Many New Online Video Conferences and Events Lacking Focus, Won’t Survive

A few days ago, Robert Scoble posted 40 reasons why he thinks "NewTeeVee’s conference is lacking substance". He lists a lot of speakers he thinks should be at the event and content that he feels should be included. While I agree with a lot of what he suggests in the way of good content, much of which we are doing next month at our Streaming Media West show, I’ll take a different angle to this topic. I think that many of these new conferences don’t have a lot of focus, are not being planned by conference organizers, in some cases are off-shoots of other conferences that have no similar subject matter and don’t have a clear tie in to their core business. I covered some of this in my post back in April entitled "How The Industry’s Online Video Conferences & Exhibitions Can Improve."

Do I always get things right at my shows? No. There is always more I want to do, things I wish I had included and  things that I learn from at each show. The idea is to grow your knowledge on how to put together a good show for the industry and for the attendees. But for most of these new shows, that’s impossible for them to do. For starters, most of them don’t have conference experience and aren’t in the conference business. Operating a blog or a news sites is very different than putting on a show. I’ve learned that the hard way. Next month’s Streaming Media West show will be the 12th show I have done over nearly 5 years, and it took probably 6-8 shows to really get it down to a system, especially since unlike all these other shows who have a big staff, I am the only person who does the programming. When is comes to planning and programming a show, you need more skill sets than just being able to operate a blog.

Being in the conference business is very different than being in the news business or online content business. Trying to replicate the online content, in person at a show, takes time to learn and requires a lot of resources to do it right. Especially if you want to grow the show. I also question what reason many of these companies have for getting into the show business all within the past 12-18 months. Are they just looking to grab some dollars while the market for online video is hot? If so, they should be prepared to fail. Growing and organizing a show is about a long-term commitment to any conference and more importantly, to the industry. Between our 3 shows a year we do over 10,000 combined attendees and it’s taken years to get it to that. Traffic does not come overnight. You have to grow it, a little at a time, and do it organically. If you just want to try and make a land grab for some cash and market share, enjoy it for a short time, it won’t last. That’s not how shows succeed.

To me, NewTeeVee has a shot at having a successful show if they focus it just on content. We need a show in the industry that is solely focused on creating good online video. It’s a topic we cover some of at our shows, but is not something we are trying focus on as the core subject. NewTeeVee is the type of company that could do well putting on a show only on this topic and keep it laser focused and small. But if they try to then talk a lot about technology, webcasting and CDNs and all those other subjects, it won’t do well as that is not their core audience. Readers who are looking for details on how to choose the right webcasting capture card, how to process raw logs and all of that info on the technical side of the business are not going to I read them to learn about content and if I learn anything about technology on their site, it’s about technology that ties back to content creation or management. I think the focus is good on the site and the show should follow that single-purpose subject.

I’ve seen other shows focus on just one vertical like media and entertainment and then all of a sudden, try to add enterprise content to their show, even though they don’t cover the enterprise market on their blog or news site. Where is the focus? Stick to what you know. Don’t start to cover lots of verticals just to try and reach a wide audience. If anything, cut back on your verticals. We stopped programming radio and government content into our shows 2 years ago as I realized it was not focused enough and there are already plenty of shows focused on just radio and government video.

Another problem that all of these shows have or will be learning about is that it’s not as easy to market the show as they thought. If you have no avenue other than your blog or website to market your show, you are not reaching a wide audience. None of these other online video shows have any print publications on the subject, don’t have research for sale, don’t put on live web events, most don’t have newsletters, don’t have direct mail pieces etc…. which makes reaching a wide audience very hard, even with a marketing budget. Yes, I do feel lucky that I have all these marketing avenues under one company with and I can see first hand how all of them really support the industry’s awareness of the show. It is an advantage we have and it’s something other conference organizers need to look at doing if they really want to increase their reach.

Part of me also thinks that to many of them, this only about money. You can’t have the price of your shows be $1,500 to attend the first year and then $795 the second year. Yes, it’s great the price is cheaper but it questions why you got into this in the first place if it took you putting on a show once to realize you didn’t get enough people and now want to take the approach of charge less and get more attendees. To me it means you have your priorities backwards from day one and don’t realize what it takes to grow attendance to a show and grow revenue at the same time.

One of the biggest problems which I highlighted in my post in April is that too many shows only have vendors speaking. Where are the customers! Attendees don’t want to hear sales pitches and if I look at many of the show websites right now, I see that 75%+ of the speakers are from vendors. That number should be reversed. 75% of your speakers should NOT be vendors. If you don’t grasp this idea, or only want to plan speaking spots based on who pays you, I will guarantee you that your show won’t grow. You HAVE to put the attendee first in terms of your programming, someone Scobble points out in his list which is the most important thing for conference organizers to remember. Yes, some of the vendors may not like you for it, but the smart ones understand the value it provides to them and to the industry in the long run.

Cynthia Brumfield, who I have never met, works on the New Video Summit show and says on her blog that so many of these shows look alike now
and is asking "Does nobody have an original idea?" I agree, but then
when I look at the keynote speaker for her show in the afternoon, it’s
Jeremy from Brightcove. No offense to Jeremy or Brightcove in any way
at all, but I can think of at least half a dozen shows Jeremy has done
a keynote at, including mine, within the past 12-18 months. So to me,
having someone who has already keynoted so many shows all so close
together do another one, is not original. Where are all the new speakers?

And what really irks me big time is that all most of these new conferences see all the others, including the one I programming, as competition. That’s so short sided. All of these conferences are very different and should be working together, not against each other. More successful shows in the industry means that the entire industry grows and all of the shows will benefit. Yet, of all the new online video shows out there, I’ve had to reach out to all of them of asking how I can help. This is not about my ego, but you would think they would inquire about the industry, what I have seen work, not work, what attendees want, how we may be able to work together and how we can all help the industry grow, considering our show has been around for 10 years.

But none of them have done that. I’ve had to reach out to all of them to offer guidance, support and suggestions, many of which could care less. That’s just dumb. That’s like being in the restaurant business and not talking to a restaurant on the same block as you, to compare notes, simply because you are both offering a similar service. And what about sharing contacts? We should all be working together to get good speakers, yet we don’t. Mediapost asked me yesterday for some contacts of good speakers for a show they are doing in LA next month and I was happy to help out and provide contact details. I’ve got a database of 25,000 readers who subscribe to the streaming media magazine, who we know are interested in online video. We’ve got more contacts than any blog does, yet other shows don’t inquire about them and in many cases, don’t even let me come to their show. has a long history of covering many, many industry shows other than ours, yet you lose that media coverage as I can’t attend as you are worried. Worried of what? Come on guys, think about the business here, the industry and what the long term potential is to work together. And if you are proud of your show, then you should not be worried about anyone coming to it and seeing how good a job you do, competition or not. It’s so childish. I’ve even offered many of the new conference organizers putting on
these shows to come to my show and organize a panel of their own so
they can get a feel for how it all works. Talk about embracing the competition. But only Liz at NewTeeVee
took me up on the offer to do this at West.

I think there is too much short sided thinking in the events business, not enough insight into what is going on and too many people who think that running a blog means they can put on a conference. Some of them can, but many of them will not be able to. It’s not about who has a "cool" show, it’s about a show that provides attendees with real-world information that can apply in their business immediately.