Capitalize on the launch
Generally speaking, a conference has the highest likelihood of receiving press the first year it’s hosted, especially if it’s filling a much needed space in the industry. That’s why launch is the organizer’s best opportunity to ensure the conference is positioned in the most appealing and newsworthy way, ensuring that the need for the conference and the role it’s playing in advancing the space is clear—be that in tech or otherwise.
To be media worthy, a conference should aim to bring a new set of people together, deliver programming that’s been missing, open up spaces to folks who were previously excluded from the conversation, or add vital perspective to an ongoing topic.
Venture Out, a conference for LGBTQA+ youth in tech, is a great example of that. It launched in 2017 as the country’s only conference for young queer people looking to break into the technology industry. That messaging—“only conference for LGBTQA+ youth in tech”—became the crux of how they positioned themselves to media.
On the whole, words like “first”, “only” and “biggest” should be top-of-mind for conference organizers. These are words that journalists pay attention to, and they can form the base of your media strategy—a reason to reach out to journalists and say, “Hey, look at this interesting thing I’m doing that no one else has done/has done as big.”
That said, when push comes to shove, conferences need the content to back it up.
Evolve year after year
But what happens in year two? It’s imperative that in order for a conference to continue to be interesting to media (and subsequently, grow), they must think strategically about what they can do to evolve—what can they add? What new speakers can they secure? What topic can they explore? What unexpected venue? Each iteration of a conference gives organizers the chance to think about what’s missing from their industry and develop an event to fill that space.
Venture Out is now in its second year, and the messaging that resonated in year one with media may not necessarily resonate now. In order to keep the conference newsworthy, the organizers extended it to two days, added high profile keynote speakers and introduced the country’s first and only panel of transgender leaders in technology and business.
Diversify your speaker list
It’s no secret that the reason folks attend conferences is to hear from expert speakers, players at the top of their respective fields, each delivering invaluable insight on their particular niche.
Speakers can be a conference organizer’s most valuable asset when it comes to attracting press attention. Whether that means announcing the speaker list beforehand or reaching out to media and inviting them to chat with speakers who align with their beat (what they write about), conference organizers should be giving added thought to the ways they can utilize speakers outside of the conference itself. But that only works when the speaker list is diverse, and the speakers themselves are new to audiences, and, in an ideal world, carry some cache of their own with the media.
Generation Now, the latest conference from Haste and Hustle, did exactly this by inviting technology and entrepreneur thought leader, Gary Vaynerchuk to speak in Toronto. Gary Vee, as he’s known in the tech community, brings crowds and attention of his own, something a conference organizer can strategically use to gain media traction for their event.
Conferences within any industry can become a vacuum—we begin to see the same speakers present and the same topics discussed. From a press perspective, conference organizers are much better off putting in the effort to think outside the box, looking for unique angles and tapping into a speaker circuit that’s fresh.