Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sponsoring Events that Should Have Been Great

My firm is the title sponsor of a two-year-old capital conference for "middle-market private companies" -- a niche conference perfect for Southern California. Both years the quality of sponsors, presenting companies, panelists, and attendees has been A+. But the audience numbers has been disappointing. It's like producing a stellar movie and getting no sales at the box office. Arrgh!

Two years in a row we (the sponsors) have put together a dynamic conference with refreshing and new discussions, huge personalities and a crisp agenda. Then we email, and call, and email some more... but no ground swell of excitement, and nothing at the box office.

I am certain many of you reading this are already imagining a hundred ways to change, adjust, or alter the message, the conference, the outreach, etc. You're right -- we are missing "it" somewhere in the mix. And yet we are not rookies in this game either. We have fiddled and adjusted, tested our ideas and sought advise from "outside the forest".

Our choices at this point are:
  1. Abandon the conference. We tried, it didn't work and we should move on. But the hardest half DID work -- quality companies wanted to present and industry icons wanted to be speak. We really ARE onto something here!
  2. Aim the conference at the venture space or upstream at small-cap. With EVERYONE else in the Country doing these conferences why would we want to go head-to-head in such crowded space? Besides, our (the sponsors) prospect sweet-spot is smack in the center of middle-market private companies.
  3. Gain a better understanding of what middle-market private company executives would show up to see. Yeah, I think this is where we hurting. We've put too much faith in our own understanding of the market and did not do the block-and-tackle of asking our audience what they want.
Sometimes the events I sponsor do not deliver on audience or content and it is easy to walk away. And sometimes it is so close to delivering excellent results it might only take a little more effort -- if the effort is correctly focused.

My counsel is to be serious and considering after every event. Determination, in the right instance, may provide a future for a conference series that is almost great.