Thanks from Di5rupt's co-founders
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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or do they? Here are eleven thoughts following our two first in-person events – First-Party Data Strategies and the FIPP World Media Congress 2022 – which took place in Cascais, Portugal, from 7-9 June.

1. Location

Location and venue remain essential. This includes relative ease of travel. It adds to the overall value proposition of the event. 

What works for one, though, might not work for the other. Choose in mind with what your brand represents. Then use it for what experiences it has to offer. We got praised for our choice for the 2022 event. In 2019, the same event got hammered for the choice back then. That one was not “representative of us as an industry,” one attendee told me.

2. In-person is by far the best, for now

People adored being back in person. It remains to be seen how much of that was because it was our very first in-person event after three years and whether “the vibe” will continue at the exact same level in future. In my mind, we may still end up going hybrid. For now, though, in-person is the core focus. With not too many hundreds or thousands of people either. Less is more when it comes to the quality of interaction.

2. Good content makes people content

Good content attracts. It also makes people happy. That hasn’t changed. One of the excellent post-event emails I received simply read, “we are back [home], full of inspiration and new ideas”. That matters.

3. Create opportunities for interaction

Networking and meetings are essential. Not only do we know of one deal signed at Congress (The Content Exchange and Getty Images), but we also heard of many a productive conversation that took place. As one attendee put it, “we had a great time and met some great people – a win regardless of any other reasons to go!”

It is not only the typical networking opportunities and meetings that worked. Take, for example, our Pugpig Trotters running, walking and – as it turned out – swimming club.

Wrote The Rebooting’s Brian Morrissey, who joined us in Cascais, “events can easily devolve into Spring Break for middle-aged people in blazers. I think the pendulum is swinging against that. It could be European events, but I see more early-morning runs and swims in the ocean being core to casual networking than shots at the pool bar.”

4. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

One attendee captured how various vital components make for a successful event. “For me, the key takeaway was a perspective on existing and future business strategy. Furthermore, I realised it’s a great networking event where business alliances can take shape. Lastly, the city and venue choice were just excellent.”

Another wrote, “without a doubt, the event has been very educational and positive from a purely business standpoint, meeting different types of organisations and media owners than we might usually do and hearing their problems etc. It gave us a lot to think about and work with…”

5. Budget right; keep plugging away

Whether this will be a permanent feature or was just because it is the first event back from the worst of Covid lockdowns, delegate registration and sponsorship sales patterns were very different from pre-pandemic ones. Gone were the spikes around campaign deadlines, such as with Early Bird offers. Gone were large, up-front commercial bookings. 

Many other event organisers warned that people are adopting a wait-and-see approach and are booking late. You have to have steel in your veins and stick the course. In our case, there was some truth in this. However, overall, I would describe our overall sales pattern as a steady stream rather than one with peaks and troughs.

In any event, we sold out on attendee tickets and sponsor opportunities. There was no magic dust to achieve this. We worked hard on the value proposition and got our budget right for our first in-person event. Even though there is pent-up energy to travel and attend in-person events again, there are still barriers that remain. Take them seriously.

7. The right partners make a massive difference

Of course, it was not all smooth sailing under the surface, considering it was Di5rupt’s (a mere four months and one week old when Congress took place) first event and the first in-person Congress back after a lay-off of three years. 

Here, choosing the right partners is critical. From our conference producer to the AV team, our channel hosts to the local event agency and the hotel, our photographer to our CYJ (“can you just”) runners, and more, they all helped make it a success while taking immense pressure off our shoulders.

It would be remiss not to mention our key partner FIPP, license holder of the Congress, trusting us to deliver a quality programme and experience to its members and the wider media and media-tech ecosystem. Trust matters.

9. Expect changes

Covid has not gone and will – along with other issues ranging from cancelled flights through to delayed visas – mean having to change even the best-laid plans last minute. You need to be able to think on your feet and have people around you who are calm under pressure, nimble and who can step up to fill a void when required.

10. STAY HUMBLE; ask for criticism

For many delegates, this would also have been their first in-person event back. I believe they were, therefore, more forgiving of small mishaps than would otherwise have been the case. We appreciate the praise, but there are things we want to recalibrate to make the next one better. We need to see this event for what it was and not get swept away on a wave of euphoria.

Understand the context we are operating in at the moment, stay humble and pointedly ask for constructive criticism from your attendees/trusted partners for next events.

11. Be kind

Everyone is feeling their way back into the real world after the chaos of 2020 and 2021. In the hospitality sector, there are, for example, huge staff shortages making for sometimes patchy services. It adds pressure on the people who are there, who sometimes have to do two, three, or four people’s jobs. Of course, it is right to demand good service, having paid good money for it. But we have to have some empathy with the people trying to deliver it. In most instances, they are doing their very best.

10. Add Fun

Because everyone deserves it after what the world has been and still is going through.

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