manage change


Your Network is Terrible and It Will Kill You

A couple of questions:

  • Could you quickly secure a new job solely on the strength of your connections?
  • Could you start a business and achieve self-sufficiency immediately based upon your connections?

I suspect that the answer is ‘no’ to both questions, as it proved to be for me in December 2005 when I chose to start my business. At the time, my thinking was “Hey, I used to run Macworld. Once people know I have my own company the phone will ring off the hook.” Unfortunately, reality proved to be different and I struggled for the first two years.

 

The Event Mechanic! struggles

The main reason for my early struggles? My network was only 10% of what was needed to make a living. With both time and considerable effort that network now is much healthier and now financially I do well. As a result of my network, I often get referrals for new opportunities or, because of the range of my network, I can usually reach whoever I need through a couple of connections.

If you have the six months to two years of savings to support the lean times between jobs, then you might be fine. If not, you should be working on your network. And the time to work on it is when you don’t need it, not when you are scrabbling for financial survival.

 

How can you create a vibrant network? 

  1. Focus on connections that offer value.
  2. Make sure that any connection is recognized as being mutually beneficial, rather than a one-sided ‘extraction.’
  3. Offer value before expecting it from others.
  4. Be open to making connections on behalf of others.
  5. Don’t neglect your core network in deference to focusing on new connections.
  6. Use LinkedIn as a roadmap.
  7. Treat your efforts as a business; develop a board of directors for advice.

 

More or better?

Is the goal to have more connections or better connections? My old boss, Ron Gomes, often would answer that kind of either/or question with a ‘yes,’ since ideally, you want both. But, if there’s a trade-off, I would argue that it is better to have fewer, stronger connections than have many distant connections who you don’t really know. As a metric, I’d recommend trying to develop a network of one hundred core connections with whom you connect at least annually. That number should be complemented by several hundred “secondary” connections who will, at a minimum, respond to an email or take your call on an “as needed” basis.

 

Don’t be an Extractor

Building and maintaining a network takes work, but you should consider it an investment in your ‘rainy day’ fund. And, as was noted earlier, remember the importance of reciprocity. To be successful with network building you should enjoy helping others, as there will be times when members of your network need YOUR help. Relationships that are one directional will not be sustainable and your network will have the fraction of the power it should have.. When you’re only seen as an extractor, there soon will be nothing to be extracted as your connections will leave in droves.

I learned the value of a good network the hard way, and now enjoy the benefits of having invested in that effort. Will you make the same effort or risk being caught short when you need the resources?

 

Extra Credit reading:

https://www.fastcompany.com/90246816/the-5-people-you-must-have-in-your-network

https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/7-ways-to-build-a-strong-network/

https://www.fastcompany.com/90265127/how-to-build-and-maintain-an-effective-linkedin-network

And thanks to Dan Schwabel for his outline of the seven steps to creating a sound network.

 


Take Responsibility for Your Actions

Recently I have started to notice a trend where people will blame others for situations that are truly their own responsibility. You probably know what – or who – I’m talking about.

 

Can you sell or what?

Typically, as a sales manager, I am fairly cautious when setting sales goals. Some would say that I am too conservative. If I were managing someone like me, I’d certainly want a larger commitment. But, as a sales person, I’d also want to be known as someone who always exceeds my goals and who will agree to a ‘stretch’ goal where the push for higher results makes sense.

Regardless of whether the target is aggressive or conservative, accountability is the important thing. I remember a time when I fell short of selling the desired number of sponsors for an online event. In a conversation with my boss, I started to roll out all the reasons why I had missed the number – until I stopped myself. Not hitting the goal was my fault, despite all the factors that I could name. My responsibility! Fortunately, it was a small piece of the $1 million that I was due to produce and I had already made up the deficit by overachieving in other areas.

 

Yet the episode was instructive in several ways:

Taking responsibility, now a rare act, can be a competitive advantage if you do it consistently.

It’s liberating to know that, because an outcome is within your control (regardless of circumstances), you can and will make it happen.

Acknowledging a “failure” is almost never as painful as you fear it will be.

 

Do you have the character?

A willingness to take responsibility is a character trait that I seek out in those with whom I work or considering to hire. It signifies power, leadership and independent thinking. Of course, when you are the CEO, the buck should naturally stop with you but most of us typically report to someone, so indications of accountability at any level are positive signals necessary to be a star, no matter what role you perform.

I’m not going to descend into the messy pool of today’s politics for less affirming examples of the trend to blame others.  Make sure however that you frequently conduct your own objective self-review and acceptance of your responsibilities if you plan to succeed in the long run.

 

See you soon?

On a separate note, I’ll be in New Orleans for Expo! Expo! in December. If you’d like to discuss this or other newsletters that I’ve written, I’d be thrilled to get your perspective. And I love to meet event people as passionate as I am about our business.

 

Until the next time, consider how you can make ‘the buck stop’ at your own desk….

 


The Power of the Increment

When I reflect upon the success I’ve achieved to date and consider the details, I’m always amazed to consider the origins and my journey so far.  Given different accomplishments, it’s instructive to consider how things got started. Everything that’s happened has done so in a series of increments, some of which have been positive and others less so. Even the big achievements have come as a progression of small steps.

 

A Lesson from the Owner of COMDEX

My experience is not unique. A good example comes from Masayoshi Son, the founder of Softbank and someone I consider a living legend even though one of his events was a well-known competitor at a past company: COMDEX.

 

While Son was a full-time student at UC Berkeley, he sought a way to earn $10,000 a month. It was perhaps too challenging a goal for most of us, but not for Son. How did he do it? By investing a mere five minutes daily in thinking about new business ideas. With no support from fellow students (who thought he was wasting his time, he persevered in thinking about inventions that he could patent – but for just five minutes a day.

 

Now you and I would probably consider five minutes daily as trivial. Why not go away for a week or so, if you were really committed to getting something accomplished. But Son’s efforts were grounded in the belief in the “Power of the Increment”.

 

And what were the results? Son conceived and created an electronic dictionary that could translate words from English into Japanese, eventually selling it to Sharp for $1.7 million. Another business idea involving the importing of video games generated $1.5M. By the age of 19, he was a millionaire.

 

 

The Concept of “Kaizen” vs. Sudden Big Changes

The Japanese word “kaizen” captures the concept of making big life changes through small, incremental steps. It translates as “continual improvement” and has been implemented everywhere. With kaizen, you can tackle projects through daily routines. Rather than completely overhaul and reorganize things in the hopes of achieving success, kaizen centers on how ideas can evolve over time and how small changes can have big results if they’re nurtured properly.

 

The continuing nature of a kaizen approach allows for continued measurement and analysis to ensure that things are headed in the right direction. Sudden transformations often don’t allow you to properly keep track of your goals. Good processes should always allow for measurement along the way, so make sure you measure what you are doing.

 

The Power of the Increment really is a winner. Give it a shot!

 


Am I Important to You?

While on a recent a business trip, I continued reading a book, The Magic of Thinking Big, that I had first started reading a number of years ago. The book has many great insights, but one that particularly struck me was the recommendation to “treat everyone you deal with as if they are important.” The idea is that if your interactions with others assume that each person is important, you will most likely notice major improvements in your attitude, positive impact on your success, as well as gaining insights regarding how you come across to others.

 

I thought to myself “Don’t I do that already?” But, upon some reflection the answer was “no” when you talk about everybody.. The volume of communications that I receive means that I often screen phone calls, mail, and emails. And that screening means that I am prioritizing the communications of some over that of others. In addition, face to face I may judge someone poorly if they ‘don’t look right’ or approach me in the right way. The result might be that I disregard them and lose an unknown opportunity. They could very well be important and someone I need to treat better.

 

I want to test the book’s recommendation. For one day in the future (in the next month) I will treat everyone encountered as though they were of equal importance – and I will report on what happens as a result.

 

Here’s a challenge to you. I want you to do the same and email me with what you get for results. I’ll compile the responses in a future newsletter and see if we have any breakthrough ideas…..

 

Will you join me?


Six things that you must do between shows

The show is over, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. If you are smart, you’ll also do these things before taking too long of a pause.

 

1. Clean your database

You’d be shocked how many event companies don’t ‘sanitize’ their contact lists on a regular basis. Cleaning out the bounced emails and returned mail (if you do direct mail) is critical, particularly if you want to improve the open and click-through rates in your next campaign. If GDPR is a concern(and you should have a plan here), you also should consider removing the contacts in your database from whom you’ve had no activity in the last five years. You also may be considering plans to add new contacts that can be implemented later.

 

 2. Finish your rebook for the following event

If you know in advance that you are going to repeat an event, you should have prepared and implemented a rebook or resign process for the following year’s event. At the very least, try to get feedback on how you are doing, as well as information on your client’s budget cycles, any changes of decision makers, etc. Successful rebooks can save you hundreds of sales hours since you will have already taken care of the low-hanging fruit and can focus on newer companies.

 

 3. Survey your attendees, including making outbound calls for feedback

Most companies conduct on-site and/or post-show surveys. What I am suggesting   is that you make a shortlist of the changes/improvements you already are committed to make for the next event. That list can be part of your marketing effort to this year’s attendees   and it also signals your continuing effort to improve your program.

 

 4. Check in with your suppliers for event feedback

We event organizers tend to treat suppliers like ‘red-headed stepchildren’, failing to pay as much attention to their opinions. That’s a big mistake. Many have worked on hundreds of events and can offer valuable feedback on an event, both independently, as well as in comparison with others. Thanks to Nicole Peck for this one.


5.  Find 10 more influencers and figure out what to do now

Though buzzing from a recent show, you may know a number of key people who didn’t attend. They might be influencers who could have helped attract more exhibitors or attendees. Make a list of these people and start working on getting them involved – sooner rather than later.

 

 6. Write up and implement strategic and tactical changes to make for the next show

In addition to the above-referenced feedback from attendees and exhibitors, you likely have also compiled structured feedback from your on-site team regarding what went well, what didn’t, and what you can change for the next one. Make a list of these ideas, with a deadline regarding when you will decide on the actions to take.

 

 

Although what I suggest might be wearying to contemplate so soon after the conclusion to a [hopefully] successful event, all the above recommendations will save you hours and money when you begin planning the next one. Wouldn’t it be great to start things off and find that you are way in front of the starting line?


Is There an Attendee Acquisition Disaster in Your Future?

Having just read an article on GDPR that suggests a silver lining for the events business can be found in that new EU regulation, I’ve concluded that the author is right for the most part, if you have a solid data strategy. But if you don’t, welcome to the nightmare.

Why?  If you follow good marketing practices, then everyone to whom you are actively marketing is either a past customer or those who’ve opted in to receive your messages. That means, presuming that if you have multiple events and/or multiple modes of communication, you are only sending outreaches to your prospects in ways to which they’ve explicitly agreed and about matters for which they’ve agreed to be contacted. For example, you would not be sending emails promoting an event to those who have only opted in for a newsletter.

 

Bad Practices Will Cost You

This means there should be no unauthorized adding of names to a database, nor the harvesting or scraping of names from different web sources to populate lists. It also means there’s no sharing of names between partners (without explicit permission of the prospect) nor the adding of names obtained via business cards or LinkedIn profiles, etc. More proactively, how diligent are you about cleaning your database (at least twice a year?) to remove those who have changed companies, retired, or otherwise are no longer where they once were? What about the practice of ensuring that you have full contact data for each person in your database, rather than just the email address?

 

Being Smart About Following Best Practices

Who actually follows such guidelines? My guess is very few since it is quite hard, time-consuming, and expensive to do so. But if that’s true, your marketing department might well be in trouble. Many people are sick of the onslaught of emails and other modes of harassment they must endure without having provided permission to be contacted. If you have European prospects, GDPR now means they can react to such activities with complaints to the authorities that might result in the levy of huge fines that can total as 4% of your annual revenues or $24M, whichever is larger. And though the US is less rigorous in its protections, the State of California has recently passed legislation that mimics GDPR in significant ways.

Consider one company I heard of which has a prospect database that numbers 40-50K names, 80% of which have only an email address as the mode of contact. Their marketing strategy is to send everyone in their database an email about the latest webinar, event, or white paper – doing so as many as five-to-seven times a week. With an annual opt-out rate of 30% per year, what’s their future likely to be?

How can a smart event organizer launch a new event if the pool of existing clients, together with opt-ins, is not substantial enough to support the new venture? You’ll have to ‘cheat’ to get started.

 

The Future Could Be Bright

it’s imperative to start thinking about how to navigate the challenges that are ahead. The future of the event business will depend on those who invest in sound marketing strategies vs. isolated marketing tactics.  Who wants to react to this week’s poor attendee numbers in panic and cross into the ‘gray’ area? Without a long term and market endorsed strategy you are heading for trouble as year after year it’s only going to get tougher.

If GDPR helps event organizers at all, it will force you to come up with long term data acquisition strategies, with smart enabled staff to implement them. You’ll use your tools and the available content in ways that attract attendees based on what they want to experience at an event and how it will contribute to their business success. This approach is the antithesis of trying to extract money through the bombardment of unknowing prospects with a frequency more determined by weekly registration goals than customer needs.

 

Welcome To The Winners Circle

Who will be the winners? They will:

 

  • Have a current opt-in database that is segmented by product line.
  • Have a staff responsible for devising and executing the marketing strategy and who can change and pivot as needed, using the tools that are available.
  • Have content that is worth the investment of time and money of the paying attendees.
  • Be able to crystallize the right message to send to the right person by the right means at the right time.
  • Have a frequent, two-way dialogue with the audience so that client needs are identified and addressed on an ongoing basis.
  • Have the ability to monetize all of the above by attracting the right audiences, which in turn attracts the right sponsors (doing so without foolishly spending.)
  • Use analytics to identify opportunities and exploit market gaps.
  • Have a passion to serve a market that will get you through the tough bits.

 

 

The companies that do this are few and far between, particularly in terms of doing it at scale. But given the iceberg that is approaching, it’s time to get your house in order or face the disaster….

 


Are You Running a Reactive Event?

Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be ‘yes.’ If so, it’s likely that your event will be entirely forgettable for your attendees as soon as they leave. They’ll have learned nothing new and will be dreading the meeting with their boss when they must explain why they’ve spent $2 – 3K of the company’s money to attend.

 

Consider an attendee’s perspective:

You’ve committed both the time and money to attend. The event might be part of a circuit in which one show is fairly indistinguishable from others or it might be a top industry show. Or perhaps it’s a new show with some potential, but also a risk that it will disappoint. Experience suggests that these kinds of events fail to meet expectations and you wish you’d never left the office. After all, it will take two weeks to catch up on the work that you’ve missed. And that does not consider the hotel’s terrible mattress, the delayed flight, the lost bag, etc. As everyone knows, business travel has lost much of its luster.

But you begin, perhaps with a bad night’s sleep that precedes the 8:30 AM keynote, followed by a walk to a first session – at which you learn nothing new. Then there’s a trek down the hallway and up the stairs to another session at which you again are told nothing you have not heard previously. Next, you stand in line to grab a bun and some coffee. And the day continues: rinse and repeat.

When the exhibit floor opens, you walk the floor with hundreds of others. Untrained vendor staff either try to cajole you into their booth or exhibit a posture of disdain that makes clear their disinterest. It’s not clear who has the products and services you want. And, despite the lanyard that displays your name and company, nobody seems to know anything about you.

The late afternoon/evening reception is full of cliques. People from the same company or who have history from past events seem content to speak with each other. If you are not part of one of the cliques you grab a beer and end up speaking with someone trying quite hard to sell you something. The beer is free, but is your time?

Then you leave for the evening, but with an expectation that the same sequence of events will be repeated the following day.

 

Why is it like this? Because event organizer profits are good. And events can’t possibly cater to every attendee and their unique needs. The job of an event organizer is to create the same comprehensive experience for everyone. So, you copy what has worked for you previously or you mimic someone else.
What do I mean by “reactive”? It means your event copies the formula of thousands of others. All the principals – advisory board, speakers, sponsors, media partners – have an agenda and want what’s best for themselves. Given that mindset, are you strong enough (or smart enough) to do what’s best for everyone given all these others trying to drive your event?

 

It’s easy to do what has been done before and/or copy what’s been done by a major player. But ultimately, you must decide: are you a market leader or a market follower?

 

Some questions to ask yourself:

What are the takeaways you expect for your attendees? Do you know why they are of value? Who is in charge of assuring that they are delivered and is there alignment amongst all parties? And I really hope that you are not marketing deliverables without actually having any.

Can you incorporate industry events within your conference agenda, even if the conference program was established many months earlier? Have you allocated open spots, so you have the flexibility to plug in last-minute things?

Is there something unique that you are doing with your event that you HAVEN’T copied from another?

Are you courageous enough to change major elements of your event the week before it happens – if the situation warrants doing so?

 

It’s easy to do what has been done before and/or copy what’s been done by a major player. But ultimately, you must decide: are you a market leader or a market follower?


Do You Live by Your Word?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been bombarded with lots of marketing offers, many of which make the wildest of claims. Possibly it’s something to help you lose 20 lbs in just two weeks or a promise to brighten your teeth in only two days. Or maybe there’s someone promoting a system that can magically solve your marketing problems, generate lots of leads, and fix your website’s SEO performance. And so on.
 
Riffing off a recent LinkedIn post by Michael Hart, it seems clear that keeping one’s word can now be a competitive advantage. Too many organizations will say anything they think is needed to drive sales, without any expectation of following through on their promises. Given that environment, my suggestion is to take a contrarian approach and ensure that you follow through and do whatever you’ve said you will – no matter how small that obligation might be.
 
This effort will build trust in your commitment, although getting to that trust may take time. In the prevailing environment, people are wary about what they’re told – and there’s often good reason to be skeptical. There’s ample evidence that many people feel no need to follow through on what they promise, whether it’s an outright effort to cheat or just the lack of sense of obligation to deliver. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but now there’s just more visibility to the gap between words and deeds.
 

My suggestion is to start small and be consistent. And deliver! It will be the best decision you’ve ever made.

In the end, your word and your reputation are the only things you’ve really got.

Given that situation, it’s best to use them wisely.


Should You Follow Directions or Choose a New Course?

As you move forward in your career, knowing when to take a chance and try something new and different can be difficult; particularly when it might be the proverbial “road less traveled.” It’s more comfortable to repeat what’s been done before. Following the crowd and doing exactly what you’re told – and nothing more – is certainly the safe way.

 

To take a different approach takes courage. And courage you’ll need in your career is a muscle that does not get exercised enough. It must be developed.

 

How do you know when to try something new?

  • When what you’re currently doing isn’t working.
  • When you’re tired of the same thing, year over year, and need a new challenge.
  • When you can’t look ahead two years and imagine doing the same thing.

 

What are the conditions that would be favorable to a successful endeavor?

  • When your boss is not a command and control person, so there’s freedom to try new things.
  • When trying a different approach will not negatively affect your current results.
  • When you hunger for something more.

 

Why bother? Survey after survey of workplace managers indicates that one of the most critical skills for future jobs will be the ability to execute critical and creative thinking. There will be less demand for drones and 9-to-5’ers, particularly for those who seek the roles that generate higher pay. What will be valued is the ability to analyze situations and act accordingly. If circumstances suggest that the proper course of action is a “road less traveled”, the confidence and courage to act on that thinking will be needed.

 

If you choose to branch out and try a different approach, it’s best to ensure that your decision is grounded in a solid foundation of how things were done in the past. Doing something new is not an excuse to ignore the basics. It’s an opportunity to apply those fundamentals in a new and hopefully successful way.

 

My advice? Try something new. Don’t be afraid.


Brace Yourself for the Analytics Nightmare

There’s considerable talk within the events industry about analytics and how it can be used to attract and convert prospects into attendees and exhibitors. Much of the discussion is quite enlightening. Creating content that is of interest to your targets can engage them in ways that can get them to register. The event becomes a logical extension of online interactions, a physical venue for learning about the topics that have been explored online. And seeing what people click on – tracking their web behavior – is a great way to identify the topics that matter to your audience. In short, it makes great sense to use analytics to attempt to build an audience and fill your exhibit hall. We’re all doing it now.

 

Beware! You Are Being Watched and Tracked

But those who seek to benefit from such analytics should recognize it in action. Your own experience should give you a sense of what it’s like to be tracked and segmented. Have you ever been called while you were in the middle of something, cornered at the wrong time by people who really have no idea who you are, but speak to you as if they do know you?

I recently attended a digital revenue conference during which I asked one of the speakers if they understood what it was like to be a ‘hunted’ prospect and whether such understanding affected how they conducted their marketing efforts. My intention was not to embarrass the speaker; I truly presumed that he would have thought this through. But all I got was a blank stare; he had no idea what I was talking about. The answer I received was pretty much equivalent to “this one goes to eleven.” (Check out this YouTube clip if you’re not a Spinal Tap fan and don’t know what I mean.) ie I never considered what you are describing and have no intention of understanding what you are talking about.

 

Technology Solves Everything?

Unfortunately, despite the technology that is available to connect with prospective customers, many event organizers still don’t get it. In their minds it’s all about transactions and getting people to hit the register button. It’s not about forming relationships at any level for the long term. It’s often a simplistic view of customers: if someone is spending big, we will pay attention. If not, then automate an email blast with the right message based on their past behavior and have someone who does this work do it without any innate understanding of the prospect.

As an event manager, are you defaulting to dashboards and spreadsheets, delegating action to technology tools and numbers? If so, consider your own behavior when, as a prospect, you are the recipient of such attacks. What actions do you take to repel the effort?

 

Build Your Wall and You Can’t Be Ensnared

If you’re like me, you erect barriers so that you can’t be reached: spam folders that are rarely checked, cold call voice mailboxes that are often ignored, and executive assistants who are trained to find and delete junk emails, filter incoming calls, and toss out direct mail. Quite often websites no longer provide phone numbers that encourage inbound calls; they offer forms to be completed as a mechanism to vet the contact requests(and ignore them).

 

Should There Be a Marketing Code of Conduct?

Why has this happened? Because we, as an industry, have abused email. Analytics is not a silver bullet unless you have sound customer practices behind it that reflect that you really care about – and know – your customer. Trying to use analytics to automate a company philosophy that’s poorly conceived or outdated will not succeed. Automating poor practices just means you are doing the wrong things more quickly and more often. And that’s a proven way to annoy those who you are trying to attract.

 

Do you like to be hunted? If not, don’t do it to your prospects….