I will be attending yet another International Architecture Congress, today and on Friday. This one started as a counter-proposal towards the bad-outcome-lack-of-care from the 9-year-running one. The established one had its worst ever last year, when the two biggest names were either sending someone else from the office or simply not showing. Not to mention the lack of relevance from everyone else.
The new guys really put effort into it, or to the very least, the connections of being close to one of the richest men on the planet paid off. They have better, more relevant, presenters [to the point where one that sent a stand-in for the competition this year, will be attending personally]. A better location, better days of the week and at a better time of the day. And although the idea is appreciated, I cannot believe someone who is into the world of design would miss the target by that much. The promotion, and logic of the event, appear to be the magical formula everyone should do by default. And it is that forumla which has put the original congress in it's current below-par scenario.
But here are some proposals attempting to improve the situation:
- Smarter marketing. Get word of mouth out. Put the presenter on the spotlight way before he gets here. Make his thoughts available on the proper media months before you advertise the event as such. Get the media that has nothing to do with architecture to discuss about the guest once you have confirmed he is coming. Put your energy there, instead of concentrating it on designing posters [probably pasted in the worst place] and magazine ads [you know that is the media that has fallen most in the last 3 years].
- Make more events. Instead of one with many names, have one event for every architect. This allows things to be cheaper & more flexible, which ensures the presenter will actually come. And being cheaper and dedicated means you will appeal better to a niche, which means more buzz and demand. To your guest, it means even more personalized treatment, quality time, and that will make him feel more like a star.
- Bring the full show. Every starchitect has an exhibition of their work ready to be shipped. Bring it! That way more people will get the chance to get involved in the event, and in time, they will want to come to the live opening. And even better, young people will get motivated and freshen up their vision, therefore thankful to you for doing it. Thankful people are priceless. And the display of these exhibits usually give way more insight than the presenters themselves, because most of what they will present is already online for free. You don't go to a rockstar concert to listen to the music you have on your mp3 collection. And, money wise, it allows you to get funds sponsored by the culture budget that every city holds.
- Lobby for dedicated space. Get a "free" great space that turns into the architecture-museum facility of the city. Specially if the current place that wants to hold the honor of doing it simply sucks. You already promise great content, whomever donates the space has nothing to loose, and everything to win.
- Allow questioning input & interaction. Ninety percent of the questions will be "worthless" or "stupid". Firstly, who are you to judge? Second, it is about setting a platform, not about a result. Thirdly, if there is a single worthwhile . And again, it is the only benefit you can get from having them live while all their work is online for free.
- The guests can hold leverage to re-fresh the medium. Get the public sector involved so they can talk to the starchitect, his name/vision/ideas that are far away from the local prejudice will land him a commission. I am going to assume i don't have to explain how everyone wins in this scenario...
- Choose your audience. Just like nightclubs, if the right people show up, everyone else will follow. It is a matter of quality first, quantity [if you are interested] later.
- Smart Allegiance. By bringing your presenters one by one, you can take them to more places than the actual event. Tour him around schools, public sector meeting rooms, etc... That way you get to split the tab [or some percentage of it], give bigger exposure to sponsors, and make new connections. The presenter gets to feel even more appreciated.
- Liveblog / Webcast it. And preferably, have other people do it. Opinions and insight attached to a live [and delayed] more-appealing-to-this-generation broadcasting method, will build up long term commitment. That is priceless too. [If you add the exhibition and the input/interaction, it does not compete with selling tickets]
- Make it a strategy. If you get it done once right, and you write down your step-by-step, you can do it with a lot less effort every other time.
- Keep improving and finding new ideas to make it better every time. [Equilibrium is death, yet again.]
Take all that, present it as a business & brand association strategy to sponsors, and they will go all out for the full pack. And, you will be building a tribe, rather than desperately agglomerating a crowd. Taking the current economical context into consideration, do all the hard planning and testing of the strategy until the situation settles, then present it.
Special thanks to my business partner David for his priceless input/insight/opinion/time on this post's content.