Virtual Edge:We’re going to be talking to Vance McCarthy. He’s the content director for Enterprise Developer News, which is a website and community that have about 50,000 enterprise architects and developers in their community and they do a weekly newsletter and Vance has probably produced as many virtual events as about anybody I know. So, we’ve had a few conversations with him earlier and I encourage everybody to go back to those. There was a lot of good information on those.
Today we’re talking mostly about production and how does he prep the speakers, selected speakers, prep the speakers and basically just deliver a good quality event to their community. And we also talk a little bit about community. So, Vance, tell me. Do you produce the slides for your speakers or are you getting submissions from the speakers?
Vance: Well, fair question. So, as I mentioned before, we work very closely with our speakers and the marketing support or the handlers they might have at the various companies. So, let me see if I can answer your question this way. We do produce our own slides for the keynote and for entry point and we have a special person that helps us with handling other sorts of images for biographies and transitions from one session to another.
We have the speakers do their own slides, but in fairness, we request that they submit them in advance for us, just to get a sense of what their themes and trends will be. We don’t have them give us their full script, but sometimes of course, they will under NDA let us review their notes and we’ll commiserate with them about the types of topics and how technical and how not technical they should be with their slides.
We have a very technical audience, so some of the slides they think that they might better not talk to or leave out, we actually suggest that they put them back in, because we’re pretty sure that our attendee would be able to follow it.
So, we do have that from a slide point of view. We work very closely with them to help them gage what kind of questions we think will come in from the audience, how long their attention span might be for certain portions of their slide deck and all sorts of things.
Virtual Edge:Okay, well Vance, just give me a sense, I mean, there’s a lot of different types of virtual events out there, a lot of different flavors. What have you settled on and why and perhaps you might even follow that up with some lessons learned in terms of things that didn’t work so well for you.
Vance: Well, that’s a good question. So, as far as what we think is the way to go with this particular community, I mean, first off, let me just preface this by saying that to some extent, the people that register/attend with an event, are going to be a, they’re almost a virtual…
…that have come together, as I mentioned in our previous conversations, Michael. Our target is to get 1,000 people to attend or register and attend a online production that we’re going to do.
So, for that instance in time between pre-production and prepping the speakers and lining up the right topics and preparing the marketing, email marketing materials, we’ve got that community as our focus. And whether we will continue to be a community 6 months or a year from now, that same group that cares about that same topic, it’s tough to say. I mean, there’s been a lot of change in the software sector where we work and focus, and frankly, the speakers that we had with us in 2007 for company A, turned out to be a speaker with us in 2008 for company B talking about something totally different.
So, it’s important for us to keep in mind that while we have a core focus in integration and we have 51,000 targeted readers and that what we do is always going to attract a subset of that. But, the community in and of its self may not continue to be a 6 month or a one year community. It may just be a community for that moment in time.
Trying to get the same people to participate or speak or attend two or three events down the road at the same event, that’s the one thing that is different, I think, from an online strategy, versus a live, physical event strategy. In the physical world you want people to come, love it and then come back to the next one and bring their friends and that’s how events grow and that’s a plausible model.
In the online world, interestingly enough, some of the speakers actually want different people to come. They like being reinforced by the same person and knowing that certain groups of people will attend all the time. But, they really want to continue to broaden their influence. So, they don’t necessarily want, 5, 6, 7 times, the same person. They want to grow their reach into different sectors or have that person, that original person, even if they can’t come, forward it and have a new person come. So, it’s a different sensibility than building a physical event.
Virtual Edge:Interesting. So, in terms of your experiences, are there things that you’ve tried that are, I would say, lessons learned and things to avoid. Or, do you think that’s really dependant on the audience, the community and the topics and the timing?
Vance: Well, so, I’ll just give this key for this thing. Our model for community is this event, this touching point and we continue to kind of have transitional, I won’t say conversation, but transitional activity with our readers through either the newsletter or through other invitations that we send out. We can tell what their levels of interest are on certain topics and we pay close attention to that. We don’t have chat or lots of inner activity, post this comment here on the website its self. We use our outreaches and our metrics, our analytics, as a way to gage what our readers care about.
They come because they want to learn something. They don’t necessarily come because they want to pontificate about something. So, given that, I think folks that expect to get a lot of people to participate in their event and then when the event’s over, post comments like, “This speaker was great.” Or, “This speaker was lousy,” or, “Could you do an event on this?” And then continue to have comments in between events, I think that that’s very hard, first off, to get busy people, important people to do that. And second, I think it’s a challenge that I think if you’re in the event business, you don’t really need. Community at that level is a totally different dynamic. It’s a totally different project.
Virtual Edge:What do you mean by, “at that level it’s a totally different project”?
Vance: Well, these guys traditionally are making 6 figures and maybe even mid 6 figures, depending on how high up the food chain their job title brings them, but they’re typically going to be 200, 300 thousand dollar a year people. These people are not Facebook people. The reason they make the big bucks like that is that they’re very valuable and they’re very smart and they’ve got people working for them.
To expect that kind of a person to continue to visit your site and give you something is a little naïve, I think. More likely, you’ve got to give them something, and that they would continue to visit you or email a friend to say, “You should attend this event,” or submit a question. Those are the metrics we use, because we know our audience.
Virtual Edge:I got it. Well, that’s great. I think we’ll wrap up on that and again, I appreciate your time and this was a great interview and I encourage people, if you haven’t listened to the earlier segments with Vance, please do check those out. And Vance, any closing comments that you have?
Vance: Just if you’re going to be in the event or the virtual event sector, keep in mind that that should be your sole focus, is to present the most interesting, compelling, meaty, whatever period of time you’re programming for, set of content to the audience as you can. Now again, I’m a content director here at iDev News.
I know that there are going to be other conversations, Michael, you’re going to have with technology providers and producers in the technical realm, but just as a pure content person, almost like a television producer type person, it wasn’t the high definition, 4 color TV camera that got Friends to be the number one TV show on NBC, those many years ago. It was the content that was there and the dynamic that was there and you cared about the people from week to week.
To some extent, that same ethic should drive your event. The chemistry should be good. The people should be people that are hard to find and really worth hearing from, and respect your audience and don’t email them to oblivion.
Virtual Edge: Excellent, well, that’s a perfect commentary to end with. Again, thanks very much Vance, and we look forward to talking to you again.
Vance: My pleasure, thank you Michael.