Great Expectations for Direct Response Conference Season

Great Expectations for Direct Response Conference Season

George Lizama

Editor’s Note: George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, is a recognized leader in the fundraising industry. Lizama is the former president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington and recipient of its Distinguished Achievement Award. He received the Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership in 2008, in part to recognize his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service, of which he is a director. His blog is called Production Interrupted.

I’ve been in the direct response business for over 30 years, but I still have a lot to learn.

As a production manager and now CEO of a production management firm, I’m curious, nosey, persistent, ambitious, mistrustful and insecure. I want and need to know as much as I can about direct mail, email marketing, telemarketing, social media marketing, direct response television and more. It’s my business and my passion.

To build my knowledge base on these integrated marketing tools, I have committed to thoroughly read the plethora of related conference brochures and e-blasts that invite me to “learn more”. In the direct response, fundraising and cross channel marketing industries, this means taking time to review and consider promotional materials from the major professional trade organizations like, Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW), Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA) and Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

Since I started paying close attention to conference invitations, I have come to the conclusion that I am impressed with my copy writing colleagues! They have their message and taglines down!

The invitation copy is remarkable these days. With powerful graphics and copy, these talented promoters tease me with tantalizing bios of speakers - some of which suggest the speakers are reincarnations of Mother Teresa or Benjamin Franklin. The descriptions of topics hit dead-on with my needs and interests. It’s as if they’ve heard my cries for help during those lonely, early production mornings.

Then, they hit my needs with urgency – “attendance is up and the sessions will be standing room only!” Heart be still! I sign up to get the “early bird special”, not just because of the savings but because I want front row seats and to show the promoters that I am enthusiastic about attending.

But, let’s be real here. My expectations for the sessions and speakers are high, but not that high. I’ve attended enough to know that some will be uneventful, and a few will be truly inspiring and unforgettable.

As a speaker myself, I have hit it over the fence at least once, but have also been that downhill skier from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” more times than I care to recall. Success and failure taught me some principals about public speaking and teaching conference attendees.

Let me share them with you.

  1. Be prepared. If you’re speaking alone, practice and show your love and understanding of your “Power Point Presentation.” Glance and speak. Don’t read and speak.  If you’re speaking on a panel, meet and practice with your panel. Develop “balance and parity” of the amount of time for each speaker and the level of discussion for each topic. The audience is sensitive to a disjointed panel.
  2. Dress for the occasion. If you’re speaking alone, you can be Steve Jobs in black. You can wear the proverbial jeans and the sport coat (yawn). It’s your session. Dress as you would like to be perceived.
    If you’re speaking on a panel, dress almost as if you’re all on the same team — all business attire or all in jeans and a sport coat. The motley look is distracting.
  3. Give case studies, not anecdotes. More and more attendees are sensitive to the expectation that a speaker needs to provide strategy, analytics, success stories and, most importantly, mistakes with real life case studies (and recent ones at that). I am looking for tangible support of the “big idea” or a tremendous “breakthrough.”
  4. Be really… really… careful not to be too “salesy” or pitch your product in your presentation. Simply put, it’s as tacky as bad breathe. “Plugging” during a session has started to become more and more apparent and it truly is bad form and your audience knows it.
  5. It’s a new day with charts and graphs! There are so many wonderful ways to show your data via charts and graphs. Get multi-dimensional and run…don’t walk… from using Excel.

August through October is “conference time” for my industry and I am ready to attend and learn.

I look forward to listening to my selected speakers with childlike optimism and, of course, great expectations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed in this post are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of American News Report, National Pain Report, Microcast Media Group or any of its employees, directors, owners, contractors or affiliate organizations. American News Report makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information in this column, and is not responsible or liable for any errors, omissions, or delays (intentional or not) in this information; or any losses, injuries, and or damages arising from its display, publication, dissemination, interpretation or use.

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It’s good that blogs are releasing info on these industry conferences. Hey did you know that Kevin’s getting a lifetime achievement award from the ERA this year?