Owner, Red Cedar Marketing, auhor of "The Social Trade Show: Leveraging Social Media and Virtual Events"
Content Marketing World Impressed a 15-Year Trade Show Veteran
To be honest, Content Marketing World didn’t simply impress me; it knocked my socks off. It was an event to which every trade show and conference organizer should aspire to produce.
From the moment I walked into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to attend the opening night festivities, I knew I had stumbled on an experience like no other.
The venue was humming with excitement, and everywhere you turned there were people wearing orange, the signature color of Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World.
Participants of Content Marketing World aren’t just attendees and sponsors; they are devotees.
The next day, as attendees filed into the auditorium in the Cleveland Convention Center accompanied by a rock-and-roll soundtrack, that hum and excitement was continuing to grow.
Pulizzi’s entrance on the opening general session stage was entertainment in itself. He didn’t deliver a long drawn out state of the Conference Marketing Institute address. He simply launched right into the event. Right from the very start it was all about the attendee experience.
Pulizzi says the event is about entertainment. “If they [the attendees] are not having fun they will not open their mind to learning new things.” He wants the conference to have the same excitement as if the attendees were going to a rock concert.
Pulizzi and his event staff are accessible all throughout the conference. Everywhere you turn, you see Joe smiling and talking to both vendors and attendees. Even with 1,700 people in attendance and close to 60 exhibitors/sponsors, he finds time to connect one-on-one with so many.
The fact that Pulizzi was having a great time at the conference really struck me as being significant to the entire event. When most organizers would be running around with their heads down attending to the running of the conference, Joe is out and about having just as much fun as everyone else.
When I asked Pulizzi to reveal the secret sauce to his ability to enjoy and be entertained by his own event he said without a moment’s hesitation, “everyone is great at their jobs.” Then he went on to say it was their jobs to set the tone and the expectations. “We crack the whip, but everyone loves working on the event.” It’s evident in the staffs’ smiles and their warm hospitality.
Joe started Content Marketing Institute six years ago, and three years ago Content Marketing World wa slaunched with about 600 attendees. In just three years, Content Marketing World has grown to 1700 attendees coming from 40 different countries.
This year’s event keynote was actor William Shatner, a natural storyteller, entertained the audience with anecdotes of his television career and shared some of the many projects he’s involved in now. Then, to everyone’s delight, he spent time answering questions from the audience.
Content Marketing World speakers were a big part of that promise to entertain. Andrew Davis, author of “Brandscaping”, enthusiastically led a session titled "Bigger Success. Less Content. Across More Platforms" in the Multi-channel Content track to a standing-room only crowd.
Cisco's Tim Washer had the audience in stitches as he presented 5 Ways to Take Your Content from Boring to Found. Washer was part of the team who created IBM's "Art of the Sale" videos that won Comedy Central's Staff Favorite.
When I asked Pulizzi where he saw Content Marketing World in five years, he said, “I don’t know what it will look like, but it will feel the same. That’s the challenge we have, but it’s a good challenge.” Joe said it might have a SXSW feel. He imagined a South by Cleveland, where different verticals would come together with the same passion. “I always think we can go bigger. I think we’re just at the start of this thing.”
But a bigger exhibitor presence doesn’t seem to be as big a priority as the attendee experience. Joe admitted his sponsorship sales team has a tough job. Pulizzi said, “we are sponsors second and always will be. I’ll defray revenue for that. I want 50 percent of the people to be client side. How do you create passion around people trying to sell stuff all day?”
Clearly the Content Marketing World model is working. Almost everyone seemed to be in attendance for the last breakout sessions of the conference. The final general session of the conference, a keynote by William Shatner, was delivered to an enthusiastic, standing room only crowd.
What advice does Joe have to pass along to trade show and conference organizers?
“Stop thinking like trade show organizers and conference people. You’re thinking about the mission as doing an event. That’s like thinking a newspaper’s mission is being printed on paper. Find your mission. It has to be bigger than doing an even," Pulizzi said.
He adds, “Feed their passion every day. For 362 days out of the year, they’re not with you. Ask yourself, how do you get their attention every day? The people here are having a reunion with the people they hang out with all year long.”
I’d encourage every trade show and conference organizer to attend next year’s Content Marketing World in Cleveland. You’ll get to see first hand a well run conference and learn how to create content that keeps your audience active and engaged all year long.