wide-angle shot was needed to get everybody in that particular picture frame, and it’s safe to say that it would be an accomplishment if a healthy percentage of attendees eventually found their way to that company’s hideout (exhibit) on the show floor. Meanwhile, back at HQ, those event invoices, expense reports, event sales, marketing summaries, and staff pictures will be reviewed by somebody in charge. I’m glad everybody enjoyed their exhibit space, but I sure hope they brought home some return on that event and booth investment and minimized the waste.

7. “I’m glad marketing had NOTHING to do with our January sales kickoff!”

For those who need reminding that sales and marketing teams are disconnected, at best, and adversarial, at worst – here it is again. Marketing must produce economic value to sales, and the organization. To think that marketing can survive disconnected from sales and stay heads down on electronic devices is absurd. Marketing can and should play a #leadership role in sales kickoff activities. And they should hit the road with salespeople to see what works in front of prospects and customers and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that marketing may get one half of one chance to earn the respect of the sales team. And now is the time of the year to do just that.

8. “For inappropriately inserting POLITICS into your business, event, presentation, or #workplace environment so that half of your attendees/customers/employees feel uncomfortable and unwelcome… THANK YOU!” 

No explanation needed. Enough said on that one.

Each one of these unheard of quotes represents an opportunity for sales and marketing performance improvement. Even the last quote. I also realize that most marketers, business developers, conference producers, webinars hosts, and trade show managers have to work within the confines of constrained #budgets and limited resources, and that the vast majority do the best they can with the hand they’re dealt.

But these problems are all too common, and chronic, and they continue to persist to this very day. Present solutions for any or all of the above, and the business opportunities will present themselves to you.

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

Political Stunts and Corporate Events Don’t Mix

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

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.

Nobody.

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
GettingPresence

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
GettingPresence

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