Daniel Doherty
Daniel Doherty 5 November 2013

5 ways to get ROI from a conference

If you're attending any conference as a delegate, there are several things you just have to do if you want a return on your investment.

Billed as a one day event looking at the three stages of ideas – where they come from, how they are turned into reality, and the impact they have – Inspiration had a great deal of promise to deliver. If you’re attending any conference as a delegate, however, there are several things you just have to do if you want a return on your investment.

The inspiration for Inspiration was obviously Ted Talks. That’s fine – nobody can patent standing up in front of an audience for 20 minutes and wowing them. So, we’d be getting speakers from a wide variety of businesses and backgrounds talking about what has inspired them, the problems they faced bringing their ideas to life, and the effect their ideas had on their businesses. Ideally, we would learn from experts about how businesses can be better at both creativity and execution.  Then, we would ‘leave the event feeling inspired and ready to put your ideas into action.’

This promise from event organisers, Digital Doughnut, had brought to Exhibition Road luminaries from creative technology companies, advertising and digital agencies and various strands of our sprawling media world. What did they, what did we, what did I get from the day? Here are five rules that always kick in whenever I attend an event:

1. Write it down                                                                            

Make notes – names, phrases, ideas, contacts. It’s obvious, really, but how else will you remember?   How else would you be able to write this blog? Just as important – take note of the hashtag and tweet the organisers about what you think, as you think it. I did and was getting re-tweeted by other delegates as well as Digital Doughnut. Immediate perceptions are not deeply considered, but they’re always useful.

2. Receive, don’t broadcast  

If you’re going to network, the last thing anyone’s going to want you to do is launch a sales pitch on them.  Question everyone you meet. Rather than tell them what you do, first seek an understanding of what they do. That way, you’ll learn what you need to know right at the beginning and they’re probably going to listen more favourably when it’s their turn. This was confirmed by first presenter, Dave Birss, Founder of Additive. “We need to be creative generalists,” he said – and that only comes from curiosity, asking questions of everyone we meet. A little later, Nils Anden of Unibet was asking his whole audience some good questions. “Do you actually have customers for the innovations and inspirations you can do?” he put.

This set me up for a good discussion with another delegate during a tea break – with Alistair Fulton of Enabled City. We talked about how the creative technology industry is geared to pushing products onto a world that never asked for them.  “What happens when consumers change their behaviour?” Another great Nils Anden question. “Don’t base your innovation on hunches,” was his answer to his own question.  Unibet asked its customers for their ideas via its ID8 competition. The idea is: ask customers for what they want from you that delivers value. Then, and only then, do the innovation.

 3. See things differently     

That’s what your here for. Move about. Get a different perspective. Don’t sit in the same seat for every session. It always amazes me when people come back in and look annoyed when someone else is sitting in ‘their’ seat.  And thanks to Antony Mayfield of Brilliant Noise for his entertaining talk about ‘Thinking with Digital’. He helped me to see things differently. He also quoted well: “Multi-tasking is procrastination in disguise,” from Caroline Webb.

4. Never be bored                                                                                                       

Vote with your feet. I’d paid my money, so I wasn’t going to be bored by presentations that simply weren’t cutting it. At events, most people act like they’re at the theatre – they daren’t step out.  Not me. I don’t like it, I’m gone. I know it’s easier to sit there and fiddle with your mobile.  For me, it’s an opportunity to escape tedium and find the freedom of fresh air. At least three of the sixteen presentations (far too many, by the way) drove me outdoors. So, Digital Doughnut, fewer presentations next time, please. Oh, and you’ve got to have Q&As – they were a big omission.

5. Get your ROI                                                                                                                        

If you’ve taken a day out of your working week, add the cost of what you could’ve earned that day to the price of the ticket and transport – for this is the business cost of your day.  So, how are you going to show a return on investment?  As per the Digital Doughnut prompt to ‘leave the event feeling inspired and ready to put your ideas into action,’ I got the following:

-          the birth of a flexible new marketing idea for Ideal Word Ltd

-          another fledgling concept about how men and women see creativity differently

-          a great contact for the future development of creative technology in my business

-          a clear steer on how to effectively organise my working day

-          live evidence of how to present creativity well and how to do it badly.

So, thanks to Tom Ollerton of We Are Social for his talk on the ‘sweet spot’ for brands in social media. Also for your Wimbledon Wiggle. Thanks to Matthew Patten of The Mayor’s Fund for London for his time-travel approach to creativity. Thanks to Eileen Brown for having the balls to say ‘content is crap’ and Russell Brand waffles’ in the same sentence.

It seems that I was inspired at this event by people, as much as ideas. But, then, didn’t someone say, “People are remarkable, not ideas.” I think they all said that.


With thanks to Mark Griffiths for this post. 

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