Longtime readers of The Viral Garden know that when I speak at a major business/social media conference, I try to recap my experience to help not only conference-goers, but conference organizers as well, to help them better structure their events. With that in mind, here are five areas that the Marketing Profs Business 2 Business Forum nailed, and these are areas you should pay close attention to as you plan a similar event:
1 - You have boring, cookie-cutter sessions. Every session is a speaker standing behind a podium addressing an audience. That's a lecture, not an optimized learning experience. Now granted, some speakers can speak well from behind a podium, and this will happen often, but the point is, if every session is like this, it tends to blend together and become fairly boring.
At the B2B Forum, the MP staff was smart enough to shake it up a bit. There were interactive sessions where the audience was encouraged to participate from the start. There were hot-seat labs, where again, audience members were put on the 'hot seat'. And of course, Amy Africa closed out the event by having a Family Feud themed presentation on conversion and website design. All of this worked to spice things up, and it helped spark attention and learning.
2 - After the sessions end, so does your event. One thing Marketing Profs did that was brilliant was they had a tweetup at the end of the first day, and got 451 Marketing to sponsor it. Why was this important? Because it let a bunch of people in the Boston area that couldn't attend the event, to show up and meet everyone. This was one of my favorite parts of the conference, as I got to meet Julie Ann, Doug Haslam, Michelle Wolverton, Christine Perkett, and even Chris Brogan showed up. This also gave people that didn't attend a chance to get a taste of the experience at the conference, and I'm sure this helped sell these people on attending future Marketing Profs' events.
3 - You have boring meals. One theme that ran through the B2B Forum was expanding the event beyond just the sessions. This was evident with the Tweetup on day one, and then afterward there was a dinner which featured a wonderful group of magicians going through the crowd amazing us. Then the following morning during breakfast, the tables were organized by topic, and you picked the conversation you wanted to be a part of, and joined in. This was a great way to get everyone's brain moving before the general sessions started on day two.
4 - Your speakers leave the stage, and leave the event. This is a BIG pet peeve of mine. At many events, the speakers fly in, collect a check, and leave. If you aren't lucky enough to catch them as they are walking off the stage with your question, then you are SOL. At the B2B Forum, the attendees could not only schedule one-on-one time with many of the speakers about several different topics (blogging, Twitter, email, usability, etc), but the speakers themselves were great about spending time with attendees and answering questions. I missed lunch on the first day of the forum and so did Amy Africa. That's because she spent two freakin' hours with me helping me with the organization of MackCollier.com. I don't even want to know how much that time would have cost me otherwise.
5 - You aren't a friend of Lucky the Lobster. Ok this one has nothing to do with the conference, but my two days in Boston were capped by a dinner that featured Ann setting Lucky the Lobster free into the Boston Hahbah. Here's a pic, and here's the video Justin Cresswell shot.
But the bottom line is that when you are planning your business/marketing/social media conference, think about what Marketing Profs' did right with the B2B Forum, and try to better the structure of your event. The staff found a way to make the event more fun and enjoyable, but at the same time, this increased the learning and sent everyone home from the event satisfied. This was honestly the best business/social media conference I have been to yet, and has me even more pumped for the Digital Marketing Mixer in October.
Some pics via Flickr user Robert Collins and SWoodruff