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Conference organizers: Please think about what attendees need, rather than inundating them with unnecessary printed materials

Posted by: Helen Walters on March 12, 2008

My colleague, Catherine Holahan, already referred to the insane amount of information that welcomed arrivals at this year’s SXSW conference. Now I don’t know about Catherine, but here’s what I did with the stuff in the two bags I was given (one for the Film conference; the other for Interactive). Looked at everything… And then threw 98% of it away.

Now perhaps, as a journalist, those ads and bits of direct mail weren’t aimed at me. But I’m always looking for an interesting story or to find out about an interesting service or company, so in fact I suspect I was probably more interested than many others. And gauging by an unscientific study of a few minutes spent observing what other people did after they got their own bags (at least there were recycling bins into which many people just poured all the bumph) I’d hazard that most other people were pretty uninterested, too. So this begs the question: WHY?? I know direct marketing response rates only have to be low in order to be considered successful, but this seems like such a waste of resources, was so astonishingly unsustainable, not to mention it completely contradicted the forward-thinking attitude of the attendees. (This is the place that launched Twitter, remember.)

Note to organizers: think about what people really want or need to receive when they get to your conference. I kept the program of events (the handy reference guide and the large book full of contact details) and a couple of magazines I hadn’t seen before. And that was it. I felt terribly guilty, but I threw away about two trees worth of paper.

Reader Comments

Ellen Gerstein

March 14, 2008 11:29 AM

I was an attendee at SXSW and noticed the same thing. I wrote a blog post about this ( as a wake up call to those in the industry to cut back on this crap. As a marketer, I've been guilty of this, but SXSW took everyone's contributions to new levels.

In my post, I suggested giving attendees something useful, as you suggest. I'm well aware that SXSW makes $$$ from the stuff that goes into the bag. There has to be a better way to provide the $$$ that runs the conference to the organizers, that allows marketers to get a product message across, and be kind to the environment. We're smart people, and we need to figure it out.


June 15, 2009 8:40 PM

I believe the answer is in the bag (literally.

The bags are as "low-cost I'll keep this" advertisement as you can get in a Mass Media print environment such as SXSW and other Trade Shows.

Of course you will still have to be creative in creating a reason for them to not simply trash your bag once they get back home or to the office.

Just imagine your bag being carried around the isles of the local grocery store. Now that's Advertising!

PS KISS (don't make them too busy)

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