Since the beginning of 2011, there have already been numerous paid public conferences on or incorporating elements of digital marketing in South Africa. Recent conferences I am aware of are – Thinking Mobile, Integrated Marketing Communication Conference (#IMCC), Mobile Media Mindblast (#MobileMM11) and Social Media World Forum Africa (#smwf). There are at least five more digital marketing-related conferences that will take place before the end of the year. This is in addition to digital marketing associations, Meetups, short courses and corporate consultations.
3 key insights are worth mentioning from the conferencing trend:
- Marketers are waking up to the need to be kept abreast about digital developments for informed assessment of impact on their brands. This healthy demand is commendable.
- Infopreneurs and entrepreneurs working in the conference industry have identified the opportunity for monetising the dissemination of digital information, and they are exploiting it accordingly.
- There is a definite focus on mobile and social network marketing, arguably the future of digital marketing.
Being a marketer myself, I could not help but wonder if these many conferences will add real value to marketers’ quest to acquire the much-needed tech-knoledge. Bear in mind that basic cost to company for a 2-day conference is R12,200, which is made up of actual attendance fee that is on average R5,000 plus cost of company time spent out of the office that is estimated at R7,200 (18 hrs multiplied by R400 per hour). Excluded from the basic cost above are employee benefits, transport and accommodation for out-of-towners.
Given the multiple digital marketing conferences on offer, it is going to be a mission for marketers to choose the most relevant one(s) to attend. In response to this challenge, I have put together a selection checklist, in the form of 10 questions.
So, here goes:
- What is the theme of the conference? Titles of most conferences tell a story about their themes.
- Who is behind the conference? It gives comfort to know that conference organizers are either practitioners in the digital marketing industry themselves, or they have a reputable track record in the conferencing business.
- How long has the conference been around for? Preferably, the conference in question should be in its 2nd year or longer. Given the cost involved, marketers cannot afford to be guinea pigs.
- What were the reviews of the previous year for the same conference? Go through reviews of the previous year. Twitter is a good starting point. Search for the conference using a few variations of its title, starting with a hash tag, and see if anything comes up. If there is nothing there, check the conference’s Website and ask around.
- Who are the confirmed conference sponsors for the year in question? This will give you an idea of the interest industry players have in the conference. Key players would include telecoms, IT and digital marketing companies. Google the names if you do not recognize them.
- Who are the speakers? Look at speaker profiles and google them to get a sense about their online reputation. A good mix of speakers must include industry experts, practitioners and representatives of companies that integrate digital marketing in their brand communications. A cherry on top would be inclusion of speaker(s) from outside South Africa, who will enrich conference content by providing a different perspective.
- What is the structure of the conference? A good conference will have all of keynotes, plenaries, discussion panels, work-shops and exhibitions. Keynotes, discussion panels and work-shops are a muse for a content-rich conference. You can also read my blog titled “These -shops are about talk- and not about work-, but I’m not complaining“
- Who is being targeted? It is key to determine relevance of the conference. Profile of desired candidate is not always apparent, but the alternative way is to check conference content – speakers’ presentation titles, workshop titles and discussion forum themes.
- What is the awareness level of the conference? Check if your marketing colleagues and friends know about the conference and get their views. They may provide information that will assist you make an informed decision. Check for conference awareness levels on Google and popular social networks, including Twitter and Facebook. The more that is being said the merrier.
- What do you want to get out of the conference? I left this question until last, and this is because we do not always know what we want to get out of conferences until we have answered most of or all the other 9 questions. But it is key to attend the conference with a certain objective. This will help you ensure you derive value from it.
There is no particular order to the check list above. Also, it can be done iteratively if there is a need.
- Nuffdotty – where thoughts on the subject of education, mostly relating to South Africa, are shared
- Diski4Life – a blog about development of South African soccer post World Cup 2010