Actually I wanted to make this a serious (read: business) blog, but obviously this has been a failed attempt.
My real blog is at http://www.razlan.name/blog
Find me there! :)
I asked one of my key speakers for an upcoming conference on Fiscal Systems in Upstream Oil and Gas to review my PDF brochure, and was about to go to print. I wasn’t so sure about some sessions and how it might overlap.
She responded in great details, and suggested some changes here and there to make the programme flow better. And she ended her email with this comment:
“Good luck. I am looking forward to the conference. Looks like you have a great panel of speakers, I can’t see why it would not be well attended.”
Thanks Belle, that means a lot to me.
It can only mean that I have been flooded with work.
Yes indeed I am. Apart from producing my third event, I am also looking over two orphaned events. One which has six speakers drop out and it is happening end of the month. Totally freaked out by it.
But here are some good news. I will be heading a new division! Yup. Come August, I will be starting off my own little team, and will be kicking into a new market, which our competitors have proven to be a lucrative market.
I hope I am up to the challenge!
I had my first ever sales brief today.
Apart from the odd half an hour I had yesterday yesterday preparing the brief, I had little time to think of stuff to say during the brief. Even my now-famous slide presentation was compiled 5 minutes before briefing time.
Usually I won’t be unnerved with such situation. I have done it before, I can do it again – and it helps that the conference that I am pitching on is something that I truly love and believe in.
But when you walked into a room of 6 people, your heart will beat a tad faster. Top that up that the managing director and the sales director were among the six, you will get really nervous.
I was thinking, “What the hell are they doing here?”
No one warned me that they will be there, not even my team leader. I had a feeling I got ambushed.
I got really nervous, and when I started the introduction to the conference topic, I hear myself speeding up, and Sandra the sales director has to slow me down.
Nodding, I took a deep breath, and started again.
2 hours later (which was exceedingly long for a sales brief), I walked away from the room relieved and satisfied that the session went well.
Little did I know that words were going around that the pitch was the best in IQPC history, ever.
Of course I am flattered. Maybe my informant may over estimating it. But flattered I am.
As I thought back to the mad scramble 5-minutes before the brief, I couldn’t help but think that preparation, (un)fortunately, is not everything.
After agonising with my team leader over my speakers worries, I found out the reason why I should not risk delaying the production schedule because of speakers.
While these are speakers who definitely be worthwhile for the programme, extending the deadline does not guarantee their participation. A week or two loss in the market can mean up to 10 potential delegates. Worst case scenario is for me to NOT to have the speakers, AND lose that two weeks of market time.
What is the worse thing if I push the conference into the market now. Obviously the conference programme may not be as attractive. Marketing may flop, sales may have a hard time.
Nevertheless I still have the product in the market for the extra two weeks. And if my luck holds, the new speakers may come in after the brochure is printed (post-print speakers, we call them), and we can always indicate such changes on the website, e-brochure, and cover letter. Sales people can still pitch them.
So what is the worse thing? Nothing, really. The only thing I can think of is for the post-print speakers to be disheartened that their name is not in print.
Well, none of us can have the best of both worlds, can we?
I am at the end of the cycle for my production forecasting conference.
And I am restless. I have some good speakers. But I know the panel can be made better if I have more time to reel them in. Three of them.
But the schedule can’t wait. I have to sign-off on Monday. And I can’t stop thinking about how to make this programme better.
I need to make a case to pull these speakers in.
My life, at this moment, is full of work details. I am not sure if this is healthy, even if the condition is temporary.
From time to time you’ll get speakers who ask you to reimburse their costs to participate at your conference. In fact, some speakers are very insistent that we even pay for their time spent on preparing on the conference material and at the conference itself.
While it makes perfect sense that some speakers are indeed taking time away from their charge-able hours to prepare for the event, this is however not a training course. In a conference, industry leaders and practictioners come together to exchange ideas and best practices.
So what does speaker get?
The value of speaking at a conference cannot be underestimated. Can you imagine how many people get to see the conference brochure with the speaker’s name and abstract on it? How engaged are the delegates whom have paid for the conference to see you in action? How close are you to the rest of the conference population whom will eventually be your clients, employers, partners?
Speakers are now spoilt for choice when it comes to conferences. The differentiating factor is then the level of your conference – the speaker line up, the delegates, the sponsors. Each group bring in a different sets of value to the event. When you have the right people in the room, everyone walks away with something.
Imagine if there is no conferences? What will the industry people do without companies like ours? How else can they freely exchange ideas, knowledge and expertise in an independent environment, with no fear of competitive threats?
At times when I have to negotiate with speakers on how much I can reimburse them, I can’t help but to think with a twang of resentment on other producers who paid unjustifiable money for their speakers, and hence creating a no-win perception in the market.
A conference value cannot be measured in mere dollars and cents.
Enough rambling for tonight. I pray to God that my speaker will accept my proposal and come onboard. Yes, I want to close out the programme, but I also really want this guy to be here. He is good no doubt. He will meet the right people, the right people will want to meet him.
I hope he’ll see it that way. It is hopeless when money is the delimiting factor.
It was early morning, and I was
chasing following up with some of my speakers for their presentation abstract and profile. The deadline for the production forecasting conference is end of the week, and I really need to get going on the desktop.
So I called one of my speaker in Brunei.
“Oh, Razlan! I got bad news for you”
My heart plummeted to the bottom of my feet.
“I have spoken to the management, and we feel that it will be too sensitive for us to speak on this event. You see, in Brunei we only have one field…”
As my ex-speaker continues to explain why he can’t present, my mind wondered to my list of “confirmed” speakers. Truth to be told, I am very afraid some of them will eventually dropped out.
As a producer, you know you can be assured that a speaker is committed only when he has sent in his abstract and profile. Even so, you can only be 95% sure – things tend to change at the very last minute.
My attention turned to the speaker, who was telling me he will be glad to speak on other events. I thanked him for his effort and kind support. I mean, after all this guy really helped me out a lot, and it is not his fault that my conference touches on something very sensitive with oil and gas companies.
At times like this, I feel really down. After the perked adrenaline of confirming 3 – 4 speakers in a day, such drop outs can only be bummers.
Well, there is nothing to it. I still need to continue and pick up from where I left. Keeping my fingers crossed more will come in and none will drop out.
“Ting, ting, ting!”
My heart jumped in joy. Three new bookings for my capability event! I quickly rushed over to my marketing looking at the list of newly registered delegates.
A name looked familiar to me. I fired up my trusted event tracking list, and found the name. Aha! Here’s the lady whom I tried to invite to speak for my event, but whom she quickly said “No time!” and “Too busy!”, putting an immature end to my sales pitch.
I remember, because she was one of the most hostile HR Manager I ever came across during speaker acquisition!
But hey, she actually believed in my product, and signed on to the full package! I simply have to give her a ring.
“Hello! May I speak to Liz* please?”
“Yes, Liz speaking”
“Hey Liz, this is Razlan here, from Oil and Gas IQ?”
(A slight pause) “Razlan who?”
“Err…. I am the conference manager who will be running the capability development event. We spoke before. Remember me?”
“Oh!!!” She laughed. “It’s you. There are so many of you calling me every now and then I simply cannot remember everyone”
“Ooopsss” I stuttered a little – I am not sure if she meant it jokingly or otherwise. So I played it safe.
“I apologise if calls from my company have inconvenienced you. But I simply have to give you a call to say that I am delighted you signed up for the event!”
“Oh yes, I did, didn’t I?”
“Yes, and I just want to tell you I am definitely looking forward to see you in Kuala Lumpur in June”
“I see. Well yeah I registered. My boss hasn’t approved yet, but never mind, I register first”
I paused a little, not knowing what to say. But I quickly recovered myself.
“Oh well, just remember to convince your boss to let you come to the conference! I also want to tell you that we have our 14th speaker. He is the capability manager from BP Egypt, and he’ll be chairing the event”
It’s never a bad time to pitch your event, feature-wise.
“Ok. Why not Mandarin Oriental ah? Mandarin is a good hotel, you know?”
(Whispering) “I have no say on which hotel to choose!” I laughed over my own joke.
“Haha. Now I have to find out where is the hotel!”
“Prince Hotel is within walking distance from KLCC! You are based in KL right? Surely no problem. In fact, the hotel is within the famous ones, like Mandarin and Shangri La!”
“Oh is it?”
“Yes it is. I am sure the conference will be highly successful. In fact, we are receiving strong registrations already! Will you be coming with your team?”
(It is always good to upsell. Haha)
“Nah. It will be only me”
“I see. Well, I am so glad that you are onboard, and I am really looking forward to meet you in June. At the mean time, if you have any queries on the conference, just drop me a note, ok?”
“Yes, I will”
“Thank you, Liz. You have a good day now. Bye!”
With that, I hung up the phone and stared at it for a little while. Well… it didn’t go too bad, did it? None of the hostility at all. Perhaps I caught her at a bad time back then.
I am sooooo glad that I made that call. For it is worth, it is less likely now she will cancel her registration.
And truth to be told, I really look forward to meet Liz at the conference.
I smiled to myself, picked up the phone, and start my speaker acquisition for the day.
*Not her real name, of course!