Why We Present at Conferences

Posted by Brad, Chief Explosion Officer

If you follow BlueFuego, you know we love to present at conferences (http://bluefuego.com/presentations). I just presented at two conferences recently and am heading to Malaysia to speak at the QS Apple Conference next week, so I thought it might be fun to talk about why we present, and share some feedback we’ve recently received from the presentation at NACAC in September.

Presenting at conferences does a few things for us: it allows us to meet others in the industry, it helps us learn more about the challenges being faced by the industry, and it gives us the opportunity to share our knowledge and research with the group.  That’s my favorite part.

If you’ve been to a presentation by someone on the BlueFuego team, I hope our style is apparent: no sales pitch, top-level research/thoughts/theory/application, conversational and relaxed, and some open-ended questions to get you thinking about what’s next for your team at the end.

I recently received my ‘report card’ for my presentation at NACAC, Integrating the Social Web into your Recruitment Strategy. This is by far the most organized and packaged presentation report I’ve received from a conference! Kudos to NACAC for providing such detail. I still don’t know how they turned it around so quickly.

It’s always interesting to present as “the vendor” at a conference.  I’ve spoken at nearly 50 events in the past 18 months (http://bluefuego.com/presentations), and I’ve sat through many presentations that turn into vendor pitches, just like you.  I hate when that happens. I make a conscious effort to avoid it every time.  You might see BlueFuego on an intro slide or contact me slide, but rarely in between.  Being a “vendor” brings negative connotations with it, due to the others who view a presentation as an opportunity to pitch.  With that, I enter every presentation knowing that 1) I have to earn your trust first, and 2) I have to provide great content without it coming across as a sales pitch.

It’s sort of like this: How would you expect a widget salesman to come into a room and tell you about the latest and greatest widgets on the market without coming across as a promotion for his/her widget business? It’s a very fine balance, one that I work to be on the right side of every time. I try to prove myself, but I can’t always win.

The room was packed, with 356 attendees and almost half of the room (n=140, 40% response rate) responded to the follow-up questionnaire.  I just wanted to share the results and provide some commentary on a few numbers and responses that caught my eye.   Here we go!


Years in profession: Majority of room has been around for 10+ years, with 71% of the room being in higher ed for 4+ years.


I work: 86.3% of the room works at a postsecondary institution.  5.8% are vendors.


My overall rating for this session is: Well, I didn’t get any POOR ratings, so that’s good. Over 90% in the 4/5 range. Awesome!


The presenter at this session: A few disagree’s in there.  Might have been due to my usage of Prezi? Full disclaimer: I refused to use their PowerPoint template, and tried to mush it into a Prezi format.  Might have left some confused without all of the bullet points and long lists? I do wish I had more time for Q&A at the end as well, leaving me somewhat neutral on that category. Can’t win them all. :)


This session provided information that: is of interest to most in the future. I know I couldn’t change someone’s life or job in one hour, and I definitely knew I couldn’t show them all something new in regards to this area of the web.  All in all, I feel good about where I am at here.

Alright, let’s head to the text field to get a final report on my grade.


You’ll see a good mix throughout these 30 or so comments of “Great!” and “Awful!”.  I can learn from both. For example, #8 says I could speak at NACAC again.  As you’ll see below, #12 has an issue with me being a vendor.   #11 refers to my constant need for water.   I had mentioned first thing of the presentation that I had a sore throat and would be getting a drink of water frequently, as my voice was lasting about 3 minutes before the puberty-like crackling started. :) As for saying hi to people who came in late, this was probably in the first 3-4 minutes.  The reason for welcoming them in was because the seats were full, and I wanted them to know it was OK to come in and stand along the wall.  Everyone is welcome. :) Again, it’s unfortunate that I lost this person in the first 5 minutes and they couldn’t get past that. Something to work on in the future!


Here’s there the Catch 22 of presenting comes in: #12, #15, #17 felt I was light on actual examples. #12 again cannot get past my vendor status. Although many, people felt this met the ‘educational session’ tag, #12 does not.

If I could talk to #12, here’s what I’d ask:  How would you have felt if I spent the hour showing examples of how my clients use these tools? Doesn’t that sound like more of a sales pitch to you?  That’s what I tried to avoid.  If people want to come talk to me more later, I’m fine with that.  But pushing our services during the presentation?  Not my style.  Take your pick.


More thoughts.  Probably my favorite segment of answers. Just sayin’. :)

All in all, I feel good about the presentation.  Would I present at NACAC again? Definitely.  Will they let me because I’m a “vendor”?  Time will tell. :)

You’re on my blog, so now’s where I can sales pitch you. :) Want me to speak at your event?  Visit http://bluefuego.com/presentations to view previous events and topics, and contact me at brad(at)bluefuego(dot)com. 2010 is already filling up quickly. Hope to hear from you soon!

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