My new book Event Crowdsourcing will be released this Fall

"Event Crowdsourcing" release this Fall
Event Crowdsourcing: Creating Meetings People Actually Want and Need

I’m happy to announce that my third book Event Crowdsourcing will be released this Fall. It covers a fundamental yet neglected topic: creating meetings people actually want and need.

My research has shown that over half the sessions offered at traditional preplanned conferences are not what attendees actually want! Event crowdsourcing allows you to create meetings where attendees want and need every session.

Who should buy this book?

    • Are you a meeting planner/designer who wants to create the best possible meetings for your clients? Then you need this book!
    • Are you a presenter who knows the importance of meeting the wants and needs of your audience? Session crowdsourcing ensures that your sessions will reflect the real-time needs of those who attend.
    • Are you a conference stakeholder eager to grow an event by making it the very best it can be? When attendees are enthusiastic about your event because it meets their wants and needs, they recommend your event to their peers and return year after year. As a result, your event grows, continually adapting to the changing desires of your participants, and your event and organization communities strengthen over time.
    • Are you an attendee who tires of events full of irrelevant pre-planned sessions? Event crowdsourcing ensures that you will be enthusiastic about the content and value of events and sessions.

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How to trash your brand

Here’s how to trash your brand. If I could completely avoid flying American Airlines I would. Not because of the airline’s mediocre rankings in on-time arrivals, lost baggage, fees, and customer satisfaction. After all, there are some airlines that are even worse. (Spirit, I’m looking at you.)

No, it’s their infuriating habit of pitching credit cards to passengers on every flight. For example, while I was trying to sleep on the red-eye I took last week.

I find the two- to three-minute pitches really annoying. We are literally a captive audience, strapped into our seats with nowhere to escape.

To add insult to injury, The Points Guy reports that many of the claims made for the credit card are misleading or simply incorrect.

What the airline says

According to American Airlines spokesperson, Sunny Rodriguez: “We have found that in-flight is a great time to talk with our customers about airline credit cards.”

Actually, Sunny, you’re not talking with your customers, you’re talking at them. There’s a big difference.

Notice that this justification is 100% about what’s good for American Airlines. Not what’s good for its customers, as the following sample of customer complaints illustrates:

Why does American Airlines do this?

Besides annoying the heck out of me, I’m at a loss to understand how this is a good business decision.
—Is the revenue they receive when some hapless passenger signs up a significant boost to their bottom line?

—Are flight attendants so eager to supplement their salaries (apparently, they get ~$50 for every new customer) that they beg the airline to add extra work to their flight duties?

—And, most importantly, does American Airlines think that pitching their credit card on every flight to captive passengers improves their brand?

After all, this survey found that over 90% of airline passengers said they’d never apply for a credit card in flight. (And, of course, some of those who would have already got one—yet still have to put up with the same spiel on every subsequent trip!)

A creative alternative

Even if American Airlines truly believe that hawking credit cards to a captive audience is a good thing, they don’t have to do it in a way that annoys almost everyone on the airplane. Edward Pizzarello notes that United Airlines also pitches cards on their flights, using a classic marketing technique that is far less intrusive and, I suspect, far more effective.

Flight attendants walk through the cabin handing out free boxes of mints printed with a code for a United Airlines card offer. Yes, the classic give-away, good will marketing approach! Passengers are free to ignore the advertisement and, regardless, receive a small gift. Pizzarello concludes: “Mints versus speeches?  I’ll take the mints.”

Can American Airlines learn?

It amazes me that AA doesn’t realize (or doesn’t care) that customers are turned off by brands that spray unwanted pitches on trapped consumers.

Frankly, I’m pessimistic that American Airlines can change the culture that leads to this kind of clueless marketing.

A final piece of evidence: the American Airlines pitch for paying more for seats that are as roomy as those they provided standard five years ago.

I call it “The seat I used to have in Economy.”

Image attribution: Quartzy

Another triumph of automated marketing!

Hapless automated marketing abounds. Here’s an email I received this morning:

Subject:  Love Your Content (Collaboration Proposal)
“My name is RJ, I am the main editor at [a website about car care].

I just wanted to send you a quick email to let you know that we recently released a comprehensive blog post on “How Much!? Replacing A Catalytic Converter”.

While browsing your site, I noticed this page
http://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/facilitating-change/2014/09/a-caveat-on-working-with-human-catalysts.

I believe our piece would be a great addition to your page.”

RJ “believes” his/her post would be “a great addition” to this post:

 

I am receiving more and more hapless automated marketing efforts like this: no careful thought, no subtlety, no serious attempt to check that the target might be relevant to the pitch.

Just spray and pray.

Perhaps some “marketer” thought that instead of just scraping page titles that mentioned the phrase “catalytic converter” (which might make more sense) they could increase the volume of useless mass emails (and extract more money from their client?) by expanding their target search to anyone who mentions the phrase anywhere on the page.

The only reason my post mentions “catalytic converter” is as an example of what the word “catalyst” means. Otherwise, it has as much in common with RJ’s content as a toothbrush has to a lunar eclipse.

Compare this waste of time and resources with an example of marketing done right.

Experienced and respected marketers have told me that expanding your email list is crucial to getting your message across, and I believe them.

But finding and/or creating the right email list are clearly crucial too, and every misdirected pitch I get like this one gives good marketers a black eye.

Please stop it guys!

Image attribution: Flickr user pnglife

How to accidentally write a popular blog post

I accidentally wrote a blog post that receives more than a million page views every year. For proof, type “delete mail” into Google. My post How to delete ALL mail messages from iPhone/iPad in one step is #1 of the 127+ million results.

Actually, I’ve accidentally written several popular posts, and I’ve finally figured out what happened. Want to know what I’ve learned, so you can deliberately write popular posts? Read on!

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Is paid influencer marketing ethical in the event industry?

choice_noun_86702Paid influencer marketing is spreading to the event industry, and I doubt that it’s an ethical practice.

Last week I received the following voice mail (identifying details have been bleeped; transcript below.)

Hi Adrian, my name is _____, I work for an influence marketing agency _____, and I’m reaching out to you this afternoon about an opportunity with _____, who is one of our clients, and I know you are an influencer in the meeting/event/conference planning sphere which is the focus of this campaign with _____  and we’re just hoping to have you involved in this campaign: involves a blog post, some social posting, hopefully a visit to the property with a bit of filming. If you’re interested in more details I would love to chat with you; my phone number is _____. Thanks, and looking forward to talking to you soon; bye bye.”

I was not surprised to get this call because the agency has been calling other event professionals with the same pitch. One of them, whom I’ll call InfluentialEventProf, forwarded me an email with more details of how the “opportunity” would work (identifying details have been replaced with generic terms):

From: YYY@InfluenceMarketingCompany.com
To: InfluentialEventProf@InfluentialEventProfDomain.com
Sent: 9/8/2016
Subj: Paid Campaign Opportunity: Complimentary Stay at Property Z

Hi InfluentialEventProf,

Hope this note finds you very well! Brand X’s Property in Somewhere, USA is a client of ours, and I am working on an influencer campaign to help promote Property Z’s event spaces as ideal venues for conferences and corporate meetings. Brand X would love to have you–a known industry expert on event/meeting planning–involved in this campaign!

We are inviting you to come for a complimentary stay to experience Property Z during a major Industry Sector S conference during TheseDates. Brand X would like you to review the visit and conference experience on your company’s blog and promote Property Z on social media. To give you a general idea of the campaign’s scope, here are some details regarding the influencer package and campaign components:

Influencer package:

One or two (1-2) complimentary nights at Property Z (dependent on your availability)

One (1) complimentary breakfast

One (1) complimentary dinner

$500 compensation

Complimentary parking

Campaign components:

One (1) post-stay blog post highlighting the Property Z as a venue for corporate conferences/meetings/events. Ideally, this blog post would be published both on your company’s blog and on your Linkedin page.

Two (2) real-time Twitter photo posts during your stay

Two (2) post-stay Twitter photo posts

(Use the hashtags of {3 PropertyZHashtags}, and any Property Z social channel handles on all relevant content.)

Would you be interested in participating? If so, I can send you more detailed information regarding these campaign components.

We are really hoping to work with you!

All the best,

YYY

This is classic paid influencer marketing via social media, a marketing trend that has been rapidly growing since 2014. Celebrities are paid big bucks to casually introduce positive experience of brands into their social media feeds. Now event industry influencers are being asked to do the same thing.

Will Brand X require all resulting social media posts by InfluentialEventProf to be labeled “Sponsored”? (Will “Sponsored” even fit into the tweets that are required?) Will the post-stay blog post include the information that the stay and meals were paid for by Brand X and that the InfluentialEventProf was paid a fee by Brand X?

Even if InfluentialEventProf provides all this information, there is plenty of research that shows that such paid marketing biases influencers to be more positive about their review than they would have been otherwise. (See, for example: High bias found in Amazon reviews of low-cost or free samples, where the provision of free or low-cost products boosted ratings from the 54th percentile to the 94th percentile!)

I think such practices are ethically questionable. The CMP Standards of Ethical Conduct Statement and Policy includes the pledge “Never use my position for undue personal gain and to promptly disclose to appropriate parties all potential and actual conflicts of interest“, and I’d argue that what is being offered here is “undue personal gain”. In addition, any event professional who is employed should review their employer’s ethics policy. Additional questions to consider are:

  • “In what way could you justify participation to your employer?”
  • “In what way could you justify participation to your clients?”
  • “Are there ways that this participation could influence site selection?”

What do you think?

[My thanks to InfluentialEventProf for permission given to reproduce the above email, and for suggestions that improved this post.]

Paperback versus ebook popularity over time

Paperback versus ebook popularity over timeMy book Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love has now been available for over five years in both paperback and ebook versions and is still selling well. I thought it might be of interest to share how the proportion of paperback versus ebook sales has changed over time. The following figures include both indirect (mainly Amazon) and direct (my web store) sales.

As you can see from the above graph, paperbacks were, on average, 82%, of sales when the book was published in 2009. Although there’s significant variation from month to month, due mainly to bulk sales of one format or the other, the five year trendline shows that by March 2015, the most recent month for which I have full indirect sales figures, paperback book sales dropped to just over 60% of all sales.

The paperback is priced at $27.95 (Amazon) or $26.00 (from me directly), and the ebook format costs $11.00 (only from me). I haven’t changed any prices over the years, though Amazon plays tricks with the paperback pricing from time to time. These pricing levels provide me approximately the same income per copy for direct sales, regardless of the format.

One factor that affects the quantity of new paperback sales is that, these days, there are usually a few used copies of the paperback available on Amazon for a few dollars under the new price. Sales of used copies reduces new copy sales. On the other hand, I expect some copies of the ebook get shared too.

An additional trend I am noting for my website sales is that combination sales (both ebook and paperback versions of the same book) have been increasing over the last year. I offer a discount when both formats are purchased simultaneously, and this is worth considering if you are selling your books yourself.

Conclusions

  • People still like paperbacks! Even though the ebook is 40% of the price of the paperback, I’m still selling more paperbacks than ebooks.
  • The ebook format is becoming more popular over time. If, and that’s a big if, the trend continues, both formats will become equally popular some time in 2017. Interestingly, my new book The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action which has only been available for three months has sold about equal numbers of each format to date.
  • Don’t read too much into my experience. Conferences That Work is non-fiction, priced higher than most ebooks, and is only available as an ebook directly from me, so there’s no comparable Amazon sales channel. Your mileage may vary.

Are you an author with book format sales history of your own? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below!

Suppliers and Vendors: To market to me—join my conference tribe!

Tribes

It continues to amaze me how few suppliers of products and services bother to attend educational sessions at conferences, restricting themselves to the associated trade show. Folks, you’re making a mistake! Peter Evans-Greenwood explains why:

“To sell to members of a tribe you must be part of the tribe. It’s not enough to be in conversation with the tribe, your identity needs to be interwoven with the tribe.”
Identity is a funny thing, Peter Evans-Greenwood

Is there a better place to join the tribe of the attendees to whom you’re selling than the conference sessions themselves?

I don’t think so.

Even if the sessions are lectures with time for Q&A at the end, you’ll get an opportunity to hear what someone—hopefully with expertise and experience—is sharing that’s relevant to your market, and the audience questions may supply useful clues on pain points and selling propositions that you can address (perhaps during the session, if it’s done without a crude pitch).

And if you’re participating in interactive peer-to-peer sessions (like the sessions I’m facilitating at PCMA EduCon 2015 this week) you are bound to meet and connect with potential clients. Smart suppliers and vendors know the value of building these kinds of relationships, and spend time cultivating them. Paying for a trade show booth but skipping the associated conference sessions is simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Instead of marketing to the conference tribe, why not join the conference tribe?

How to sell me stuff right

Muster MeLibby O’Malley rocks. I haven’t met her (yet!) but she read my 2012 post A letter to event technology companies trying to sell me stuff and—wow!—actually took the time to figure out how to introduce me to her new product Muster Me in a way I would like.

A vendor who really listens and responds appropriately; how refreshing! Yes, the flattery doesn’t hurt, but Libby clearly made sure that the complaints in my post about the hundreds of event profession product and service pitches I receive each year were addressed.

This is the best product pitch I’ve ever received. Fantastic work Libby!

I am not endorsing her product (though the demo on the website worked fine for me) but I’m happy to reproduce here what she emailed me today, as an example of how to do selling right.

Here’s the text of Libby’s email:

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5 tips on how to market event apps to me

Traci FB comment
Traci Browne, Facebook post
Like my friend Traci, I receive a constant stream of messages from developers about their new event apps. Naturally, as a frequent commentator on the event industry, I am anxious to throw myself into the tiniest details of these innovative products that are sure to revolutionize every event professional’s life. Clearly they are tools that will:

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Market your conference with an annotated schedule

Conference marketing 5939057098_d8fd5655cd_b

Right after my last post on marketing a new peer conference, organizational and leadership development consultant Judy Warriner Walke suggested an additional way to help communicate what happens at a conference—an annotated schedule.

I like this idea! Walking potential attendees through the flow of the event helps to clarify and demystify conference process, especially if people haven’t attended an event format like Conferences That Work before. Here’s an example, written for the October 2013 1st Annual Vermont Leadership Network Conference.


Want to better understand what will be happening at the 1st Annual Vermont Leadership Network Conference? Here’s an annotated schedule!

[Note: Some details are omitted here! For more information, visit About Peer Conferences.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Registration will be open between noon and 2pm.

At 2pm, after a brief welcome and an explanation of conference ground rules, we’ll start with opening roundtable(s). Roundtables provide a structured, safe way for you to learn about other participants early in the conference. During the roundtable, you’ll discover topics of interest to explore, get a sense of the depth of interest in these topics, and find out who has experience and expertise that you want to connect with and explore further. We’ll include frequent breaks and refreshments during the roundtable, ending around 4:30pm.

After an hour break, we’ll hold peer session sign-up during dinner. In peer session sign-up we’ll visually document our wishes and suggestions for the upcoming conference sessions. Then, we’ll determine which of the suggested peer session topics are popular and schedule the chosen sessions into a conference program. This is a short process that will be held during the dinner and subsequent socializing, with a small group subsequently using the resulting information to create Friday’s program. The end result will be a Friday conference schedule that optimally matches desired topics with the resources of the group.

Friday, October 18
We’ll have time for four sets of (usually) one-hour concurrent sessions on Friday, with breaks between each and lunch served between sessions 3 and 4.

What might these sessions look like? They are typically informal: often facilitated discussions, presentations, panels, workshops, walks, etc. As an example, five years ago the class  of ’08 used this conference format for a reunion—here are the topics that were chosen (8 sessions in concurrent pairs):

Fun and team camaraderie in the workplace • Fundraising • The political process – running for office • The systematic development of informed consent • Am I doing what I want to be doing? • Technology – social networking & other applications • Getting Things Done • Appreciative Inquiry

After these sessions are over, at 2:40pm we’ll end with two facilitated closing sessions, a personal introspective and a group spective.

The personal introspective will give you a structured opportunity to think about what you have experienced at the conference, how your experiences may impact your life in the future, and what changes you may want to make as a result. After reflection, you’ll then have an opportunity to share your answers in small groups.

After a break, a group spective will start at 3:50pm. The group spective will provide facilitated time for participants as a group to evaluate the conference and suggest and begin to develop future initiatives for Vermont Leadership and the Snelling Center. We’ll use a variety of techniques to do this.

The conference will end at 5pm, and all are welcome to stay and socialize with their classmates and new friends at a reception hosted by the Snelling Center immediately following the conference.

As you can see, participation on Thursday will make a big difference to your conference experience and your influence on its form and content. Please attend the whole event if at all possible!

To summarize, here’s the outline of the conference schedule for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, October 17, 2013
12:00PM – 02:00PMRegistration
02:00PM – 02:10PMWelcome
02:10PM – 03:10PMRoundtable(s)
03:10PM – 03:30PMBreak
03:30PM – 04:30PMRoundtable(s) continued
05:30PM – 07:00PMDinner and peer session sign-up
07:00PM –Informal chat, socializing, music, etc.
Friday, October 18
08:30AM – 08:40AMMorning news
08:40AM – 09:40AMPeer session 1
09:40AM – 09:50AMBreak
09:50AM – 10:50AMPeer session 2
10:50AM – 11:05AMBreak
11:05AM – 12:05AMPeer session 3
12:15PM – 01:30PMLunch
01:30PM – 02:30PMPeer session 4
02:30PM – 02:40PMBreak
02:40PM – 03:40PMPersonal introspective
03:40PM – 03:50PMBreak
03:50PM – 05:00PMGroup spective
05:00PM –Optional: class reunions, etc.

Notice that I’ve added a regular schedule at the end of the annotation, so attendees can still easily see when all sessions take place.

Familiarizing people with something different in advance is a great way of reducing the common resistance to trying something new. Thanks for the suggestion, Judy!

Photo attribution: Flickr user stevendepolo