This is the challenge Ken Krogue and his company are facing this week.
Ken, Founder and President of XANT, and CEO Dave Elkington, and their collective team decided to create and run the equivalent of a major trade show online. So far so good. The savings in facilities, travel, catering, booths, printing, computer/internet and labor are clearly a great idea. The ability to prepare up until the very last minute (no need to worry about locking down travel arrangements) is pretty appealing as well.
Here’s the impossible part: Since the focus is sales, the team wanted the top sales minds in the world to present. They scoped out 62. While they were at it, they also decided it would be great to set a world record for a virtual sales trade show. A mere 15,000 participants would do (according to Guinness, 10,800 is the number to pass). So when, exactly, did they hatch the plan for this Herculean endeavor? Three weeks ago.
The event is this Thursday, and if you’re inclined, you are welcome to join the company here.
Technology Is Only Half the Battle
The technology side of the equation is somewhat straightforward: The team is creating an online event (think Second Life meets Mandalay Bay) by combining webinar software with technology from virtual trade show company On24. Thousands, or tens of thousands of people, can register and attend the event from their home or office, visit online trade show “booths”, watch presentations, network, chat, talk to company representatives and even hang out with their favorite authors and experts in a Google hangout chat at the end of the day.
I say “somewhat straightforward” because any time technology is involved, you naturally introduce the opportunity for things to go wrong. Servers crash. Overloads happen. Ken and his team can speak to the particulars of the IT setup for an endeavor like this. I will turn my own attention to the question that interests me most: How do you align the communications for an event that involves 62 world class speakers (such as Jeffrey Gittomer, Jill Konrath, Trish Bertuzzi, et al) with 15,000 attendees who need to be invited, recruited and registered for a program like this?
I’ll be blunt: I don’t have the answers. But as a direct and indirect participant, I am highly interested in observing this first-of-its-kind program to see what works, what doesn’t, and to analyze and report the results. In short strokes, here’s one of the biggest tactics Ken and Dave and company have accomplished so far:
They enlisted Guy Kawasaki. As in, they’ve engaged Guy to be the event’s keynote speaker (no small feat in itself). But even more than this, they engaged Guy’s interest in supporting the company in accomplishing something that has never happened before: to create the largest online sales trade show audience in history, and in doing so to achieve a world record. (Yes, the team has made arrangements with the Guinness Book of World Records for the record attempt.)
It Helps to Have Klout
Think of the advantages of getting the King of Social Media to put his personal network to work on a program’s behalf. Some 4,483,646 people have Guy Kawasaki in their Google+ circles. 1,322,903 people follow him on Twitter. His Klout score: 88. 294,738 people follow Guy Kawasaki on Facebook.
As the bestselling author of The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book (among other works), the former Chief Evangelist for Apple computer has nothing to prove. In addition to writing books, he speaks, invests and advises cool companies, works at Motorola, shares enchanting news on Alltop (which curates top headlines from all over) … and he breaks world records.
This afternoon I had the chance to sit in and interview Guy during a pre-show conference call. (All in a day’s work, yes? Lucky me!) Here’s what Guy had to say:
What do you think about this program?
From a speaker’s standpoint, not having to get on an airplane is everything. And if you think about it, when you go to a large conference, best case, you’re going to see the person’s slides every once in awhile and get a glimpse here and there of the speaker’s face on a screen. So you might as well be online, right? And to offer 61 speakers of this caliber in the space of a day… So you know I love this idea.
How many world records have you broken before?
I did one with IBM at a conference. I can’t remember what it was for, so not too many.
How do you anticipate the role social media will play in driving the attendance for a conference like this?
Well, social media will definitely drive the attendance, but here’s my prediction: I’m betting that to get the audience you’re looking for, email will be even better than social media. I am betting your registration will be split 70/30 between email and social media. [Note: while Inside Sales will have exact data on the amount of attendance that is influenced by Guy Kawasaki’s network and will provide that information to him, the company has agreed to let Guy decide whether or not he will disclose those results.]
Todd Grierson, Sr. Marketing Specialist: Tell us a little bit more about your concept of “enchantment.”
The highest pinnacle of sales – enchantment – is based on the pillars of trustworthiness, likability and competence. Those are the three keys; the basics to sales. If you get those down, everything else is easy.
Todd: My problem is my likability, Guy…
What can I say? Ha ha!
Ken Krogue: Of the four social media alternatives that are prevalent to an event like this, I’ve seen you make a huge swing to Google+. What are your thoughts on that?
I happen to love Google+: the design, the people, the threading, the plus ones. So much of the infrastructure is done for you. And it helps with your SEO. So I think Google+ is a no-brainer.
Secret Sauce: The ‘Domino Method’
So there you have it. How did Ken and team get Guy’s support, particularly on so little notice? They admit it wasn’t easy. He turned them down twice. In typical Ken Krogue style, he employed his “domino” method – first, he secured everyone else he needed. As each great speaker committed, the collective list made it progressively easier to get the rest to agree:
- Matt Dixon, co-author of The Challenger Sale;
- Mike Bosworth, author of Solution Selling;
- Jeffrey Gitomer, author of Little Red Book of Selling;
- Josh James, CEO of Domo;
- Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling;
- Bob Perkins, CEO of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals;
- Executives from salesforce.com, Accenture, LinkedIn, Marketo, Eloqua, Act-On, HubSpot, Hoopla, Xactly, DocuSign.
Then he had his team go back to Guy’s agent again. Seeing the all-star line up, the agent impressed upon Guy it was an event he couldn’t afford to miss. Or so the story goes.
For anyone who misses the live feed or who has too much difficulty deciding among the seven simultaneous speakers in some of the slots, the company is preparing to make the majority of the content, slides, audio and video available within an hour or two of the sessions. And — rumor has it — there’s another aggressive goal afoot to convert the content in each session into an ebook within the space of a couple of weeks. That, in itself, may be a record. But why not try something new?
Finally, why the June 20th date and the three week timeline? Ken’s answer is this: “Everybody knows that when you’re talking to salespeople, you don’t schedule an event for the final week of the month.”
Of course. So here goes. Will they make it? And even more importantly, will virtual events succeed in making live conferences a thing of the past? (I can name at least a few people who certainly hope so.) I welcome your thoughts.