Making Abstract and Speaker Management (Almost) Painless

(Recorded September 21, 2016)

Watching a conference come to life after months of hard work is rewarding, but that joy can be quickly squashed by thinking of the millions of emails it took to get there. You’re a strategist and a big thinker–you have bigger problems to worry about than constantly reminding each speaker or attendee to submit their bios or herding the cats (we mean graders) to review those abstracts.

Through simple automation, you can increase the productivity of your events team by 67% and get your conference to market faster. More time to market means more registrations. That’s what we call #winning.

Join the webinar, co-hosted by hubb.me to learn how you can rock your next conference without breaking a sweat.

Read the transcript 

Mark Stimson

Dealing with an event. We thought today we would focus on two very big pain points. One is call for papers. I understand some people call it call for papers. Some call it call for proposals, call for speakers. For today, we’ll just call it call for papers. Then of course the second pain point we’ll talk about today is how to score that data, how to review and grade it.

Jordan Schwartz

Hey, Mark, before you go any further, I totally have forgotten my preamble. If people have questions as we go, feel free to just shoot them into the questions window on GoToMeeting. If it makes sense to stop Mark and talk about it, I prefer to get things answered as they come up in context. Otherwise, if it’s something that we can answer one-on-one or hold to the end, we’ll do that. Again, if you have questions as we go, please feel free to just type them into the question window and we’ll make sure you’ll get your answer. Sorry. Back to you.

Mark Stimson

Thanks. We’ll talk about some of the biggest headaches we have when we’re dealing with call for papers. We know the one thing we hear from all of our clients is, “We want to collect meaningful data.” Of course, once you collect it, you want to validate it without spending a lot of time doing all of that. Let’s talk about what collecting meaningful data means.
At the end of the day you want to have enough information so that people scoring your content can look at the data and say, “Yes, we want to see this session or this seminar. No, we don’t.” We want to make sure we’re not collecting data that we don’t necessarily need. In a little bit, we’re going to talk about the importance of asking the right questions so we know exactly what to be asking to getting that meaningful data. We’re also going to talk about ways that we can help reduce the amount of time you’re spending when you’re looking at that data.
I think whenever we’re starting off a new call for papers, we always say, “What is your end game? What do you want to do with the end of your submittals?” I think this graphic is a really great picture. Those of us who have ever spoken at a conference look down at our audience and when you see something like this, a guy looking at his phone, someone looking at their computer, you realize they’re not engaged. You want to make sure that people that are attending your conferences and your events have very engaging people. Think about that end game. What are you trying to achieve?
When you’re putting out your call for papers, who is the audience you’re catering to? What types of formats are best going to appeal to them? Most importantly, are there qualifications or credentials needed that the audience will find them credible? Who is the audience you’re catering to? This picture really sums it up. When you’re opening up your call for papers, you want to ask the right questions to ensure you’re getting the right people submitting their proposals.
That all starts with this slide right here. This is my favorite slide in the presentation and it’s asking the right questions. What information do you need to make sure you have enough data to grade your sessions? Let’s talk about the right questions. Let’s also talk about the wrong questions. The right questions are going to be anything that your graders, your reviewers need to make an educated decision as to whether they want to accept the session.

We always talk about what data means. For the purpose of this conversation, I’m going to talk about fields of data. There’s a reference point. A field of data would be something like this: first name is one field, last name is a second field, address is a third field, and so on. You get an idea of how many fields of data you’re seeing in a call for papers. It’s not uncommon to see a call for papers with upwards of a hundred fields of data. Now at the end of the day you think, “That’s not much. I’m going to have my graders go in and look at the data.” You know, if you take a step backwards and say, “What if? What if I didn’t ask questions like their address, their city, their state? Things I don’t need to make an educated decision as to whether I want to accept this seminar.” Yet, it’s still fields of data.
I talk with clients all the time that say, “Well, it’s no big deal. We’re going to need that data anyway.” I say, “Think about this. You’ve asked a grader to go in and review twenty sessions. In that twenty sessions, they have a hundred fields of data. Now you’re asking them to look at two thousand fields of data just to do a simple scoring of your session.” Imagine if you can reduce just ten fields of data. You don’t need the address upfront. You don’t need the city, the state. You don’t need things like that. All of a sudden you’re reducing hundreds if not thousands of fields of data that your reviewers are going to be looking at. At the end of the day, you’re also asking the right questions to your possible speakers.

Jordan Schwartz

You’re also doing a favor to the applicants who probably get a little exhausted with long forms when they’re maybe submitting a number of proposals. Agree?

Mark Stimson

Jordan, you couldn’t have set me up any better because think about this, asking the wrong questions. In your call for papers, doing something like saying, “Give us your address, give us your city,” or having them filling out their speaker agreement. Most of you have speaker agreements.
I’m going to share a story I had with a client earlier this year. They had a very intense speaker agreement. They admittedly said, “We know it takes a person twenty to thirty minutes just to fill this out.” I said, “I understand your legal says at the end of the day you have to have this information, but do you have to have it when they’re submitting?” They said, “That’s a great question.” They went back to their legal team and they said, “You know, we just have to have this when before they speak.” We took it out of the call for papers.
What was interesting about this one client is in looking at their data over previous years, and this was the first year coming to us and luckily they had their historical data, on average they got about two hundred submissions for their event. They always thought that was low. I asked them how many non-submissions did they get. By a non-submission I mean somebody that went to the site to do the call for papers, starting filling out the form, and then stopped. They said, “You know, the last couple years that number’s teetered between four and five hundred.” I said, “For every two to three people that start the process, they stop.” They said, “Right.” I said, “You know, I bet you if we took out your speaker agreement and saved them twenty to thirty minutes in the time, we would see that number go up.” Of course, at the end of the day when we close the call for papers, the number was significantly higher.
The best part about it is they had just over a hundred people that started that didn’t finish the process. That’s uncommon. There are always people who will get the email that says, “Hey, I want to submit,” and they start it and they never go back. The most important, we were able to give them a couple more hundred submissions to actually review. It shows the difference of asking the right questions versus the wrong questions.

What we also did is we said, “We also have to have this information in the speakers’ hands. We need these forms filled out before they ever speak.” We said, “What we’ll do is when we send the confirmation email, it says, hey Jordan, thanks for putting in a submittal. By-the-way, if we accept your proposal, you are going to need to supply us all this information so now you’re armed with the information you’re going to have to give down the road if you’re accepted. You didn’t waste twenty or thirty minutes filling out a form that wasn’t necessary.”

Jordan Schwartz

You know, I imagine the types of questions you ask have a big impact as well, both on the number of submittals you get, but also the quality of the reviewing. I’ve been a reviewer. If I have to go through twenty, thirty essay questions from people, I’m a busy guy. I’m not getting paid to do it. I kind of rush through it. I skim. I try and make quick decisions whereas if the questions are tighter, or there are fewer of them, I will give more attention to each one and I think make better decisions.

Mark Stimson

I absolutely agree with you. Actually, one of the slides I have coming down the pipe, but let’s take it on now. I think it’s a great time to have a good conversation. Keep it simple. History tells us the luxury you have in dealing with a partner like us that does hundreds of events a year, we talk to our clients and we say, “What gets the best results?” We always say, “Keeping it simple.”
If you can have your grading questions limited to no more than five, and whenever possible ask a yes-or-no or a scaled question versus saying, “What did you like best about this thing?” That’s a great one-liner to ask, “What did you like best,” but at the end of the day, is this something you want to see is a yes/no answer or rate it on a scale of one to five? That’s a great way to do it. When your graders are having to spend twenty, thirty minutes doing a simple review and they’ve got twenty or thirty sessions, they’re going to stop after five or ten. They’re going to say, “I don’t have the time to do it,” like you just said.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. I guess it’s just a really good point about asking only questions that will be material and useful to the decision that the graders are making. If there are questions you think are relevant, but ultimately if you put yourself in the seat of the grader and say, “Could an answer to this tip me one way or the other in terms of approving or not approving this paper,” the answer’s no, maybe it being an interesting question isn’t enough.

Mark Stimson

It’s funny. I worked with a tech company earlier this year and they had five individual questions all about the technical aptitude of the session. I said, “So at the end of the day, you want to know does this session qualify as a technical session,” and they said yes. I said, “Well, why don’t we ask that one question?” I’ve done it this way for several years. This system has always been successful, but all of a sudden you talk to somebody and says, “Can we do it this way? Let’s look at another avenue.” Guess what. You just eliminated four questions and you made it a yes or no and no one has to fill anything. You got the same answer you wanted.

Jordan Schwartz

Right. Right.

Mark Stimson

We talk about considering the format when it comes with the call for papers, too. You want to make sure the form is easy to use. Group questions together. Consolidate forms by using skip logic. Are there additional speakers? Well, many forms you’ll look at will say, “Add additional speakers here,” and you’ll have a page or two of that information. If you’re not adding any additional speakers, you don’t need to have that on your page. Ask the questions that lead to the second questions, but don’t clutter up your page with something you don’t need.
I think the most important thing when developing a call for papers is test the heck out of it. Ask your colleagues to fill it out. I think one of the nicest compliments you can do is reach out to past speakers and say, “Hey, here’s our new form this year. We’ve kind of made some changes. Do you like it?” Get all that feedback from internal people and even people that have spoken in the past. Then you can turn around and make the tweaks to your call for paper site to make it really flow.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. Can I just give a big amen to that last one? I think that it’s not just, “Do you like it,” though, but also, and I would encourage people not just to ask their colleagues within the organization, but have some naive participants fill it in and see what answers they give. I think one thing that happens in my business in general is something that is just absolutely crystal clear and obvious to the person who wrote it is just can have completely different meaning to somebody who doesn’t have that context. Sometimes it’s terminology. They’ll use a word that has a very specific meaning in an industry or to the writer, or things related to that.
Even if you get four to five people to fill in that form first, read their answers before you roll it out more generally. I guarantee you’ll find at least one thing where people are answering it in a very different way than you expected not just because you thought they would say something different, but they are understanding the question to mean something different than you understood it to ask.

Mark Stimson

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. You’re absolutely right. Let us talk into abstract grading. We were touching on this a little bit earlier. There are three really good pain points when it comes to identifying who the right people are. I mean, three pain points when you’re dealing with your abstract grading: identifying the right people to do the grading; asking the right grading questions, which we’ve talked a little bit about earlier; and determining your success criteria.
Identifying the right people is key because one thing I’ve learned in talking with clients on a daily basis is they say, “We have our graders lined up. We have the same group of graders that score every year. They give us great feedback. They’re really engaged.” I said, “That’s great.” I said, “So let me ask you this. Are you looking to see a different style of sessions this year than last year?” They say, “We’d like to see a mix. We may have some sessions that we know we’re going to repeat from year-to-year because they’re high-attended sessions, but we also have some sessions that don’t really get a good crowd. We want to get some new stuff.” I said, “How are you guys going to get a new perspective if you don’t bring in some new graders?”
Again, I use the same recommendation I give all the time to clients. Ask your speakers that were there last year. It’s always interesting. At the end of the conference, you send out an evaluation and people fill it out. They’ll tell you what they think of the speakers. Typically, we share that with the speakers. To go back to a speaker and say, “Hey, Jordan, you know what? You got all A’s on your evaluation. People loved hearing your talk. We want more people like you talking at our conference. Would you consider doing grading in the next round when we get our sessions in?” That’s a nice ego boost. You’re more apt to say, “You know what? I’m more than happy to. I may only be able to give you a few hours.” Now you’ve got a different person looking at the sessions and you’re able to get maybe a different type of session coming in.

One thing we talked about earlier is keep it simple. It’s really important to let your graders to go in and engage without them spending twenty or thirty minutes filling out a form. Never use more than five questions unless you absolutely have to. Make the questions as direct as possible. The great example I used earlier with the tech company. Instead of asking five questions about one topic, make it one. Make it a yes or no. Make the questions really direct and then use a scaled question. At the end of the day, it’s nice to be able to have a nice little report that bubbles up and says, “You know what? This session got a four-point-two. This session got a three-point-eight.” You can kind of look at that and see what’s up.
The right people for the job. We can’t stress this enough. Get a different group of graders, if you can, every year. Having the same group of people do your scoring every year is going to give you the same results you have every year. One really cool thing you can do in products such as Hubb is you can go in and you can say, “I want blind grading.” That means all they’re going to see is the session information and they’re not going to see anything about-

Jordan Schwartz

Hey, Mark. I hate to interrupt, but have you advanced the slide?

Mark Stimson

I did. I went to “the right people for the job.” Did I lose my internet connection?

Jordan Schwartz

I’m seeing “biggest headaches”. I don’t know. Is the audience seeing “biggest headaches” or am I the one that’s behind? All right. Type in an answer real quick into the questioner. Yeah. Seeing “biggest headaches”. I’ll tell you what, “biggest headaches” is causing headaches.

Mark Stimson

I only have two slides left, so why don’t we just talk to them? People are cool with it?

Jordan Schwartz

You know what, I’ve got I think I’m loaded. I’m going to go ahead and see if I can … Here we go: “Begin with the end in mind.” That’s what we’re doing?

Mark Stimson

Yes. Let’s go to the slide towards the end that says, “the right people for the job.”

Jordan Schwartz

Give me a second. I’m going to make myself presenter.

Mark Stimson

Thanks, Jordan.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah, no problem. Let’s see. Can you see, “Begin with the end in mind”? Or where are we?

Mark Stimson

“The right people for the job.”

Jordan Schwartz

Okay.

Mark Stimson

It is two slides from the end.

Jordan Schwartz

There we go. Okay.

Mark Stimson

One thing we all know is you have your reviewers and sometimes your reviewers know who the other speakers are. We say we want to look at things objectively, but you human nature is human nature. If you know somebody or if you’ve seen them speak before, when you read that, you’re like, “Oh, I kind of know more about this person. I’m kind of more skewed to give it a pass.” You can do some things where the people doing the reviews will never know who the speakers are. All they’re going to do is review the content of the session. Of course, consider including past speakers on the review committee. That’s really, really, really key. Now, this is the slide we’re going to dive into a little bit deeper on because it really is, “How can technology help you?”

Jordan Schwartz

Which one am I doing? Oh, here we go. “How can technology help you?” Got you.

Mark Stimson

Absolutely.

Jordan Schwartz

I’m sorry, Mark, but before we head onto this. I do want to, if we can spend another moment just chatting about choosing the people.

Mark Stimson

Absolutely.

Jordan Schwartz

I guess I’m curious if you have opinions on how do you judge who the right people are. One slag might be whether there’s agreement between your judges about what a good paper is. On the one hand it might seem like having agreement indicates you’ve chosen good professionals who are all seeing things in the same way and it’s not just a random result. In the other hand, it might mean that you’re limiting yourself to one perspective and maybe you’re cutting yourself off. I don’t know if you have experiences or thoughts about that that would be worth sharing with the audience.

Mark Stimson

Sure, absolutely. I’ll use a couple of real-life examples again. I had a client earlier this year and we were analyzing the data. It’s always neat. Data doesn’t lie. Data’s always very direct. They had a typical, on average, seven people scoring a session. We took the scores and I said, “Why don’t we look at how the people scored this particular session?” If I’m looking at Jordan, you know what, Jordan gave this session a five, the bulk of the people gave it a three, and one person gave it a one. Let’s look at a few other sessions that Jordan did and see does he tend to just approve things a little bit quicker than others?
Analyzing the data when you have a large group of graders is a little bit easier to do. When you only have one or two graders, it’s kind of hard to take that data and say, “Okay, how do we figure out if we’re really getting more bang for our buck?” One of the things we always recommend is have a larger pool of graders. If you can have five people looking at a session, that’s awesome. Then you can look at an average mean score. If one person gave it a five and one person gave it a one, but the other three gave it a four, okay, now you kind of have a scale under you. You can say the bulk of the people said, “I like this session.”
It’s always hard, also, unless you have historical data. When you do events from year from year from year, you can get a feel for your graders because you can look and say, “Okay, how did this person score last year? Jordan has forty sessions that he’s scored and thirty-eight of them were all fives.” Look at this year and say, “Are we seeing the same trend with him? Does he just want to push stuff through? Was he maybe not doing it?” Let’s look at Mark’s session. All of Mark’s sessions were a one. Again, you’ve got data. You’re over here where you can say this person tends to be grading really hard. This person tends to be grading really aggressively. If it’s someone you value, you reach out to them and have that conversation and say, “I want to understand how you’re grading your sessions because we’re making”-

Jordan Schwartz

Totally.

Mark Stimson

Go ahead.

Jordan Schwartz

I was just going to say it seems like it might be a little bit of extra work and take a little bit of extra time, but not only can you compare the graders’ grades from year to year, but you can compare the graders, how they expected a talk to be to how the attendees rated it on post-event surveys and post-session surveys, who am I sure anyone who is as data-driven as this will be collecting that information. Maybe even come up with a prediction of this person, the sessions that they recommended turned out to be successful and the sessions they maybe gave a lower rating to actually did turn out to be less well-received or not. Maybe be able to come up with some sort of prediction about what a grader’s expectations, how well that will actually translate into successful presentations as measured by the attendees themselves.

Mark Stimson

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think another thing we talk about the right people is I was just talking to a client last week and they have several hundred graders. She was saying, “Market’s always a pain in my backside. We invite these people. They say they want to grade and every year they never do it.” I asked the question, “Why are you inviting them anymore? Do you have other people that might want to do grading?” If you have history with somebody and you can see last year they graded two sessions out of fifty that were assigned to them, then you know, I think that’s a different communication to them saying, “Do you want to commit to grading at least half the sessions you have?”
It also gave me an opportunity to say to the client, “Do you really think it’s reasonable to ask people who were volunteering their time to grade fifty sessions each?” It’s the hard conversations you want to have, but at the end of the day, if we could identify twenty-five or thirty really good graders who are willing to do it, then why waste the time in inviting the other hundred in that aren’t going to do it?

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. Sure. Hey, you know, I’ve got a question. Do you ever collect information about how much time the graders are spending? Is it possible to say, “This person took twenty minutes per session or per proposal to grade, whereas this other person seemed to have gone through in terms of their time online, while reading and responding to the questions, only spent five minutes, so maybe they were rushing?” Is it possible to collect that information and is it useful, do you think, if you do?

Mark Stimson

I think it would be useful and I do believe it is possible to collect that information. I actually had a client earlier this year that sent a survey out to their graders when they were done. They went back to their graders and said exactly that. They asked the grader, “How much time did you spend doing grading this year?” Simple, one line. They asked multiple questions, but that one question was very direct. I think it’s kind of interesting to see how many people will start the process and not finish it because across the board I’ve always seen that.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. Interesting. All right, now I’ll let you go onto technology now.

Mark Stimson

Cool.

Jordan Schwartz

Thanks for that.

Mark Stimson

No, I love questions. Bring them on. Technology can get really creative. How can we do things to make your life a little bit easier. Think about the worst nightmare and the nightmare happens. It’s the day of the event. You’re stressed. You know you’re the one driving everything and you open up your machine and guess what. Your machine doesn’t work. Your panicked because all your data is in there. If you’re a software application that stores all that information, you can grab anyone’s computer. You can grab a tablet, you can open it up, and you’ve got all the information right there. Everything from the sessions, to all the attachments, to all your presentations. Everything can reside within the session, so it is all there.
More importantly, we talk about those pesky speaker agreements. Well, guess what. You don’t ask it during your call for papers, but the first time a speaker logs in, you can pop that up. Not only do they have to fill it out, they can’t log in to do anything that’s in their session until it’s filled out. We can help you do some gatekeeping by using technology, just by doing some creative things, taking it out of the call for paper process, and putting it into the Hubb experience itself.
You can also do things like how to assign your graders. Okay, you’ve got three hundred graders. “Mark, how do I make sure they’re getting randomly dispersed? Or how do I make sure that subject-matter experts are being partnered to them?” Well, we just write the rules in the background that says, “Jordan’s logging in. He’s an expert in XYZ. Make sure he gets these sessions. It’s as simple as that.”
Now let’s talk about the pain of reminding people to do things. People have submitted their proposals. You’ve accepted and it’s time to now play in a system. We ask you to log in, update your bio, give us your presentation. We know ninety-nine percent of the time people are going to procrastinate and not do it immediately. You’re stressed because you know you have to review every presentation before you can make a final determination on if it’s a right presentation you want them to give or if they have to go back and give some edits.
Imagine if we did that gatekeeping for you, too. We send an automatic reminder out to your speakers. “Hey, guess what. It’s been a week. You haven’t logged in. You haven’t done this yet.” Another week goes by: “Hey, guess what. You haven’t logged in.” I really have to say hats off to one of my clients a few weeks ago. Their reminder said, “If you don’t do this by Friday, we are going to disqualify you.” Because she had hundreds of sessions. She had to have her attachments and she said, “I don’t have a time. I have a week to do this. I can’t do this.” She goes, “I want to deliver a really direct message.” I guarantee you they were all putting in their presentations relatively quickly.
You can also, what I was saying, graders you can auto-assign anything you want using some basic rules. That saves you having to do that. You’re not spending your day chasing down Mark who hasn’t done his presentation yet. You can go into the system and say, “There it is,” because it did it for you.
Your system can create some really cool dashboards. Imagine logging into your environment and the first thing it says to you is, “You had two hundred and eighty-two speakers and ninety-eight percent of them have done their biographies. These are the ones who haven’t done it yet.” You’ve got everything right there. You’re not having to go into every profile and having to go into every session and say, “What’s missing?” You’ve got a nice little dashboard that shows you that information.
Then, of course, partnering with a really good vendor. We don’t consider us a vendor. We’re a partner. Anyone you partner with, you get the advice of people who deal with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of events a year. I introduce clients to each other on a regular basis, especially when you have somebody new at a company and they’re like, “You know, I’m an events guru, but this industry is new to me. Do you have somebody you work with I could talk to to pick their brain?” Sure. I’m happy to facilitate that introduction and let you learn from other people’s experiences, too. That’s really how technology can help and that’s really some good ideas on abstract management. Should we open it up to some questions?

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. We do have some questions here. I just wanted to make a comment that it goes back to some of what we were talking about before, but you’ve reminded me of something here. You can look at the data about how the graders are doing, how far are they in terms of getting through their workload, and how complete they are, and things like that. It can be frustrating when you see people falling behind and no one’s doing what they’re supposed to do. I think there’s a tendency to say, “There’s a problem with these graders because they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
My experience, which is related here, is my son goes to a school near where we live and the school produces a handbook. The school sent this angry-ish note to all of the parents saying, “Most of you haven’t filled in this critical piece of information, your email address, for our student directory. We need you all to do that.” Implying we’re all bad parents for not doing that. I had actually done it, but I wasn’t even sure if I had done it so I had to find my password and it wasn’t in my email. I couldn’t request a replacement password, so I had to go to them and say, “Can I have my password?”
I went and I looked at it and the form, all the questions were in one column, but that particular question that no one had answered was in another column. It took me a half hour, forty-five minutes to find out that I had actually already answered the question, but if I hadn’t, to get the answer into place. You know, it’s not bad parents when that’s parents. If everyone is doing something wrong, it’s usually a problem with the thing, not the everyone.

Mark Stimson

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.

Jordan Schwartz

What I would encourage people to do if they are having problems getting their speakers to submit all the materials correctly, I told people PDF and they’re submitting in a doc format. I told them that they had to do XYZ, and they’re not doing it. Maybe think about whether you’re being clear enough or maybe think about whether you set the bar appropriately for what you’re asking.

Mark Stimson

Kind of like we talked about earlier, too. Making it simple makes it a lot easier, too.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. Exactly. We do have some questions coming from the audience here. I’m going to go through them in rough order. The first one, this is going to be a little bit of a softball for you, Mark. Jacquelyn asked, “Can you make recommendations for some technology sites that can solve this?” I think you can probably make at least one.

Mark Stimson

You know, Hubb is a great solution. I know this is all about learning about technology, but I’ll always say our company is an awesome company. You can reach out to us anytime. My contact information is on the presentation. We’re going to make that public to everybody. If you just want to ask some basic questions to me, and then if you want to talk to somebody on my sales team, that’s great. I’m more than happy to facilitate any questions. I’m not going to pressure you to talk to my sales guys, either, but if you want to ask them basic questions, you can always reach out to me in private.

Jordan Schwartz

Thank you. Yeah, so Mark is of course well-trained. This is an educational webinar, not a sales one. I think what might be helpful generally is as people look around at different vendors, are there things that they should watch out for or good questions to ask that will help them choose the right vendor? Not just a good vendor versus a bad vendor for this kind of thing, but maybe what’s appropriate to them. I imagine that a pharmaceutical conference would have different needs than an educational conference, an academic would have different needs than an UN technology, UN conference, et cetera.

Mark Stimson

Yeah, I think a couple of good ideas is one, if you’re making a change from vendor to vendor, there’s a reason you’re making a change. When you go to your new vendor, when you’re first talking to them, ask them, “How are you going to help me solve these problems?” Tell them the problems you’ve had in the past. Everyone’s going to show you their solution, but when you talk to a vendor and they turn into be a partner and they say, “Here’s how you can solve these problems,” now you understand that they understand your business.
Of course, I think the best thing anyone can do is if you’re at the point where you’re going to make a decision with a vendor, say, “You know what, I’m in the medical space. Can I talk to one of your medical clients, so I know you’ve got some expertise in that area?” Because you know all vendors have a wide range of clients. Talk to somebody else who’s in your field. One, you’ve now made a connection you can brainstorm with offsite anyway. Any time I’ve ever given a reference call or done a reference call, I’ve always stayed in contact with that person because it’s a great brainstorming thing. Second off, you can get a first-hand experience how somebody else used the product.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Do you have, I imagine, opinions on web-based software or are there client … I don’t even know if having a Windows-based solution, is that still a thing?

Mark Stimson

I don’t think that’s still a thing. I don’t think it’s still a thing. You always want the cloud because think about, again, the worst-case scenario. You walk into your event and your laptop decides not to start up. Your panicked, especially if you’ve got something loaded on your machine that you have to log into. That’s going to hose you, right there. You want something that’s based in the cloud that you can use any type of device to get in and access your information.

Jordan Schwartz

Right. The reason that I’m chuckling is that Mark’s laptop decided to play tricks on him in the minutes leading up to this webinar. We almost had a disaster, but it was fine because the presentation is in the cloud.

Mark Stimson

Absolutely.

Jordan Schwartz

We were able to go ahead and set it up. You know, I think when choosing a vendor, one of the decision points that I run into often when choosing technology vendors … Pathable is a mobile event app. I worked at Microsoft for ten years. I was a hacker when I was growing up. I operated a bulletin board out of it. I’m very technology savvy, but I still when I evaluate technology companies to use as vendors for my business, one of the issues that I often have to face is do I go with the new guy in the marketplace or a well-established player?
I think that the initial instinct is almost always, “Well, you go for the well-established player,” right? They’ve got the track record and the history and they’re well-established, but because of the way web technology in particular is advancing so quickly, there are platforms and solutions and architectures that are available today that really just weren’t around two years ago, three years ago, five years ago. Often, you’ll find that the older, more established companies have chained themselves to dinosaur technologies. By dinosaur, I mean five-years old in internet time. The nimbleness and agility that you can get from some companies that have started more recently often outweighs that establishment. It’s not a pure decision point. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone, “Well, let’s go with the new guy,” obviously. You want to consider both, but it’s worth thinking about and not simply always going with the player who’s been around longest.
I say that as Pathable, again, we build mobile event apps. We’re one of the oldest event apps out there. We’ve been around for eight years, but we reinvent our technology as we go. In some ways, of course, I’m speaking against myself there, but I still think it’s worth thinking about as you consider how do you treat your technology vendor.

Mark Stimson

It’s also looking for a full-service vendor. Again, I’m not turning this into a sales pitch, but when you find a product like Hubb, you’ve got something that’s end-to-end. We not only can deal with your call for papers, we can deal with your sponsor and exhibitors. We actually have modules. We can deal with all your staffing needs. We can help you manage your staff.
When you’re asking these questions when you’re out there, find somebody who’s going to do everything for you, not somebody that says, “We can do your call for papers, but we can’t do anything else for you.” You want somebody who can manage your sponsors, your exhibitors, your staffers every step of the way. You want somebody who can build out some good reminders and workflows for you. Those are the questions you want to be asking your vendor. You want somebody who can help you reduce the amount of time you’re spending because we all know, Jordan, people spend all day long chasing down people, trying to get information the weeks leading up through a conference. Having a system that does that in the background automatically for you, so you can focus on the things you have to focus on, just makes your life that much easier.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. Makes sense. Another question we had, and I’ll make this a little more general, the question was, “Can you use SSO?” Which for people that don’t know, SSO is single sign-on. I think the questioner is asking whether Hubb’s specifically allows you, the speakers, et cetera, to sign in with their username and password that they’ve already established with their association or et cetera, rather than a unique one just for the Hubb system. I don’t know actually the answer to that, but Mark, if you want to speak to it, great, but also I think it’s relevant to this question of making things easier for your participants.

Mark Stimson

Oh yeah. Single sign-ons are one of the largest requests that we get. It’s not an uncommon ask. We’ve got a fair amount of our clients that have it. You go to your client’s site. If you’re speaking at XYZ company, and you go to their site, you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to click on this link and go give them my presentation,” yes, absolutely it can be single sign-on that passes through to us. They’re in the system. They’re ready to go. It’s all about easy use to your audience.

Jordan Schwartz

Yeah. Again, I will take only two seconds to say Pathable’s event app and websites for conferences also supports SSO. Happy to chat with anyone about that. Next question. This is from Mia. “Simple sounds great, but what about collecting all the detailed logistics information for scheduling? Do you have any suggestions? I want everything in one database and have to have separate trackers.”

Mark Stimson

That’s an absolute great question because, again, do you ask that in your call for papers or do you ask it when you invite your speakers into the system? Using a system is really great. You’ve accepted the presentation and now you can ask the follow-up questions. Do you need additional audio/visual needs? Do you need extra tables? Do you need whiteboards? You can ask all those questions and guess what? Not only is it attached to the session, but at the end of the day, you run a simple report and say, “Okay, these are how many mics I need. These are how many laptops I need. These are how many easels I need.” You’re not spending all day looking into everything saying, “Okay, this guy needs this,” and making a checklist for it. You can do it all seamlessly and in an automated way.

Jordan Schwartz

Great. Let’s see what else we have here. Sorry, I’m reading through and interpreting some of these questions. I think there was a question about event content management tools. I don’t know if you have anything to add to that that’s beyond what we had talked about previously, just making recommendations for technology sites in general.

Mark Stimson

We always welcome to check us out. We’re more than happy to give people demos and give them a free trial. Let them play with the site themselves.

Jordan Schwartz

Okay. Well, great. If there are any other questions, I encourage people to type them in now. Otherwise, we’re about three-quarters past the hour, which I think is a healthy stopping point to allow people to get the next cup of coffee and get onto their next meeting. Let me see here. I think I’ve got a wrap-up slide for us.
Mark, thank you for sharing all this with us today. For folks who are taking this as part of their CMP/CEU requirements, CMP re-certification, we will be sending a certificate by the end of the week. This has been recorded. We’ll be sending a link to the recording. Mark has graciously offered to share his slides. I encourage everybody to both check out Hubb.me if they’re interested in a technology solution and a service to solve some of the problems that we’ve talked about today.
I would welcome conversations about mobile event apps and event websites for conferences and trade shows here at Pathable. I encourage everyone to stay tuned. We’ve got great additions coming to our educational webinar series for planners and watch your email for announcements about that. Thank you, everybody. Have a great day.

Mark Stimson

Thanks, Jordan. Take care.