In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been reworking our event programming over the past couple of years. For 2012, and on into 2013 we settled in on four public programs. In the spring and fall of each year we are running summits for advanced practitioners in the art and science of digital publishing  and marketing . In January and July, we are running a foundational program for senior executives and high-potential employees involved in setting digital publishing and marketing strategy for their organizations. Under the hood, we were testing all the variables including location, duration, pricing, marketing channels, and content.
Keynote speakers are the number one factor for Internet marketing success
Kim, Laura and I recently sat down to look at all the data we’ve accumulated over the past few years. We built a simple spreadsheet where every event was a column. On the rows we entered the number of attendees for each event, attendee days, average revenue, average revenue per day, and total revenue for the event. We then detailed all of the marketing and production expenses as totals and on a per-attendee day basis.
Then we detailed the attributes that were success drivers or potential success drivers. At the end of the day, only one factor emerged as a clear success driver: the keynote speakers. Programs with strong keynote speakers whose topics set the theme for the program were sellouts. Programs where the keynote speakers were deemphasized or not well-aligned with the overall program content performed at about 60 to 80% of capacity. As any event marketer will tell you, events have a high fixed cost and low variable cost. Sellouts are a beautiful thing, and events that only perform to 60% of capacity are disappointing. Every content creator wants to create bestsellers. For some it’s the financial reward, for others it’s the satisfaction of producing content that your audience wants and needs. And for me, it’s both. I love producing events that our clients find valuable. I also love the financial success and the freedom of choice it offers in programming future events.
New Audience Development Summit
With our newfound lessons in mind, we’ve recruited an audience development dream team of keynote speakers for our October Audience Development Summit including: John Suhler, Andrew Palmer, Bob Kaslik, and Jeff Lapin. I’ve worked with all these individuals for a decade or more. They are among the most knowledgeable publishing and marketing professionals you will ever meet. I encourage you to download our just released program guide for our upcoming Audience Development Summit that will be held in New York City this October.
We also noted that Summit attendance is higher when we include a one-day pre-conference workshop designed for those new to the topic of digital audience development. We will run the optional basics program on Tuesday followed by the Summit keynotes, master classes, roundtables and power panels on Wednesday and Thursday.
Kim, Laura, and all of the Mequoda Research Team will be waiting with bated breath to discover if our programming conclusions are correct. If we’re right, and keynote selection is the key variable that defines the success of a Mequoda Summit, you will be the first to know.