‘Tis the season to be jollying… Conference Season!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013, 8:25 | Category : General
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The nights are drawing in, the children are going back to school, jumpers are making a come back and it’s now officially Autumn.  That means only one thing to the hardened PR professional.  Conference season is upon us.

The floodgates have opened on the email deluge from conference organisers and vendors alike – I’ve had two just in the last hour.  Journalists all over Europe are sharpening their pencils to schedule as many meetings (read: drinks/dinners/breakfasts) as they can within the next packed 8 weeks.  And the PR stress o’meter is in the red.

All the big guys host conferences at this time of year; from the well trodden Gartner Symposia to the media hotspot that is Ad:tech and some promising start-up events like Dublin’s Web Summit.  We have got it all going on this Autumn and, The PR Network is no different.  We are attending Brand Licensing Europe 2013 in October with our client LIMA (the Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association – not the Peruvian City) and Ad:tech London with the aptly named ADTECH a division of AOL Networks.

Conf show floor

As we get ourselves ready, we thought it might be fun to share our Top 10 tips to a successful conference season.

  1. Get organised.  Excel must be your friend for conference season.  No flack or hack is without a well formatted (it’s all about the colour-coding) excel spreadsheet listing out flight itinerary, journalist briefing schedules and a timeline of activity running up to D Day.  We are big fans of Excel and share our work through Box.  But, have also used Microsoft SharePoint and Basecamp both of which are great project management solutions.
  2. It’s good to talk.  Make sure you have weekly, and as you near the event, daily client calls to ensure everyone is comfortable with the plan.  Nothing like a change of announcement/speech at the 11th hour – try to reduce the chances of this by getting regular catch ups with the client to check everyone is clear who is attending, what they are saying and how you are supporting them.  Our finance team dreads this time of the year – there’s more calls on the expenses bill than at any other single time in the year.
  3. Plan B.  There will always be a plan B.  Invariably the speaker you arranged the speaking slot for, will now no longer attend and you have been given a lowly product/marketing manager in his stead.  Keep calm and work out a plan B quickly.  A good relationship with the conference organiser can aid an honest chat and reduce fall out, but also be prepared to have some tough conversations with your client to make sure this is not the norm.
  4. Red Pen Alert.  The amount of content created at this time of year is incredible.  From speech writing, synopsis creation and press pack collation, you need to enlist the help of your team to help you proof every single word. Nothing smacks of poor preparation than a typo and when it gets busy we can all do with a helping hand and an extra pair of eyes.
  5. Refresh spokesperson training.  We are big fans of presentation training and ensure all of our clients have a refresher pre-conference season.  You will see on this blog in the near future some top tips from one of the best trainers in the business.  The difficulty is sometimes getting the client to see that they need it – but once that’s done, we can do the rest.  It always pays dividends as we all know a well honed sound bite can double column inches
  6. Press packs.   How do you make your press pack stand out from the crowd in the over-crowded press zone?  There’s a real trend towards digital press packs which frankly are more portable and less likely to get chucked in the bin on the show floor – but it’s also worth thinking about how you package them – the nicer and the more branded the better – try and make your press pack stand out on the shelf.  It’s also worth considering for big international shows how you can localize packs to include multiple languages – this goes a long way to keep travelling journalists on side
  7. Sponsorship.  We would always advise you to look at ways to optimize your involvement in the show.  Sponsoring sessions, events, drinks parties and even the press zone are a great way to raise visibility.  The budgets aren’t small but to help you reach maximum awareness
  8. Extra curricula activity.  If you have visiting execs or journalists we would advise you create an itinerary of additional activity to do whilst you attend the show.  A mini tour guide on city highlights, things to do, things to see and places to eat goes down really well and adds to the goodwill
  9. Pack your bags.  Like any good getaway, you need to think carefully about what you pack for conferences.  After my first year at Mobile World Congress resulting in serious blister issues on the first day, I have embraced the comfortable flat shoe for all conferences.  Learn from my mantra; comfort over chic any day of the conference week.
  10. Keep it fun.  You have a big job to do during conference season, but you can still have a lot of fun along the way.  I’ve spent many a conference daring myself and my colleagues to gather the BEST array of freebies.  Over the years the quality has shifted somewhat, but I am still never happier than with a nice branded USB drive and some free mints in my free hessian conference bag.  And, I’m not alone.  I’ve been in lifts with execs bragging to their colleagues about the latest freebie they’ve managed to procure

For more on our theme of conference season and insight into how to make the most of your presentations look at conference speaker veteran Ian Gott’s post on how to deliver stellar conference speeches, found here.



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