Tag Archives: events

how to moderate an event

I have probably moderated around 100+ events for the Churchill Club over the last couple of years, and have realised that I now have a bit of experience moderating panels, which can be hard to come by. Although I believe I have nothing on Narelle Kennedy of the Australian Business Foundation, who is by far the best moderator I have ever seen because of her ability to run a panel at a break neck pace and keep the panellists honest, I have some thoughts I wanted to share on how to be a successful moderator.

Before the event. Do some research on the panellists and the topic so you don’t look like a fool on stage. Have enough questions prepared to move things along if the audience Q&A is a bit slow. Have either an agenda for the event to travel along, or a list of points that you feel you need to have covered. Also, make sure that the panellists are fully briefed on the mechanics and the objective of the event. I have also found, after suffering some considerable pain, that its an excellent idea to have the panellists reconfirm their attendance the week of the event.

At the start of the event. Initially you need to have a mechanism to gain the audience’s attention, then introduce yourself. You need to outline the rules of play – How long the event will go for, when/how to ask questions, whether the bar is still open, as well as some simple mechanics like “turn our mobiles to silent”, or twitter feed hash tags. Finally, introduce your topic and panel without stealing their thunder. Continue reading how to moderate an event

That’s my Product!

Last week I mentioned I had difficulty figuring out what the Churchill club was doing after our initial concept didn’t work.

This caused me to have my first insight. If I am going to have 30 people turn up, why not accept the fact, and engineer the events so the Club makes a bit of money with thirty people. Much more fun than losing money and being really, really stressed that we didn’t get 100.

So now we are running some really interesting topics. We do it out of our board room (which admittedly is pretty nice) and don’t have lots of fancy AV support. In fact “No Powerpoint” is part of our pitch. Sure we only get 30 people but we make a slight profit, have fun and the audience really enjoys the intimate environment where they are guaranteed of being able to ask a speaker a question.

People still on occasion say to me “I can’t believe your not getting a bigger crowd”. My response is to smile quietly.

The second insight was that questions I personally wanted answered, were valid to the community of technology entrepreneurs we have in Australia. Sure they may not have as much gravitas as addressing Australia’s bio-risk over the next 50 years, but they still pull in an audience that’s passionately interested. “How to go global on a shoestring”, “how to raise equity without diluting your capital to much”, “how to build brand”, “accessing cheap technology via web 2.0”.

I call them programmes for players, not cheer squad.

My final insight though, was what my product was. Amongst all my other events, I started to run these monthly panels on questions that interested me as a technology entrepreneur. After a couple of months I decided to do some analysis on the performance of these club events, and noticed a strange thing. Sure we are still pulling sub 50 crowds, but three performance indicators were going up.
1. The number of people attending events
2. The number of repeat visitors at events
3. The number of people deciding to become members of the club.

That was when I had my final insight. My product wasn’t an event; it was a series of events. Specifically, the monthly entrepreneurship panel. With this insight I suddenly realized that I could:
A. Plan ahead, even a year ahead.
B. Be more efficient in my marketing as I understood whom my customer base actually was.
C. Tweak the events to improve the value proposition to the audience.
D. Start to get sponsors interested.

Finally, I realized that I could continue running a seemingly random collection of events on other topics with other formats, but what I was actually doing was conducting customer research for another product (ie another series of events, to layer on top).

The result – much, much, much less stress and firm foundation for building the Club.

What’s my Product?

A while ago I wrote about Tactical Marketing Management .  But I have recently had another insight about the Strategic Marketing of the Churchill Club .  In fact, I just realized what my product actually was.  Sounds dumb, but its true.

When I first set up the Churchill Club, it was going to mirror the activities of the original Churchill Club  in San Francisco.  However I quickly discovered that most globally influential technology executives don’t live in Australia, the Venture Capital Community here is fairly risk averse and our technology entrepreneurs are to busy to talk.

So for the last two years or so, the Churchill Club has been running a wide variety of programs to determine what kind of content and format could actually work.  We ran public events at hotels, at morning noon and night. We ran private dinners at restaurants and out of our offices.  We covered IT, Nanotechnology, Sport, Entrepreneurship, Innovation Policy, Venture Capital, Governance and Town Planning.  We had guests of honour, key note speakers and panels.  Day long programs and two hour events.

The problem was almost every time we ran an event; we were marketing to a new audience, as our topics were so diverse.  Additionally, we could never really plan ahead as we didn’t know whom we had available to speak, or what our topic was going to be.

Of course I got lot of advice.  Advice that I should just focus on venture capital / technology / innovation / leadership.  Advice that I should get high profile speakers / panels.  Advice that I should run more / less events.  Advice that I should market to real entrepreneurs / armchair entrepreneurs / public servants / CEO’s.

Terrific.  Lots of advice, most contradictory.  And sometimes when I ran suggested events, they were successful, sometimes, spectacularly unsuccessful.  The advice giver normally expressed surprise that people didn’t flock to their suggested event in droves.  I of course had to put my hand in my pocket, which made me more and more risk averse.

Mostly I struggled to get more than 50 to turn up.  Sometimes we made money, sometimes we lost.  The Churchill Club may be a not for profit, but that doesn’t mean we can make losses.

The story is probably not unfamiliar to you.  Change the names and products and you have a regular startup story.

Next Week – My three insights