Wrap up - Variety Summit - 3/17/99

From: richard hoy _at_ the tenagra corp. <_at_>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 23:00:32 -0600 (CST)

Below is a special mailing to The Online Advertising
Discussion List about the Variety Summit,
written by Andy Bourland, publisher of The ClickZ
Network. You will receive these reports in addition to your
normal Online Ads posts/digests.

Variety Summit: Wrap-Up

by Andrew Bourland
The ClickZ Network

As I flew back from the warm, sunny, open spaces of Palm
Springs to the cold, wintry, overcast and crowded Boston, I
asked myself what it was that I liked so much about the
(http;// IMI/Digitrends conferences. I
had to be honest with myself: It's the climate.

But by that I don't just mean the sunny weather and
well-groomed grounds: I mean the business climate that
allows attendees to be incredibly productive. Let me

Take this week's Variety Summit and put it at the Holiday
Inn in Buffalo, New York, and I can assure you -- I would
have had plenty to gripe about. Like what?

Well... during a three-day conference, there were two
keynotes (both of which were superb), four panels (two of
which were good, two of which were marred with sales pitches
and self-promotional videos), and one generally uninsightful
"live focus group."

So if my standard for judging this conference was purely
based upon content, I'd be ticked. I'd be asking why the
breaks needed to be so long, why there were so few sessions,
why the panels weren't incredibly in-depth. I'd wonder aloud
how attendees would be able to continue justifying the
expense with so little content to take back to the office
with them.

So yes, if it were held in Buffalo, I'd gripe and moan. But
those smart marketers at Digitrends softened me up! They
passed on Buffalo and held it in gorgeous Palm Springs,
California. They skipped the Holiday Inn, and held it at the
Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage. And THAT,
ladies and gentleman, makes up for a multitude of sins!

Why, you ask?

Simply because Digitrends succeeded in creating a
wonderfully conducive environment for doing business and
making new contacts. What actually happened was this: I had
breakfast meetings every day, met with someone at every
break, got something accomplished at lunchtime, even had
different deals getting cooked up during cocktail hour and
dinner time. I was able to get a WHOLE lot of things done
there... all while getting some of that California sunshine on
my pasty, white New England skin.

And as I look back on other Digitrends events - namely,
e-Biz in November and Camp Interactive in July -- that same
formula applied: Content was uneven... but the contacts were
phenomenal and schmoozing top-shelf.

So what do you tell the boss when you get back from a
Digitrends event? Try this: "Who cares about the notes I
didn't take at the sessions, Mr. Applebee.... but lookee here
at the names on these cards! Check out the new deals I'm
working on....!"

If you couldn't say that and more when you got back, you
missed out on the primary value of these thrice-yearly

A few observations about the content:

Bob Pittman's keynote... I must have heard this guy at six of
the last eight conferences I've attended. (Well, I've seen
him a lot, although perhaps I exaggerate). He always beats
the exact same drum, but he beats it in such a compelling
manner that I'm glued to my seat anyway. I just wish that
conference organizers would find someone other than Pittman
to bang for a while.

Videos... Perhaps I've been going to the wrong conferences,
but it seems that recently more panelists and speakers are
bringing along videos to "enhance" their presentations. The
videos I've seen thus far are inevitably: a) not terribly
relevant to the topic at hand, and b) very self promotional.

A couple of Variety panelists brought videos along which
were probably a smash hit at their sales conferences, but
seemed out of place at this gathering. Personally, I think
unless the video makes the point in a far more compelling
fashion than a speaker who knows what s/he is talking about,
it's really a lazy approach to public speaking.

For the record, I'm also the guy who thinks Microsoft
PowerPoint is used more often as a crutch than to
illuminate. Am I alone in that view?

My hero: Andy Batkin. As I alluded to above, day one was
marred by two panels stocked with individuals who treated
their time on stage as a pitcher does a ball field... they
couldn't help but wind up and pitch.

So what did Digitrends do? Sweep it under the rug and
pretend it never happened? Hardly.

Digitrends CEO Andy Batkin really got in front of the
situation on day two, when he apologized directly to the
audience for the sales pitches the prior day. He explained
that Digitrends has little control once a panelist steps
foot on stage, no matter how much they work with them ahead
of time. The result was a sales-pitch free zone on day two...
and it was indeed a beautiful thing.

I admire Andy for addressing the issue directly from the
podium in plain English, and would encourage other
conference directors to do the same when the content doesn't
go precisely as planned.

So what's the bottom line? What are ClickZ grades for the
Variety Summit?

Content: C-
Schmooze: A+

Would I go again? You bet. Especially since knowing the
Variety organizers, I'm confident the content will be far
stronger next time around.


Copyright (C) 1999 ClickZ Corporation. All rights reserved.
 May be reproduced in any medium for noncommercial purposes
as long as attribution is given.


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Received on Wed Mar 17 1999 - 23:27:00 CST


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