Er, networking, a day out the office, avoiding meetings, might learn something, the wrap up drinks. There you go five. Well, dig a little deeper and there are five more reasons that you may never have thought of, and have more influence on your whole experience there:
I’ve been to Cannes a few times, but last year something struck me that seemed, well, odd. This is an Advertising festival, yet nearly every major sponsor was a large digital corporation. It wasn’t that that was shocking; it was just where were the agencies? Or the network groups? Or ‘old’ media? If I missed something tell me, but Microsoft and Yahoo seemed everywhere. Why is this important? Two reasons: the sponsors are either who is making all the money, or where they want you to spend all the money.
Every conference has a tone, if may not be clear by the title or the individual talks, but once there you’ll find each session is normally tempered by it. Around 14 years ago at the DMA in New Orleans, it was like a gold rush: how to sign up your new online company, with how to pith to an angel investor seemingly the tone running through every talk. At the Dubai Lynx, four years ago, the GFC dominated: how to cope, what to do, where marketing was going, skinny budgets, these subjects were all the rage.
Look at the status of the conference, just be cause it’s big, it doesn’t follow it will be good. And look at who has been attracted to speak. Mind you, never judge a speaker by their position. I have seen some big names who were appalling, but two of the best were unexpected: 10 years ago an Australian Post employee took the stage in a green cardigan and spoke for 45 minutes without notes or any visual assistance on the benefits of barcodes. He was brilliant. The next, the founder of Rovio, he found it difficult to rationalise the success of Angry Birds, the best he got to was his grandmother liked it and the app was red.
Buzzword bingo. Have your radar on. Every new conference brings a blow-in of mangled language to make the speaker sound clever. (‘Granular level’ was always my most hated expression). If it’s a three-day conference note the offending phrase down, if it’s mentioned on day one, it’ll spread like wildfire to day three.
PowerPoint, the staged interview, behind a lectern, these are all familiar styles, but there is always something new coming along. One of the best was Jonathan Mildenhall’s at Cannes a couple of years ago. He spoke to this as it animated on the screen behind him. He got a standing ovation.
These are more of the subtle impressions of conferences. Often hidden but once you notice them, they mean the conference leaves a deeper impression. This is no sales pitch but AdTech is next week, the Circus starts on March 19, TED is June 10-14 (good luck with accommodation), ADMA has booked Obama’s campaign advisor for August 7-9, and Cannes is in June, which is now probably more worth going to for the talks than the Ads.