Captive Audience, meet Wasted Opportunity

Meetings. Events. Conferences. Presentations.

What gathers us here?

Whether it’s orientation for employees, introduction of new product lines, the national convention for franchisees, or a social media conference, meetings and events are developed to accomplish that most ‘basic’ of business functions: communication.

One of the rare times I’ll ‘call out’ a brand so to speak, couple of weeks ago I attended a software release party, the latest major release by the 800-lb Gorilla of Design, Web, Publishing software. Hosted by a local group, it ventured into that most dreaded of meeting territory, pointlessness.


Bringing almost 200 people in with the raffle for a couple of very valuable software packages, the brand’s organizers got the ‘hook’ right. The rest, not so much.

The room was a captive audience of their target market. They had the chance to impress us with their brand’s responsiveness to customer requests. They had the opportunity to showcase all the cool, new, time-saving and money-making features that would make upgrading (expensive) worth it.

They blew it. Prior planning prevents poor performance, and there was zero sign of it here.

  • The event ran too long – with no efforts to speed things up.
  • The advertised food and beverage were inadequate, especially considering it was an RSVP event and they had headcount in advance.
  • The venue was too small, uncomfortable with no air-conditioning. In June. In Atlanta.
  • There was no WiFi, an amenity one would expect at any business presentation.
  • It was dull, the basics of good presentations were ignored, people left.

How to avoid being the meeting equivalent to a dose of Ambien?  Remember, it’s about your audience.

  1. Respect their time. Be prepared, don’t wing it. Don’t run long. Less really is more and as I am so fond of saying, warm up on your own time.
  2. Manage Expectations. If you bill the event as a ‘release party’ then go for more party, less demo. And don’t run out of beverages halfway through a 3+ hour event.
  3. Brand management. Doesn’t matter if it’s the local chapter, it’s still your company’s reputation on the line. Same as it is with social media, think about who’s representing your brand image.
  4. More show, less talk. Get real with your customers if you’re doing a demo – it’s about them. Show them what they need, the real goods that can make a difference in what they do, not just what you think is cool. Don’t tell me, use better demos that actually show me how the product is different, how it’ll save me time, make me money.
  5. Better venue. Tables, desks for laptops and iPads. Go crazy, find a space with air conditioning. Wifi, duh.
  6. Mix the swag. Raffles keep people involved, but it’s not the Oscars – you don’t have to save all the goods until the very end.

An event like this won’t hurt this company, they’re so dominant in the industry they are more or less marketing-proof. But I learned nothing of value, nothing I won’t more easily find on my own online soon enough.

Meetings and Events 101: Give your audience something they can only get live and in person, make it worth their time. Ever walked out on a meeting or presentation? Seen missed opportunities? Tell me.

Image: I love Dilbert.

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7 thoughts on “Captive Audience, meet Wasted Opportunity

  1. I’m wondering if you showed this blog post to them? Did you go after them for new business? I’d say you should and should. Folks like that need to get the basics right; they alienated prospects enough for one of the audience to write a scathing blog post, although you didn’t call them out.
    Jayme Soulati recently posted..What It’s Like To Own Guitar.Com

    1. No it’s a major brand but the event was organized by the unpaid, non-funded local user group chapter. I doubt they have any direct input, budget to hire anyone and frankly, it’s a waste of money for the company. As I said this brand is so established, they are almost immune to the slings and arrows of frustrated users and disappointed bloggers. (Seriously, when it’s time, I’ll upgrade – b/c I’ll have no choice.)

      That said Jayme.. it’s risky to be so careless with your brand. Most companies aren’t in that position, with no other real competition, so they need to make the most of every opportunity. Meetings don’t have to be this bad, unproductive; hopefully someone will read this and think about how to do it better and who knows, maybe give me a call. FWIW.

  2. Ditto that. I have a little exercise that I give to clients that has them walk through the wasted time that can come from meetings. It’s a little fill-in-the-blank exercise that takes them but a few minutes to complete, and never ceases to floor them when they see the time, energy and money they are wasting by “meeting to meet”. Same goes for poorly organized, poorly capitalized-upon events.
    Kaarina Dillabough recently posted..It’s what you do, not what you say you do

    1. There’s a reason I used a Dilbert strip – meetings and the requisite pointless are the #1 largest cause of soul-stealing, mind-numbing despair and dread. 😉

    1. I just can’t stand waste Kaarina. It’s cut into my budget my whole career, companies throwing money away on too much nonsense – then trying to lowball me for the real deal. Doesn’t matter if it was a local affiliate, this still reflected very poorly on a major brand. Shame.

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