This to me is another way of saying you will be learning from peers as well as the speakers. These opportunities are all about content, and context -- with inspiration wrapped around it. How much is this package worth? That would be $33,633 US.
And that is just for starters.
Events can really boost your presence on both sides of the conversation -- as speaker and as attendee. A new survey by the Advertising Research Foundation, New York, says that in-person events can move the needle on purchase intent in a range between 11% to 52%. The study that measured brand-sponsored events was published by BrandWeek. Interaction, you probably will not be surprised to read, registered the highest results, 54%.
The study seems to talk mainly about products. What about services? Can you experience those?
Service as a Service
Several years ago I worked in communications for a small international boutique firm that offered risk advisory and captive insurance management services. We had a team of extremely bright, experienced and diverse consultants with background ranging from law, to higher mathematics, risk management, reinsurance and everything in between. There is an upside to risk, and we worked with clients from many large organizations around the globe to find theirs.
Every year we planned a Rendez-vous in a different location to get all our clients in a room with some high level prospects and thought leaders who would address the topic of risk from unique perspectives. Our groups ended up being around 200 plus. One year we invited writer Peter Bernstein to talk about his book Against the Gods - the Remarkable Story of Risk, which incidentally I read as I was in charge of scouting and organizing the speakers. The idea was to provide a four-day space for our clients to think together, interact with their peers and be social. We invited them and their spouses. Many came.
We had the program in the morning, some board meetings and private discussions in the afternoon running concurrently with social activities organized for spouses, then brilliant evening soirées.
Experiential is Social
I remember one year the event was in Dublin, Ireland -- visit of Italian gardens, golf outings, high tea and chats, pub crawls, a poetry recital at the James Joyce house, a gala dinner with staff recognition (isn't is nice to be recognized by your CEO in front of the firm's customers?) and to cap it all traditional Irish dance served while eating friends' style at long tavern tables. I remember that evening, someone had set up a gag where a waiter pretended to be drunk and obnoxious. It worked so well that one of ours (an Irish-born) almost took him outside. We had to put a quick end to it. In true Irish fashion, no drinks were spilled and laughing was had all around.
We concluded that night with a partner from Mexico, an opera amateur, singing Granada while our CFO was doing back vocals and a client from Sweden accompanyed with the guitar.
Complete Strangers Become Temporary Friends
Our clients came together once a year. It would be nice to think that everyone stayed in touch between events. But the reality of life had them probably completely immersed in their work -- caring for the (sometimes) large organizations they were responsible to -- and mentally available only face-to-face.
That is an important distinction I would like to encourage you to notice. While virtual relationships and online networking are tremendously mind-expanding and useful, our mental bandwidth is given in small increments then. I can cite some pretty deep research on my own reading and writing habits. We try to do too much. I just discovered value thinking by Steve Borsch at Connecting the Dots and he recently wrote about it. We do suffer from attention overload.
That's why in person often means in the moment, which is the best place where you can pay attention. We like to return to those spaces where complete strangers become temporary friends.
A sales director I worked with used to say that every time someone was late to a meeting, giving the late comer the sense that he had been missing something. When meeting people, it's essential to be there fully or you'll miss the experience altogether. Erik Hauser, who I met via this blog a while back, says that you should talk to strangers. I concur. [Note: the video is chopped into very small sections, you can follow the thread by selecting the one-liners from the side menu.]
Oh, yes, the hot seat was the cost of a ticket to TED 2008, which has been booked for months.
We (now in technology) still go to several trade shows throughout the year -- some analyst conferences and some industry themed. How about you? Have tight budgets squeezed trade show attendance? Which ones do you keep on your list? Would they qualify as experiential marketing opportunities?
[Mark Cuban at BlogWorld Expo 2007. Photo by mil8, Flickr]
UPDATE: New survey by Jack Morton points to growth of experiential marketing in 2008.