Things to Do If Your Conference Gets Cancelled- Booklet Edition

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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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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!

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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!

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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!

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Conference Best Practices- Advice from a Celebrity Rep for Speakers and Promoters

It’s time for more advice from Rikki Adams, a man who works with celebrities at conventions fulltime. I’ll just leave it all in his words.

Advice for speakers-

  • Don’t be afraid to go off script and engage the audience.
  • A lot of moderators have no clue who you are and will ask questions based on internet searches.
  • Many times the fans will have better questions, and they love to be able to ask you questions in front of an audience.  
  • If you need some tips, catch Michael Rooker’s panel.  He normally just picks up the Mic and walks through the crowed answering their questions.  It’s pretty entertaining.

For anyone who’s not familiar with Michael Rooker, he’s a well-established actor who played in Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead, and other roles. For a link to a popular Michael Rooker panel to see him in action, click HERE.

Advice for promoters-

  • Go to a successful show and watch them.
  • Ask the volunteers questions. Take their books and schedules.  Learn what they did right and tweak it for your own show. 
  • The biggest issue I see with new shows is the floor layout. Traffic is not taken into consideration.
  • You cannot get an a list actor and stick them behind a column, and you don’t want them near vendors. The line for the actor will block the vendors traffic or vice versa.  
  • Train your volunteers. I’ve had some assigned to me that could not count, and they would turn into total fanboys anytime an actor walked by.  They need to be just as focused no matter who is around.
  • Be honest about your market and venue.
  • If you live in a small town, only advertise in that town. You cannot expect 60,000 people to walk through the door.
  • If you can only afford a $3000 celebrity, then book a $3000 celebrity. I have seen too many promoters book clients that are out of their range.
  • If it’s a building year, then it’s ok. But just realize that the fans will not be paying the client fees, you will.

I hope you’re enjoying the interview with Rikki so far. I have one more installment, and it’s all about what he’d do if he were starting a convention from scratch. It’s good advice if you’re just starting out, or if you’re hoping to revitalize one that’s stalled out for growth.

Dr. Redbeard, a guy who’s met Michael Rooker and been extremely impressed with how down-to-earth he is for a big celeb

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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!

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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!

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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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Welcome to Best Practices for Conferences and Vendors

Welcome to a new series for conference planning, conference vendors, and all things related!

I bet some of you get all weird with conferences, with post it notes and mindmaps all over your living room wall. That’s okay, though, because I do that working on my keynotes. In the biz we just call it storyboarding and planning.

Before we go any further, I’d like to tell you what this series is all about and introduce myself better.

#1- This series is all about helping you create and manage rock star level conferences. I promise to do that by sharing my own lessons and experiences as I attend and speak at conferences, including excellent, bad, and even horrible ones.

#2- I do not run conferences and am not a meeting planner. What you’ll be getting from me is unfiltered information from an outside point-of-view. In other words, the stuff you may not hear otherwise.

#3- I am a keynote speaker and trainer. I attend conferences and events all over the world in various industries. Not only that, when organizers bring me in, I enjoy serving at the conferences and attending them as well. You might hear me do a keynote one hour and find me attending a breakout session as a student the next.

#4- Other attendees open up to me and tell me a lot that they do not say on evaluation cards. Maybe it is my Santa Claus-like appearance or my counseling credentials that does it, but people hunt me down between sessions to hang out. Every now and then I even talk one into going mountain climbing nearby.

#5- I’m known for offering added sessions during conferences that I don’t charge for. I love hosting meet-ups in the lobby or a nearby eatery. I have even been known to lead Sunday church services or dinner party tattoo contests.

I hope you enjoy the series, but more than that, I hope your conferences and booths become legendary in your industry.

If you came across this post and want the series delivered to your inbox each time a new one comes out, click HERE.

Dr.David Powers, who is sometimes known as Dr. Redbeard by attendees

PS- If you do get crazy with the post it notes and planning, here’s some inexpensive ones I found on Amazon. Not that I bought them at all. Well, maybe I did (a couple of times).

Post-It Notes (off brand)


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Don’t Be the Guy that Does this at a Conference…

The following is an excerpt from my e-mail newsletter on Best Practices for Conferences, Vendors, and Speaker. Subscribe to the newsletter HERE.

Since we talked about great vendor booths in the last e-mail, I think it is time to talk about the dark side of them. Among all the free goodies, celebrity guests, and multimedia pizzazz, there is always someone like this guy-

 

 

I discreetly snapped this photo at a comic book convention where I delivered a keynote lecture on one of my most popular topics- Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. Believe it or not, this guy was a vendor trying to sell things. In other words, if you want to give him money bad enough, you have to wake him up. So, here is my advice for everyone:

 

Vendors- Don’t be this guy. Don’t hire this guy. Hire energetic people to staff your booths. Conference vending is grueling work, so hire people that can handle it.

Conference Planners- Set up your vendor agreements so that you can be selective. Go for quality instead of just filling space. The show floor is a lot of what drives expo attendance, and a bad experience on the floor will get talked about a lot.

Speakers- If you have a booth or you are selling books or goods at the back of the room, you better carry the enthusiasm from the stage back to that table.

 

Thanks, Dr. Dave

PS- Feel free to send me pics of bad booths. Just be discreet. No need to start a fight shooting pics.

PSS- The con where I took this photo is no longer in existence. Is it because this vendor slept through it? Possibly. I’ll let you decide.

 


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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Brand Spanking New Newsletter- Best Practices for Conferences, Vendors, and Speakers

I know this won’t apply to all of you, but I wanted to let you know about a new e-mail newsletter that I’m starting up. I’ve been speaking at conferences and training events all over the world for several years and attending them for even longer.

 

Because of this, I’ve had quite a few requests for information on advice for conferences, booths, and speakers. I decided I would spin that off into a newsletter all it’s own. If you’re at all involved in any facet of con life, click on over to HERE and sign up. It doesn’t matter what industry either, because that’s where my strength lies. I attend or speak at conferences for a variety of industries from comic book conventions to public safety conferences. The really neat thing is that oftentimes you can borrow ideas from other industries and be the first to do so in yours.

 

I hope to give lots of content and advice there not just from me but from other friends as well. There will be some contests as well. As a matter of fact, there’s already one running for the Best Booth of the Year. I hope to see you there. Click HERE to subscribe. If this isn’t something you need, how about I give you a laugh today just for putting up with me. Click HERE for something me and my kids love laughing at- Guy on a Buffalo.

Thanks! Dr. Redbeard

 


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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