How-to part 2 of 2: Constructing a compelling event agenda

As discussed in my previous post, real-world events are great opportunities for third-party influencers to generate plenty of in-depth content.  At the same time, they’re not for the faint of heart – lots of things can go wrong during what is essentially a live demo.  However, if you align influencer and brand objectives, plan appropriately, and above all select the right influencers, you’re off to a good start.

But what about the agenda?  No one willingly signs up for death-by-Powerpoint, and the world surely doesn’t need yet another talk-to-the-slides snoozefest – the equivalent of telling your audience what you think they need to hear.  Instead, what you really want is compelling content that leads to engaging discussion, and the sense that time has flown by.  This sets you up well for follow-on discussions that you can conduct virtually or add to the next event’s agenda.

So, how to get there?  Luckily the answer is not terribly complicated; what is does require, however, is a willingness to bring the influencers to the table as active stakeholders in the event’s success.

“Cutting the influencers in” may seem obvious – and even easy – but I assure you, it’s anything but in most corporate environments.  The trick is to think about the desired outcome and work backward.

Once you’ve elected to pursue specific and measureable outcomes, you’re in a good position to realize them.  This next step requires flexibility in approach and perhaps even a slight change of mindset.

Most corporate entities seek to completely control the narrative around their products and brand, but as we know all too well, this is a fool’s errand.  People are talking about your brand and relaying your messages right now, today, with or without your guidance and consent.  Your best course of action is to accede to sharing control by sharing the event agenda.  This allows your influencers to invest in the event’s success – which equals your success.  Think if it as pull vs. push, the latter of which everybody knows is more effective.

You can collaborate with your influencers to shape the agenda in a number of ways:

  1. Brief them in advance on your product and brand strategy, soliciting feedback along the way
  2. Survey them in advance to ascertain their level of knowledge with your offerings, key messages and competitive differentiators
  3. Have them in turn audit their audience’s discussion of topics germane to your marketing – search for keyword usage, competitor mentions and specific instances of your brand/product
  4. Solicit their take on the state of the industry and your place within it, in “plus-delta” fashion:  What works today, and what could stand to be changed for a better tomorrow?

We’ve used all of these approaches, both individually and in tandem, to “take the temperature” of our influencers, while simultaneously giving them a seat at the table when it comes to the event agenda.

As you can imagine, asking them their opinions and gathering feedback from them and their audiences allows you to establish a starting point, which will illuminate the path toward your desired endpoint (the “measurable outcomes” mentioned earlier).  To put it another way, you know the solution to your equation and some key constants, but you cannot solve it without defining the needed variables.  And like any equation you can try to guess at the variables’ values, or you can save time by using a sound methodology to calculate them.

The choice is yours – why not be efficient, and ask instead of telling?  Pull in lieu of push?

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