Conference News: What I learned this week – January 11, 2019

IoT is A-OK: Heading into its fourth year, the IoT Tech Expo brand is gearing up for a sustained increase in attendance at its 2019 events (London, Amsterdam, Silicon Valley) by moving to larger venues – like the Olympia Grand in London, and the Amsterdam show moving to a larger hall within the RAI. They also added a new conference stream addressing Enterprise IoT and plan to add 1:1 meetings, in response to feedback from event partners. No changes to the co-located programs, however – Blockchain, Cybersecurity & Cloud, and AI & Big Data will still be top of mind in 2019.

What’s In a Name? In 2019 Mobile World Congress Americas is changing its name. The event will henceforth be known as MWC Los Angeles. With this “new name for a new era of intelligent connectivity,” MWC LA will continue to offer influencers and executives in the broader mobile industry a robust conference program and expo hall with access to over a thousand companies showcasing their latest innovations.

Leaving the DEN: Last year, The Telegraph debuted Digital Enterprise Networks, or D.E.N. Live, for short. This gathering included traditional conference content and free seminar programmes as well as several immersive experiences. While it was well received, the organization has decided to move in a different direction with its events. In 2019, The Telegraph is launching a full series of tech events, continuing their focus on the digital enterprise. One of the first of this series began last month with Smart Mobility Summit. The series will consider a range of industries – including cybersecurity, business transformation & voice/customer service– impacted by technology next year.

Speaking Opportunity: The 16th annual Games for Change Festival will take place June 17 – 19, 2019. Exploring most exciting new games, ideas, partnerships and business models for digital games that drive positive social impact and inspire learning and engagement, the festival will include four main tracks of programming. These include the Games for Learning Summit; Health & Wellness; Civics & Social Impact; and XR for Change Summit. If you have a relevant idea for a talks, panel, workshop or demo, submit via their online form by 21 January.

Lunchtime Learning:  IGNITION is Business Insider’s flagship conference and was held last month from 3 – 4 December in New York. The agenda discussed topics such as the future of TV, print, audio, journalism, and marketing. Attendees considered how to survive the era of “peak content,” audience development in a platform world, and building trust when media and social media platforms have never been more under fire. The sessions, featuring the biggest names in business, tech, and media, are now available online. Hear from celebrity entrepreneurs such as Mark Cuban and Danica Patrick, as well as the CEOs of Match Group, the New York Stem Cell Foundation and Zipline.

Coming Up Next Week: The retail world descends upon New York when NRF2019 – “Retail’s Big Show” – gets underway 13 January. Considered the industry’s largest global event, NRF pairs a huge exhibit floor with networking and content, including three special sessions presented this year in partnership with Fast Company. Over in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show, AutomobiliD (14-17 January) offers show attendees content via keynotes and panels designed to “spark conversations and connect professionals who do business in the new mobility industry.” Meanwhile in Miami, professionals in industrial control system security gather at S4 for new ideas and practical, implementable tools in ICS security and IoT. And in Zurich on 17 January, the World Web Forum will be held for more than 2,000 attendees keen to learn about successful implementations of digital strategies, with the ultimate goal of bringing “Silicon Valley to Switzerland.”

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Speaking invitations…When to go or just say no

Some of my clients come to me, not because they need help finding opportunities to speak, but because they are inundated with them.  Since the conference landscape is so vast and ever-changing, many executives are not sure which conferences are really worth their time.

You may also be asked to evaluate event opportunities and make recommendations as to whether or not an executive should participate.  So how do you determine when they should go and when to say no?

Every executive, company and conference is different, but there are a few things that I would consider every time:

  1. Location – Will this speaking opportunity require a cross-country flight? If so, it better be good. Or would it be possible to tie the opportunity to other business in the area?
  2. Audience/attendance – Who are the target audiences that matter most to the invited speaker/company? Will those people be in the room? How many of them? It is not just quality or just quantity that matters, but rather a blend of the two with regards to those goals.
  3. Timing – Will the speaker have to miss anything by participating? How many other events are happening that week? Will that take away from possible attendance?
  4. Other speakers/reputation of the event – If the event is something that your customers/partners attend every year and one that is frequently profiled in the news and one that may help you and your company obtain press coverage, then it is probably a good idea to be there. If your competitors are typically on stage and it would help raise your visibility to also be on stage, it is probably a very good idea to be there.
  5. Actual opportunity – This is the difficult one. If your CEO is invited to speak at a well-known event, but that invitation is for a panel discussion on the last day of the conference and it runs concurrently with 5 other sessions, it may not be a great use of his or her time.

Remember that regardless of the situation, it is always best to get all of the details on the event, audience and opportunity before you make a decision as to whether or not to accept a speaking invitation.

How to Rectify a Last Minute Speaker Cancellation

I recently learned that one of my executive speakers had suddenly lost his battle with cancer. This was terribly sad news as he hadn’t made many people aware of his disease and left behind two young children.  After I absorbed the information and sent my condolences to his colleagues I had a horrible realization – I had scheduled that executive to give a keynote address at a conference which was less than two months away!

While I thankfully doubt that many of you have experienced a similar situation, there is a good chance that you have had to cancel a speaking engagement due to unforseen circumstances – either personally or on behalf of someone else. This is never an easy task, regardless of the reasons for the cancellation, but what makes a huge difference is how the task is handled.  Below I’ve outlined the steps I take to ensure that this process is as painless as possible for all involved.

  1. Alert the conference manager of the cancellation as soon as you can. The sooner they know, the sooner they can adjust the conference agenda or find another speaker to fill in the empty time slot.
  2. Be honest. If your company CEO has ‘suggested’ you attend a customer meeting, don’t make up a story about a personal family crisis. The world is too connected to get away with dramatic fibbing.
  3. Offer solutions.  If you know an executive from your own company – or another company, even – who might be able to speak in your stead, let the conference know.  Better yet, offer to make an introduction.
  4. If you do offer substitute, be sure they are someone of similar stature, someone who knows the subject matter well, and someone who has public speaking experience.  Suggesting an inexperienced speaker or someone who is unfamiliar with the topic is far worse than leaving them without a speaker.

I hope you never have to use this advise.  If you do, however, by following these steps you can help turn around a difficult situation.