Digital marketing, ad:tech 2009 and conferences

by Lee Hopkins on February 17, 2009

in ethics,housekeeping,public speaking

Jenny Williams from Ideagarden has recorded an interview with Ben Mangold, Analytics Director with Mangold Sengers.

Ben is hosting the “Designing Data Centric Approach to Evolve your Digital Strategy” discussion on the ad:tech program.

It’s a useful video to check out if you are considering going to the ad:tech event in Sydney this year. I went a couple of years ago, as a panellist, and much of the value for me was from meeting other Social Media leading lights face to face for the first time.

ad:tech is a great event that should be in your calendar if you are serious about online marketing, but I won’t be there this year even though I was offered another ‘talking head’ spot; ad:tech wouldn’t stump up for even a cattle-class airfare, leaving the conference once again a Sydney-centric affair and largely benefitting only those who reside in Sydney. I know that am not alone in laughing at Sydney’s mainstream media and its myopic view that Australia stops at the NSW border.

And no doubt we who laugh at Sydney’s self-centrism also share the point of contention I have with a LOT of event promoters, not just ad:tech.

To wit, I don’t quite understand the logic of some promoters, but it must run something along these lines:

“Let’s pay for some big names to attend, but not pay for anyone else because these lesser-names will gain good exposure to decision-makers in their industry and will therefore jump at the chance to be there.”

To use a technical term: ‘bollocks’

The experience of myself and of many colleagues is that unless you ARE a big name the exposure is of little to no value, because a week later no one remembers who you are.

I certainly haven’t, nor have any of my colleagues, gained any consultancy or other work as a result of appearing at these sorts of conferences. Indeed, many of my colleagues report having pulled out of conferences because of atrociously disrespectful behaviour to anyone not a ‘big name’. Behaviour such as downgrading flight class without notice, downgrading expenses without notice, suddenly adding in extra conditions and duties without notice nor additional compensation.

The promoters are in it for a profit – it is a ‘game’ for them to see who they can get for ‘free’ so that they can maximise that profit.

I’ve done my fair share to help out promoters in the past – indeed, you wouldn’t believe the lengths I’ve gone to in order to help out the NZ Digital Media Summit coming up in March (and I’m not about to tell you) – but I’ve truly run out of patience.

As I said at the very beginning of last year,

I’m happy to go — but just pay my business class airfare, accommodation and expenses and I’m very happy to present.

Otherwise please find another luminary.

No disrespect, but I’ve had enough of “this will be wonderful for your profile” shite. Ask any presenter who has ever presented for free on the promise that wondrous amounts of business will follow… it doesn’t.

I’m good. I know my stuff. I’m quite happy to stay at home and work on my doctoral research. I don’t need your conference to add value to my life. You want me (because it adds value to your conference), you pay for me. Simple as that.

Conferences are for-profit events, run not as a ‘goodwill’ gesture but as a revenue-generator for the promoter. If they are not prepared to pay me for the considerable number of hours that goes into preparing a presentation – even a panel discussion – then they miss out and their conference is slightly less ‘rich’ and nuanced as a result.

The ONLY exception to that rule is my attendance at the IABC World Conference in San Francisco in July of this year. The IABC doesn’t pay presenters, nor fly them in and accommodate them. In that regard they are the same as academic conferences. But such is the standing of the IABC within my community of business communicators that I am prepared to stump up the ponies myself to get there. As a extra fillip I get to spend a few leisurely days with Allan Jenkins meandering/driving from Seattle to San Francisco, then stay at Shel Holtz’s luxurious castle, all the while meeting other luminaries such as Steve Crescenzo.

In addition, the IABC asked me to present even though I hadn’t submitted a proposal. With over 1,000 such submissions each year, they never need to go outside of these to find interesting presentations and presenters. The fact that they approached me and I hadn’t even submitted a proposal is, as Shel said in private correspondence, unheard of and an opportunity to present to the world’s senior communicators that must not to be missed.

But IABC aside, I stand by my declaration of thirteen months ago: You want me (because it adds value to your conference), you pay for me. Simple as that.

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