Friday, May 1, 2009

To Key Or Not to Key

A friend recently asked my take on some Keynotes for an event she was researching. After batting around names for a couple of minutes, she asked: “Do you think Keynotes are a draw for an Event?”

An interesting … and continuing … question. My take is that Keynotes unquestionably add value to an event. What I can’t get my head around is what … and how … to measure the ROI of a Keynote. The math argues against it being by attendance/attendee revenue.

The Investment is certainly known – and can be substantial (although it is, of course, negotiable). What falls into a grey area is the Return.

Say, for example, a speaker costs $30,000 all in. If your average attendee ticket price is $1,500, I’d be hard pressed to say there are any events I’ve worked on which surveys have had 2attendees respond “I attended XYZ Conference to hear John Doe’s presentation.” People simply do not carve 3 days out of their lives to hear a one-hour presentation.

What they are

The reality is that a Keynote is part of the event value proposition – the presentation gets an audience excited to be in a hotel/convention hall away from family (and work) for 3-4 days, and creates a platform from which to drive networking, discussions, etc. The value of the Keynotes, in short, is the onsite experience – and this is what savvy Marketers should work to leverage.

  • Book signings are great vehicles. If the Keynote is recently published, negotiate with the publisher, acquire a bunch of books (at discount), and ask the Keynote for a half-hour post-presentation to, meet, greet and sign. [NOTE: I’ve seen arrangements whereby the Keynote spoke for free provided a certain volume of books were purchased – again, it’s all in the negotiation.] Do NOT sell books onsite – it comes off poorly to attendees.
  • Alumni/VIP Breakfast: Pending the Keynote’s schedule, arrange a special invitation breakfast for Alumni, or as an “Early Bird” incentive, etc.
  • Walk the Show floor: Again pending scheduling, ask the Keynote to do a quick round on the exhibit floor – great for attendee face-to-face and sponsor satisfaction.

What they are not

Keynote speakers are not stand-alone marketable commodities. I’ve seen situations in which part of the marketing touch strategy included specific messaging around Keynote Speaker A, B, and C. Again, I’ve seen nothing to indicate an attendee was driven to invest 3+ days time to hear one or two hour-long sessions. Attendees are savvy enough to know that, in most cases, Keynote speakers are there paid commodities, not as any sort of endorsement of your event/brand. Don’t insult their intelligence by framing it otherwise.

On a closing note, read this good – dated, but still germane – article debating the issue in Corporate EVENT magazine. (I especially liked the idea of testing noted in the article – a bit of an investment, but I think the results would be telling).

In sum – think strategically on how to use Keynote speakers – and BE ENGAGED in the selection process. Keynotes are part of the onsite experience – again, something marketers should be influencing on a regular basis.

Good luck!


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