March 19, 2015
“If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” You’ve heard this timeless quip before, and it’s analogous to communicating in the digital age. Your organization wants to communicate as the go-to resource for its industry, but if the message isn’t getting to your audiences, does it make an impact?
Consider getting out of the forest and going to the audiences—especially those already opted-in to discussions about your important issues. Conferences and expos like SXSW are nexuses of innovation and thought development, where opinion leaders and entrepreneurs mingle with the general public to announce new products, debate trends and brainstorm solutions. Inserting your messages to such forums can be a great tactical achievement if done properly.
Kellen enhanced the National Waste & Recycling Association’s profile as a national resource on recycling issues by placing their president and CEO, Sharon H. Kneiss, at the prestigious 2014 SXSW Eco Conference in Austin, Texas. Click to watch the video from the event.
Recently, Kellen worked with the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) to place thought leaders in positions to speak on key issues. We were successful in building a portfolio of speaking experience—securing the keynote speech at the 2013 Residential Recycling Conference in Chicago and a spot on the plenary panel for the Society of Environmental Journalists conference later that year in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
To build on this momentum, the goal in 2014 was to secure a name-brand speaking opportunity. Kellen targeted and secured a panel at SXSW Eco—part of the nationally recognizable SXSW brand based in Austin, Texas—and used the following planning points for speaking ops to fully leverage the opportunity.
- Ensure an opportunity fits your purpose. Does the event fulfill or work toward your strategic objectives, and will your messaging seamlessly contribute to the discussion? SXSW Eco was a perfect fit for NWRA: a premier national sustainability conference with a major profile and a diverse, captive audience that was receptive to its messaging.
- Consider a partnership. Stacking your panel with notable speakers may increase the likelihood of selection and draw a greater audience. SXSW Eco encourages panel diversity, so Kellen produced a star-studded panel moderated by NWRA that featured other leading voices on sustainability, including Keep America Beautiful. Solo presentations can also use data and insights from external sources, as long as they contribute to your discussion.
- Refine and perfect your pitch. Use the proper channels to suggest your client or spokesperson, and reach out well in advance while the event is still being planned. SXSW offers explicit instructions and deadlines for its selection process and guidance on naming and describing a panel to attract conference attendees. Our panel—“Recycling More vs. Recycling Right in America”—was concisely described and featured an enticing variety of opinions.
- Prepare as you would for any public-facing event. Organize and refine key messages, introduce panelists to one another and allow time to work through the planned discussion to identify common ground and/or points of contention. Kellen arranged key talking points for NWRA’s spokesperson and organized a “team dinner” for the panelists prior to SXSW Eco.
- Promote the event widely and capture evergreen content. Notify key media and optimize the conversation on social platforms. Associations should alert members to the upcoming valuable exposure. For SXSW Eco, Kellen coordinated member communication with NWRA and Keep America Beautiful, arranged for a video recording of the panel, curated the Twitter conversation with the #RecycleVS and #SXSWEco hashtags and notified national media of the panel while placing an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman, the local daily newspaper.
Your organization may also consider hosting its own event. Our Kellen Meetings division has taken conferences and expos to the next level for more than 40 years, offering award-winning event management services in synergy with our talented team of communications professionals. Kellen hosts its own conference—Associations: 2020 and Beyond – Strength in Networks—in New York this June. Visit www.kellenconference.com if you’d like to attend.