Conference expense budgets are tight. Technology innovations—including Skype, do-it-yourself screen capture, and affordable video-editing tools—will help you bring more and better thought leaders to your conference experience.
Professional speakers—often themostremem- bered and valued elements of a conference—are normally reserved for “main tent” sessions. But what ifyou could add a dose ofthat premium thought leadership to conference breakouts or facilitated small-group discussions as well? Wouldn’t that help increase value for your con- ference participants?You betcha!
Really Live Chat Rooms That’s exactly what Jeff Hurt and I did to add another innovative element to PCMA’s 2012 annual meeting,Convening Leaders. In the Learn- ing Lounge—a large space broken up into cluster “theaters” for small-group sessions—wecreated Really Live Chat Rooms. For that experience, we recorded Skype interviews with 15 thought leaders around the world, including a speaker from Australia. Many of these individuals are NewYorkTimes best-selling authors and are fre- quently hired as keynoters for professional confer- ences. All in all,wecreated 22 video interviewsfor a hard cost of$299 in total! The videos were edited (by amateurs) and
shown in various parts ofthe Learning Lounge. The average videowas about 10 minutes in length. Volunteer facilitators were coached to pause the videos after big ideaswere shared and to help par- ticipants think through how they could apply those concepts to their conferences. Basically, the Really Live ChatRoomsexperience becameround- table discussions on steroids.
Convincing Speakers to Play Convening Leaders had a pretty compelling value proposition—the participants either hire or rec-
ommend professional speakers. But conferences with audiences ofall kinds can attract this kind of talent.
Most professional speakers and authors com-
mandspeaker fees of $10,000 or more.Whenthey agree to a speaking gig, it can mean a two- to four- day commitmentwhen you include travel, the time it takes to customize their presentation for your attendees, and other considerations. Ifyou ask a speaker to participate in a Skype-style interview, that time commitment canbe broughtdownto less than 30 minutes. Toget speakers to agree to participate, you need
to think hard about what’s in it for them. I recom- mend that the interview request come from the highest possible level within your organization, and that you add incentives. For example, agreeing to purchase a number ofcopies oftheir book to sell in your bookstore, or offering some other promo- tional value, may be all you need to get them on board.
Embedding the Interview in the Conference Experience Whenyou record a Skype interview, it isn’t going to end up being production quality, but that’s okay as long as the content rocks. Keep in mind that it’s also difficult for attendees to watch a long interviewin a conference environment.Thebest use ofrecorded Skype interviews is to supplement the content of a longer session — use the thought- leader videos to provoke discussion and add cred- ibility. Attendees come to your conference to solve their most pressing problems. When concepts or ideas come from a leading authority on the topic, they tend to be remembered and acted on more.
ON_THE_WEB: Want to learn more about how to get the most out of your professional speakers? Check out this seven-minute Skype interview with online marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, recorded for Convening Leaders, at http://bit.ly/Convene-Scott.
34 pcmaconvene March 2012 ILLUSTRATION BY BRAD YEO
Putting Digital Tech toWork Many of the innova- tions in eLearning, webinars, and virtual conferences can be leveraged to improve your face-to-face meetings. Skyping in a panelist or using this technology as a back-up plan for a grounded speaker are examples of creative uses. Skype can be a bit jumpy, but as long as you capture quality audio and have exceptional content, audiences are very forgiving. In-demand speak-
ers and thought leaders command a high fee for the value they deliver. When you approach them with a proposition that gives them visi- bility without the travel, they’re likely to jump at the opportunity.
Dave Lutz, CMP, ismanaging director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting,www .velvetchainsaw.com, a business-improvement consultancy specializing in the meetingsand eventsindustry. Hiscom- pany assists organizations in realizing top- and bottom-line growth by delivering customer- focused solutions in business development, best-practice and process improvement, strategic planning, and training.