Many conferences have suitcasing clauses. Why? Because a majority of the value is in meetings and networking, both items that conferences have a hard time monetizing and facilitating. ITW went virtual this year. The platform chosen was essentially a Deal Center portal to facilitate meetings. Some have expressed to me that it was not a fun experience. So again the virtual experience is not user friendly.
INCOMPAS, ITW, Metro Connect, ITEXPO and Channel Partners Expo rely heavily on inter-personal interaction. Without that what do you get at these events?
Conferences are experiences. It is about seeing old friends, meeting peers (new and old), doing business and learning. Currently, there isn’t a platform available that can replicate that online.
The business model of conferences has been about the vendors providing about 90 percent of the revenue via booths and sponsorship. Everything else is an after thought. Everything else was just to attract attendees to walk the show floor – to provide value to the show’s vendors (the real customer of the show).
Now turn it all virtual. The platforms are basically portals and Zoom webinars. What do you do?
Content becomes king again.
An in-person event costs roughly $1500 per show for the partner with airfare, hotel and F&B. A partner has to find $3000 worth of value out of every show. Think of it this way: What can an attendee learn at the show that could be applied to create $3000 in revenue?
This will be the new thinking until we have herd immunity or a vaccine. What is the ROI of a show?
Now conference companies – like Informa, TMC, et al – should be re-thinking what a conference looks like. Most of these companies already sell webinars. In other words, again and again they demonstrate what they consider content and how it is produced.
Most of the webinars I have seen consist of analysts and vendor executives yakking. People have become oblivious to basic marketing guidelines. Who is the customer? What do they care about? What do I want the attendee to take-away from this?
Instead it is basically wrapping for the vendor. I have yet to see webinars starring partners or customers discussing outcomes. (I would fall over if I did.)
On the Coffee Break, I mentioned that the key will be content that is engaging and entertaining. No more reading slides or showing videos. On webinars this week, there wasn’t enough value to make up for the time wasted. And for each shitty webinar, it becomes harder to get someone to watch YOUR webinar since the experience thus far has been disappointing.
COLOTRAQ CEO, Dany Bouchedid, thought that building a community would be the next step for conferences. Vendors would pay to be a part of the community in order to interact with the partners. Sounds like a vertical LinkedIn, right? InMail by Informa. (BTW, when it was Virgo, CP was contemplating a subscription model.)
ASCII Group and Robin Robins have that model in a way. The shows are a profit center that provide real world value to the attendees – and a funnel for the communities the shows’ owners operate.
The conference companies will need to become TV channels of quality programming. It will be available in audio and video – probably with commercials. It will be on Facebook Live, a YouTube channel and more. Since it isn’t easy to produce quality content (just browse cable TV or YouTube to see what I mean), it will become bland fast. Only Mr Rogers and Sesame Street understand how to produce quality educational programming!