POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Pay-for-Play Conferences

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This post is part of a series of point/counterpoint arguments proposed by different members of the Pixels & Pills staff. Were strong believers that healthy arguments can yield the best solutions, and we hope that you enjoy our series. Feel free to add your own arguments in the comments section below!

by Krissy Goelz (@krisgoelz)

When you attend an industry conference, chances are youre not going for the opportunity to win a new iPad or collect a smattering of nylon tote bags filled with pens, hats, thumb drives and other branded tchotchkes. What you want is what most people desire: an exceptional experience that provides the opportunity to learn from thought leaders, exposure to valuable content, practical knowledge and a forum to network with great people. However, theres one critical mistake many presenters make that puts a damper on conference attendance: the dreaded sales pitch.

Lets face it, every conference speaker has an agenda whether thats to flex their intellectual muscle for the thrill of adoration or to sell a product or service. Thinking anything less would be delusional.

But, just because a vendors goal is collecting sales leads it doesnt mean theyre not prepared to give back and share pertinent knowledge, relevant experiences and primary research. Theres still value in these conferences, even when presentations include sales pitches. Knowledge sharing and sales are not mutually exclusive.

Presenters should take the time to prepare a session that leaves attendees feeling like theyve learned something valuable, but they should be entitled to include information that potentially puts money in their pocket. Theyve invested time in preparing and promoting their session, doing research that substantiates their key points and are away from the office or serving customers to share key learning with conference attendees.

Many vendor-sponsored presentations contain excellent information. Sought-after speakers know their audience and design presentations accordingly. They give you data you cant get elsewhere, whether thats gleaned from being down in the trenches or based on research.

There are hundreds of conferences on search, mobile communication, using social media and other new technologies. At every show, some presenters are rock stars while others are lackluster theres simply no escaping that dynamic. But the reality is, if a presenter is teaching you something, why should you care if it includes a sales pitch? If youre learning and can take away actionable information, whatever is being hawked is secondary.

In a perfect world, every presenter is remarkable and delivers a presentation chock full of riveting, game-changing information. Recognize that in the real world there are some bad apples that can spoil the bunch. But, dont blame the speakers; conference organizers should be collecting attendee feedback and ensuring they dont invite back speakers who do not contribute value.

So, if youre thinking of attending one of the industrys conferences and helping your organization move to the next level, dont let the fear of being sold hold you back. Theres value in pay for play presentations and many excellent presenters willing to share their knowledge to help you achieve your goals.

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One Response to POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Pay-for-Play Conferences

  1. James Ellis says:

    Sell the idea, not the company. I’m here for the idea, so pitch it to me hard, boss. If I dig an idea, I’ll move mountains to figure out what company pitched it to me. (and besides, we’re all on LinkedIn anyway. It’s never hard to find the person you saw at a conference and figure out where they work).

    I begrudge no one their need to make a living, and I know that selling is a part of that. But don’t pretend that because I sit through the commercials while watching TV that I’m actually there for the commercials. They just happen to be there and I will tolerate a certain amount of them.

    But if you gave me more good shows (high percentage of interesting and exciting and experimental) and took out the commercials, you know what happens? I will pay more for the value. Don’t believe me? Look at Showtime versus broadcast TV. Tell me where the numbers are headed for each.

    So if people are going to pitch, pitch content. I love content. I will pay for content. I will tell me friends and peers about content. I will make your company famous if the content is really good (I discovered Twitter at a conference in 2008. Look how much I talk about that).
    If your content is good, I can see immediately how to apply it to my own work and how much value it adds. That’s the commercial.

    @digital_pharma