Category Archives: Best Practices for Conferences

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Things to Do If Your Conference Gets Cancelled- Booklet Edition

It doesn’t matter if you’re a speaker, meeting planner, vendor, or anything else associated with a conference, things happen and the events can get cancelled.

But they will come back!

Use the coronavirus as an example and a training ground. At some point conferences will come back. Once the scare is over or a cure is found, people will desperately want to be around other people. Even an introvert like me is dying to be around others, just not willing to die literally to make it happen. I desperately miss working on my keynotes at my local Starbucks. The buzz of activity around me jazzed me up. Well, that and the caffeine.

No matter what facet you’re in, you need to be top of mind once they come back.

When they come back, you’ll for sure have new competition. Right this minute, people are stuck at home not working, just planning to launch a new conference, new product, or new speaking career.

You need to stay relevant now and not wait until the problems are over to ramp up again.

One way to do this is to launch a booklet and give it out for free. Send it to everyone on your list, post it on social media, and have it available to download on your site. This is for everyone who works around conferences, from speakers and vendors to the people who hire them. Nothing fancy required either. As a matter of fact, a series of 10 page PDF’s is pretty awesome.

Check out the pic below. In April of 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, EMS World sent out their catalog by mail. It was a great way of staying relevant. It said, “We’ll still be here in September. We’ll see you in Vegas.”

So, how about 5 ideas for booklets you can create and send out?

1. Catalog- Like the pic above, go ahead and send out the catalog for the rescheduled event.
2. Keynotes or Breakouts- Edit transcripts of presentations from previous years and turn them into booklets.
3. Best Practices- Publish a white paper of best practices for the industry.
4. Yearbook- Create something that feels like a high school yearbook of stuff from past conferences and events.
5. Futurist Look- Create a future book of what the next conference will be like or shoot out further and look at the future of the industry.

How about your ideas? What could you publish to keep you or your event in the top of mind awareness of your audience?

Dr. Redbeard, a speaker who lost all his events during the coronacrisis


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What do you do when conferences halt? (Best Practices for Conferences no. 165)

 

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things function better when there’s a back up plan.

Before the back up plan is needed.

I’m not judging here either. I have back up plans out the wazoo. I design back up plans. Even so, the speed and breadth of the COVID-19 mess still caught me a little off guard. My preparedness clients had me scrambling to activate their emergency plans while I was trying to get my own going.

I’m well-prepared for ordinary disasters, but global ones overwhelm everything all at once. One day I’m planning a conference in Florida. The next day, everything is shutting down and people are going wild in the Toilet Paper Riots.

Now that we’re all settling in just a little and getting closer to a stable routine hopefully, I want to throw out a few ideas to maximize your time, for those of you that have downtime or need to find it. Depending on your segment and business, you might be busier than ever. I know I am.

Here’s a few ideas for the ultra-busy and those stuck at home with not as much to do.

Establish a daily routine. The advice is the same for quarantine as it is for military deployments, disasters, prison, etc. Routines help alleviate boredom, craziness, and panic. I’m establishing routines now that I plan on implementing even after this is all over.

Learn more. Now is the time to add continuing education into the mix. Take in and digest those videos, podcasts, and books you’ve put off for so long. Come out of this knowing more than you did going in. Now is the time to get that speaker or meeting planner credential you’ve been wanting.

Create quality family time. We’re all going to be spending more time at home with the family than before. This can get frustrating if you’re also working from home. Many of you are now forced into homescholing as well. Create quality time so that you don’t feel bad for the times you have to say, “Get away! You’re driving me crazy!”

Take some time for yourself at some point during the day. Don’t feel bad about private time. But you better carve that out or it won’t happen. Go ahead and pick a show you wanted to watch and corona-binge that sucker. I’m finally running through the Ray Donovan series myself.

Get outside. It may not be OK to go to a park or trail, but get outside somehow in a safe way. Inside all the time will drive you crazy. I’ve found that biking with a friend is an excellent way to practice social distancing and still get out.

Keep looking forward. I realize the year is shot. I went from a full slate of speaking and training engagements to nothing. Go ahead and plan next year. Book speakers. Line up venues. Plan everything with options for cancellations and get that in the contracts, but work as if next year will signal a return to normalcy.

That’s it. I’m done. Click play on Netflix and enjoy your show.

Dr. Dave, a speaker with no gigs (for now)

P.S. By the way, I am already booking next year. Call me.


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Conference Best Practices no. 21- Do you have a policy in place for cancelling your conference for the Coronavirus?

Less than 3 months after the initial outbreak of the Coronavirus, conferences and events were already being cancelled. Even so, many major events are still moving forward.

This made me wonder how many of you have a policy in place for cancelling your conference if it has to happen. It can be for any reason from…

  • Pandemic
  • Major vendor pulling out
  • Terrorist alert
  • Cancellation by the host facility
  • Natural disaster
  • Or other events outside your control

I would seriously consider being proactive and forming a policy now and before an event occurs. Your policy should be based on a number of factors to include participants, vendors, speakers, and the facility.

The fact that major conferences such as South by Southwest in Texas are cancelling events actually provides you a great deal of available research to plan your own policy. Look at what they did, how they made the announcement, why they made the decision, and what they did for attendees, vendors, etc.

For an example of a festival that did it completely wrong, check out the Arnold Sports Festival hosted by Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Their Instagram feed hosted a lively discussion from vendors and attendees. Arnold posted a video stating that all festival activities were cancelled-

Naturally, people started scrambling to cancel travel bookings that were still refundable. Then, a day later, they partially changed their mind.

Then another day passed before they issued a statement blaming it on the Governor.The Gov of Ohio, not The Governor Arnold. As many people stated, many other large sporting events were still taking place the same weekend.

As you can see, with no clear policy in place, key stakeholders (Arnold!) acting alone, and flip-flopping decisions, you can really ruin your reputation as a conference. The Arnold Sports Festival basically just reacted by ignoring all the people left in the dust and started blasting social media with pics from the ruins of the festival.

So, here are some mistakes they made that you should consider-

  1. Who is the point person controlling media, i.e. your Public Information Officer or spokesperson?
  2. Who will get refunds and how much?
  3. How will refunds be issued?
  4. Will you also give a goodwill gift? This is a great idea to consider for your reputation. I recommend a gift that can only be used at a future conference like ‘conference bucks’ to use next year for merch.
  5. What ramifications will there be to your contracts with the facility, catering, speakers, etc?
  6. Can you afford to do all this without breaking the conference?
  7. Do you have insurance for this? South by Southwest did not.
  8. Is there some way you can hold a reduced conference? This was at least one thing the Arnold tried to do right. See my P.S. below for an idea.
  9. Do you need to send out warning info prior to a cancellation? Check out part of the e-mail below from a conference I’m slated to be at later in the year…

I imagine you might be thinking about the coronavirus and PLF Live next month in Orlando… and it’s certainly on my mind as well. So first off, know that the health and safety of our PLF community and my team is paramount to me. And along with the rest of the world, my team and I are closely monitoring the situation. At this time, PLF Live 2020 is moving ahead as planned.

If you need help working on your Cancellation Policy, give me a call. I’ve designed Emergency Action Plans for government agencies for the very same reasons a conference might be cancelled. I’d love to bring that experience in to help you.

Dr. Dave, the guy who’s hoping all his out-of-town speaking engagements don’t get cancelled this year

P.S. One idea that I’ve offered to conferences that book me to speak. If you do cancel, I’m willing to serve your audience by recording or releasing a pre-recorded version of the keynote or training I was booked for. This way the attendees still get something.

P.S.S. As a last item, also consider what you’ll do if something bad happens DURING your conference. How many of you remember that year the tornado struck downtown Salt Lake City UT during the Outdoor Retailers Association conference?

 

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This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.callsignredbeard.com. Thanks for reading!

In the words of Starship Troopers, “Would you like to know more?”

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Conference Best Practices no. 42- How many times do you use the same speaker and trainers?

This is a question that I’ve come across many times over my own speaking career…how many times do you use the same speaker and trainers?

For the sake of this conversation, let’s ignore keynote speakers. Few conferences will use the same one year after year. That’d get boring. At best, keynoters will only return to a conference after several years away and usually only if they’ve done something big that really impacts the industry.

For example, I just released a new theme called Big Life that’s getting me invited back to old clients. Usually, it’s something like a new book.

However, trainers and breakout session speakers sometimes get invited back for years in a row. It just depends on the conference and what the speaker has to offer. My running record is six consecutive years at the same conference. I’m always there presenting new material plus a repeat or two of really popular breakouts that are requested by attendees.

Here’s several great reasons to bring back the same speaker for multiple years:

  • They constantly offer fresh relevant material.
  • They offer material that your attendees need repeatedly, like a certification or skill training.
  • They’re requested by attendees, i.e. bringing them back brings in new and old attendees.
  • They are part of the conference. In other words, they go the extra mile to serve you and the attendees, and it would be weird to not have them there.

And the best for last… You love them!

So, what other reasons do you have for returning speakers… or … for what reasons do you never bring back the same ones?

Thanks,
Dr. Redbeard

I have a full slate of upcoming events, including a roofing conference in Cherokee NC, a small business gathering in Orlando, and several EMS conferences. But there’s always room for yours!

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This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.callsignredbeard.com. Thanks for reading!

In the words of Starship Troopers, “Would you like to know more?”

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How do you feel about gender specific conferences? (Best Practices no. 12)

I recently attended and assisted with a conference that was for men only. At least that’s what the website said when I came across it. As a matter of fact, one of the words in the name of the conference was “Brotherhood”.

As attendees started arriving, it looked just like I expected. Since it was a construction industry event, there were a lot of rough looking guys there in various types of dress from business casual to work clothes.

And then a woman walked in.

It went over like a wet blanket. Active conversations stopped cold, and silence fell across the room.

The conference was actually really great. I enjoyed myself, took pages and pages of notes, and met some great folks. I even got to pitch a keynote for next year to the organizers of a medical conference in the next room.

The thing is, many of the lectures were designed for a male only audience. In other words, guys would be free to cuss, discuss off-color topics, and talk about family issues and business among other men. The conference itself lost a lot of the specificity and openness that was planned by the organizers.

In a similar vein, I’m sure many of you have heard of Rachel Hollis. Many of her events are pitched primarily for women, but a lot of guys still show up. I love listening to her podcast and Youtube offerings, but I’d feel uncomfortable at a female-specific event. Not only that. I wouldn’t want my attendance to take away from others enjoying themselves.

I want to hear what you think. How do you feel about gender-specific conferences and gatherings? I’d like for this to be an open conversation, so please comment below.

Here’s my opinion. I love the idea of open conferences where anyone can attend but also those where only certain people can attend. My wife loves going on what she calls “girl trips” without me, even though she doesn’t do it often. In the same respect, I crave men only gatherings from time to time. And yet we also love conferences where we both go together.

Let me know what you think.

Dr. Dave, the speaker who’ll attend just about any conference where he’s welcome

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This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.callsignredbeard.com. Thanks for reading!

In the words of Starship Troopers, “Would you like to know more?”

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Best Practices for Conferences no.34- Advice from a Celebrity Handler for Vendors

Back to round two of the interview with Rikki Adams, a guy who works fulltime with conventions and the celebs at them.

This time Rikki has some advice for vendors-

  • Make a check sheet of things you need and ask for it before you reserve your spot.
  • Don’t forget, things like electrical outlets, WiFi, and tall tables should be requested from the beginning.
  • Know how much space you need.
  • Don’t monopolize beyond your allotted space. I have seen some set-ups that crossed over onto other spaces, and that’s not fair to them.
  • Try to get a look at the layout and pick a spot that has high visibility and traffic.
  • In my opinion, some of the best spots are the endcaps. People tend to walk slow in that area because there is more room.  Also, you can normally see endcaps from far away.

Thanks Rikki!

Next time we’ll hear from Rikki on speakers and panels.

Dr. Dave, a really easy speaker to work with because prima donna speakers are a pain in the…


This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.callsignredbeard.com. Thanks for reading!

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Best Practices no. 124- Advice from a Guy Who Works with Conference Celebs

Last time I talked about using celebs to boost attendance at conferences, so this week I thought I’d talk with a guy who works WITH the celebs. Just don’t call him an Agent (you’ll see why later).

Here’s Rikki at a convention with actor Brian O’Halloran from Clerks.

I met Rikki Adams a few years back at X-Con, a pop culture convention in Myrtle Beach SC. As we were both there for a number of years, we got to know each other pretty well. You might also remember X-Con was also mentioned in a previous interview with Robin Roberts, the founder of X-Con.

Rikki quickly progressed in the convention scene from a volunteer to a fulltime job. As a matter of fact, he’s booked almost every single weekend this year working conventions. As he works professionally year-round in the industry, he has a lot to offer. To avoid inundating you with a monstrous e-mail, I’ll break his interview down into several segments.

For now, I’ll let him tell you about his best experiences working conventions. Here’s Rikki-

It was definitely XCON. I considered it a mid-sized CON.  The volunteers were local and we all knew each other as friends. Being friends helped because it made us care about the big picture, which was to ensure everyone had a good time, including the clients.

Everyone was assigned duties based on their strengths.  There were also a lot of activities just for the volunteers and awards given out at the end for those that went above and beyond. I remember one year the award went to the guy that volunteered to clean up the vomit in the bouncy house. He actually volunteered to clean it up. Another nice thing  about XCON was the after dinner. There were two. One for the clients and one for the volunteers. It was nice touch.

I enjoy the bigger cons, but I tend to lean towards a smaller ones because they’re more intimate.

I can’t really say there has been a “worst experience” as a volunteer.  I was just happy to be there. The only time it gets bad is when there is someone in charge, and they do not know what they are doing.
At XCON we would meet throughout the year before the show and discuss our assignments. By the time the show starts, we all know what is expected and are able to handle the unexpected.  And if we couldn’t, we knew who to contact for guidance.

You don’t see this a big cons. There are so many people involved and sometimes it would take an hour just to find the right person to talk to.

After working two shows as a volunteer I was officially signed on with ZSC entertainment.  I would be called as an agent or handler…but I am neither.  We are assistants to the agent. Handlers are volunteers that get assigned to assist us.  I am OK with being called a handler, but it does offend others within this group.

When someone’s intros me as an agent, I correct them because the agent is the boss and has a lot more responsibilities than I. I would never want my boss to think that I was trying to pretend I was her. So as long as I am not referred to as an agent, I am OK.

We’ll hear more of Rikki’s story in future newsletters. He has a lot of advice for vendors, speakers, and promoters.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this, Brian O’Halloran cutting off Rikki’s ponytail at X-Con to give you an idea of the steps Rikki goes through to keep his clients and the audience happy.

Thanks for tuning in,
Dr. Redbeard, a speaker who has no hair for Brian to chop off

For information on booking me as a speaker, click HERE.

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This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.callsignredbeard.com. Thanks for reading!

In the words of Starship Troopers, “Would you like to know more?”

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Be the Easiest _________ to Work With

Here’s a short tip I learned from my friend Kent Julian over at Live It Forward. He said-

Be the easiest speaker around to work with.

It makes sense as a speaker. If I’m the easiest speaker in the world to work with, conferences are more likely to bring me back, have me do more, and tell others about me.

It makes sense for conference planners and vendors as well. If you’re the easiest person in your field to work with, it will repay you. Word will get around.

We’ve all encountered the dark side of this industry:

  • Speakers that are nothing more than overpaid divas
  • Vendors that don’t show up
  • Conferences that don’t pay invoices

I don’t want to be that person, and I’m sure you don’t either. No matter which side of the fence you’re on- vendor, planner, or speaker- make sure you’re easy to work with, forgiving of trivial issues, and gracious in everything you do.

Thanks,
Dr. Redbeard, one of the easiest speakers in the world to work with

PS- My buddy Kent Julian is not just a friend. He’s an accomplished speaker who has done more to push my business along than anyone else. He teaches speakers how to be better. You can find him at Live It Forward.

Here’s me and Kent together. As you can see, we have the same hairstylist.


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Conference Best Practices- Possibly the Best Vendor You’ll Ever Meet

The most recent best practices newsletter covered the point-of-view of a conference organizer. This time I’d like to give you the POV of a vendor. This interview will cover all bases from best practices as a vendor to how conference organizers can create an all star experience for their vendors.

Hector Miray is the founder of Faith & Fandom, and he normally presents at pop culture conventions. I’ve known him for years as a friend, through his books, and as a fellow vendor. He’s one of the best vendors I know, because he’s not in it only to sell things. His goal is always to enjoy and experience at the conventions and get to know people. Succinctly put, he shows up to a convention to serve the attendees.

Imagine the experience for everyone if more vendors did this!

Hector leading a church service at a comic book convention.

For now, here’s Hector, in his words.

Best Experiences-

“The best experiences I’ve had as a vendor are the ones where the conference makes me feel like I’m valued. Whether it’s promoting me and my material on their website and Facebook in advance, things like nice table markers or banners with my business name on it, or providing food and drinks. A break area has always been nice as well. Ones that take the time to make sure that’s my panels are at decent time slots and that my booth isn’t in like a dust closet somewhere.”

Worst Experiences-

“The worst experiences I’ve had as a vendor usually come when I put my time and money and promotion into a show, and it seems I put more work into building the show than the person who actually runs it. I’ve been in shows where there are more vendors than attendees. I’ve been in shows that I’ve attended for three or four years and never met the person running the show, and that when I try to establish communication I am abandoned.

Beyond running a show poorly, the worst show experience I’ve had as a vender was paying $80 for a table for a show that was cancelled and then the conference organizers disappeared with everyone’s money and have since vanished from the face of the Earth.”

Advice-

  • Don’t be angry when someone else is doing the same thing you’re doing. You having the idea doesn’t mean you’re the only one that had it.
  • Being a unique voice, material, and product definitely helps you stand out, but your personality and the way you treat the people that come by your booth also makes a huge difference.
  • Consistency is also a big deal. When someone sees you one time at a show they may not speak or stop in, but they might remember you the next time they come through.
  • Showing up repeatedly makes a big difference.
  • Never treat a small crowd like they’re less value than a big crowd.
  • If you have a speaking engagement at a show it helps when the showrunner promotes it, but you need to expect that you should be responsible for your own promotion for your speaking time. If that means adding additional flyers, banners or signage to draw people’s attention to your event, take that responsibility.
  • Give people something they can leave with to remind them of what you spoke on and encourage them to tell the convention how much they appreciated you.
  • If you are planning a conference do it at least a year in advance, with intermediate goals and checkpoints of promotion and contact you need to take place ramping up momentum to your conference.

Final Words-

“If I was starting over from scratch I would have tried to develop a bigger team for what I do. I also would have started out bigger and faster. My first year I did maybe three or four events. The last couple of years I’ve been doing 28 a year.  I can’t gauge events based on monetary or merchandise. I gauge them based on exposure and responses.”

All excellent advice from Hector.

One thing I’ve really noticed that sets him apart from a lot of vendors are frequent posts on social media during a conference that promote the con as much as his booth. Because he shows up to serve, he also gets a lot of people posting on their own feeds about him and his books and panels.

I hope you enjoyed this short interview. For more of Hector, you can find him on Instagram and Facebook. His books are all available on Amazon.

Thanks,
Dr. Redbeard

Here’s Hector and I after recording a podcast on a crowded playground.


This message was written by a team of geeks, nerds, gamers, and Dr. David Powers. You can always find us at www.callsignredbeard.com. Thanks for reading!

In the words of Starship Troopers, “Would you like to know more?”

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How to Convince Employers to Send People to Your Conferences

I wish I had come up with this myself, but I cannot claim credit for it.

The team over at the Social Media Marketing World came up with a great resource to send to potential attendees. It is just a sample letter and instructions that folks can pass on to their employers asking permission to attend the conference and possibly get it paid for by the company.

And it is incredibly effective!

I would highly recommend you take advantage of this. Craft a version of the letter and use it for your own conferences. I already do this to grab a few more attendees at my own keynote and training events.

You can find the letter by clicking HERE or on the screenshot above.

If for some reason the link is no longer active, e-mail me and I will send you a copy of the letter I use.

The goal here is to be the one conference or event that makes employers say, “If our people only attend one event, it has to be that one.”

Thanks!

Dr. Redbeard


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