Archive for Social, Technical, Economic, Political

Seeing Around Corners – ECEF 2015 Keynote

Social norms, technology and the economy are under constant pressure.

Small but meaningful changes that have the potential to disrupt our plans are advancing every day. Like pressure on a fault line, they can release small tremors or become major earthquakes. From the decline of intermediaries to the growth in protests, the shocks will affect your event, your attendees, and your business.

How can you be ready for the inevitable and the unknown? At the Exhibit and Conference Executives Forum I shared my thoughts on a strategy I have used to help you anticipate the worst, while preparing for the best.

How Celebrities and Copy Cats create “Janus Moments”.


The gift bag at the recent Emmys included tens of thousands of dollars worth of products, trips, samples, and more.

Product placement in movies and TV shows – whether subtle or more obvious – can expose a product to millions of people, and in a situation and use that is most positive to the brand.

Celebrity sponsorships – from sports to musicians to “constructed celebrities” like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians (a name that I just found out is in my spellcheck dictionary) – can have spectacular impact on the sponsoring company, just ask Nike how valuable their relationship with Michael Jordan is.

Even a 140 character tweet (paid or from the heart) from someone you follow can trigger the exploration and/or purchase of just about anything. Or, in a less material slant, support of a cause or individual.

What all of these tactics have in common is the power of influence. More and more, what your friends – real or “I know we’d be BFFs if we ever met” – feel, think, know, or do influences what you feel, think, know, or do.

And it can cut both ways.

A simple comment about what’s wrong with a product, how the experience went bad, or even a whimsical slam can have a negative impact to the same degree as the positive.

This type of influence is not exclusive to purchases or opinions. It can, and does, expand to culture and actions of other kinds.

Researchers looking to explain suicide clusters – an abnormal number of suicides in a given community or area – found that the actions of an individual or two can trigger a “copycat syndrome” where others who may have never truly contemplated suicide are drawn to do so.

AMPS TweetThe speed at which a single incident can become a more common occurrence is something to watch carefully and be conscious of. In the one month after Marilyn Monroe’s suicide there were 200 more suicides than average. This is part of the reason that there was criticism of the way some looked to celebrate Robin Williams at the time of his suicide.

A “flywheel” effect can take place, where the energy from a small beginning builds on itself to become much bigger. The phenomenon of “flash crashes” in financial markets issimilar – where one action triggers an ever-building set of actions, often computer trades based on specific price or data levels.

This increasing speed, influence, and reach – both good and bad – is one way that the fringe or Black Swans (something unthinkable because it’s never been seen, but none the less is very real) have Janus Moments and become the norm.



No Respect, No Service

The famous ad – “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – is successful both in it catchiness and truism: in Las Vegas you can let your hair down and behave in ways you may want to forget. Given Vegas’ place as a center for conferences and trade shows, the reference is certainly not just to personal visits, but to event attendees as well.

num5_mThe events environment – not just in Las Vegas – has for some people offered an opportunity to act in ways different from how they might at their grandparent’s dinner table. At one product launch, not only did organizers need to ensure the audience didn’t “overly interact” with the band members (and vise-verse), a crew member was locked out of his room while dressed in women’s clothing, and two marriages resulted from the 4 days on site.

Mostly innocent, antics such as these were referred to as “road rules”, even before the popular MTV show of the same name.

Now a new trend is emerging that attempts to put restraints and context to the more extreme and disruptive of this behavior. With an increased awareness, and declining social acceptance, of any behavior that is harassing or disrespectful, event hosts and organizers are publishing Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment statements.

Not totally new – codes of conduct have been common at internal events and as reminders of employee everyday codes of conduct – these policies and statements are becoming more common at external and 3rd party programs. Also new is they are now more prominent including as posted reminders at the venue and in the show guide, not just as part of the registration and confirmation micro type.

comicon code_editAt their core, the Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Statements outline the consequences (mostly being asked to stop, or being removed from the event) for engaging in unacceptable and/or harassing behavior. Many are short, sweet, and to the point appearing to have been written by legal. Others are page long documents (seemingly written by PR) in a more casual voice that address the need more directly, and contain long lists of (interesting) reasons people harass each other.

For instance, the DreamForce Code of Conduct contains over 700 words, and a list of 13 specific “unacceptable behavior”, while “Conduct” in Apple’s WWDC online details, contained a total of 77 words.

Google’s Anti-Harassment Policy starts: Why do we have an official anti-harassment policy for Google events? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at events is incredibly common.”

And the Conference Code of Conduct includes a list containing:gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof).”

A discussion around the need for such policies, much less their increased prominence, quickly becomes heated and passionate. Some argue (correctly) that the vast majority of events already manage such incidents quickly, privately, and in much the way the Code of Conduct states, so what’s changed? Others ask if there is truly a need for the event to play such a “parental” role or if the parties involved should be left to manage the issue as if it occurred on the public street instead of at the event.

The conclusion, by a growing number of events, is that they do have a responsibility, and an active role, in creating and ensuring a harassment free experience at their events.




Note: Microsoft’s Code of Conduct states:

Microsoft mission is to empower every person and every business on the planet to achieve more. This includes at [EVENT] where we seek to create a respectful, friendly, and inclusive experience for all participants.

As such, we do not tolerate harassing or disrespectful behavior, messages, images, or interactions by any event participant, in any form, at any aspect of the program including business and social activities, regardless of location.

We encourage everyone to assist in creating a welcoming and safe environment. Please report any concerns, harassing behavior, suspicious or disruptive activity to the nearest security guard or show staff.

Microsoft reserves the right to refuse admittance to, or remove any person from [event name] at any time in its sole discretion.




MPI World Education Congress 2014 | Closing General Session

The Closing General Session at MPI World Education Congress 2014 featured Scott Schenker, the General Manager, Events and Production Studio at Microsoft and Founder of Janus Dialogs.

Scott believes there is magic in discovery and innovation. However the process of innovating is not magical – it comes from observing what others are doing, tapping the collective imaginations of empowered and engaged individuals, and embracing the fringe for new norms.

Developing a habit of appreciating, understanding, and being energized by these new norms – rather than fearing or dismissing them – has been one of Scott’s key to success in the Events industry.

Scott will share insights on how he approaches innovation, searches for new ideas, and “borrows” them from completely different industries to introduce them into the events he and his team organize. He will explore the four reasons for, and the four types of, innovation as well as the importance of looking at social, political, and economic realms, and the bright and shiny technical innovations.


Demystifying the Big Buzzwords In Events | BizBash LA

Posted August 4, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT by BizBash

At the Event Innovation Forum in Los Angeles, Scott Schenker examined some of the latest buzzwords the event and meeting industry is obsessed with.

These days it seems the event and meeting industry is obsessed with a constant stream of new buzzwords. But are they really as original as they seem? Do bright and shiny ideas blind us to the lessons—and the smart practices—of the past? At the Event Innovation Forum—Los Angeles on June 19, Scott Schenker, Microsoft’s general manager of worldwide events and Microsoft Production Studios, discussed concepts like selfies and gamification, exploring their origins to discover the core lessons they offer planners and marketers now—and how the industry should really look at innovation.


Areas of Agreement

WP_20140703_14_12_09_Raw (2)

Unity and alignment are powerful forces, and when they can be harnessed they can drive great accomplishment.

I think about a personal collection I am very proud of, a set of posters from the Second World War, posters made by, in part, my grandfather who was the creative lead of the Sheldon-Claire Agency at that time. They were made to encourage participation in the war effort, and each instills an emotional connection, elicits a personal commitment, and builds energy to achieve the goals of the times.

We are not at war, and the stakes are not as high.

Yet, despite being 70 years old and related to a heavy topic, the posters used techniques similar to what we use today in modern marketing. For instance, they are short and sharable (almost tweet-able), use engaging story-telling methods, and each has compelling imagery to resonate with the audience.

WP_20140703_14_12_42_Raw (3)One series is entirely devoted to “This is America…Keep It Free.” These purposeful images and messages created a vision of what was at stake, clearly defining the problem and how to solve it.








WP_20140703_14_11_56_Raw (2)Another “The American Way Works” reminded the reader of what it was that made America unique.









WP_20140703_14_12_04_Raw (2)Another, with a more direct call to action, showed the impact and significance of the reader’s work as they “Produce for Victory”.









Most important, all focus around “areas of agreement” that everyone – from labor to management, men and women, different ages, races, and backgrounds – could identify and agree with. This was very intentional; developed to make everyone feel part of the effort; to represent the collective that America is; and start from an undeniable place of unquestioned agreement.

A common ground was important then, and it is important today. As any team works to deliver a multi-faceted, multi-objective, and multi-stakeholder experience, there will be times where not all agree on all aspects of the undertaking. But there will always be “areas of agreement” from which they can work.

Look for, develop, and start from these “areas of agreement”. It is from these that conversation, consensus, and cooperation can grow; that alignment can be realized; and impactful experience marketing achieved.

The P’s of Event Marketing

Event teams can adopt a classic marketing model to focus efforts and achieve their objectives.

In early 2013, Harvard Business Review posted an article titled, “Rethinking the Four P’s” suggesting that the classic marketing mix model1 (product, place, price, and promotion) should be retooled to better address the needs of B2B marketers. The article was based on a five-year study of more than 500 B2B marketers worldwide, and suggested a model that explicitly emphasized more “current” commodities such as solutions and value.

4p_smallThe “Four P’s” durability over time is arguably due not to its rigidity, but to its flexibility. It often expands to six or more P’s, folding in such concepts as people, packaging, positioning, process, performance…the list goes on.

The “P’s of Event Marketing” defines parameters that can be used to ensure that all aspects of event strategy, experience design, and execution support core marketing objectives and are aligned with broader marketing strategies.

The P’s of Event Marketing include the following elements: Place, Purpose, Pride, and Promotion. At a glance, these may seem more similar to the original Four P’s of Marketing than they actually are.

Sense of Place –  sense of place for an event marketer is not about geography or venue. It’s about “owning” the space as if it was yours, your office or your “home”. When the audience arrives do they get the feeling that this is your place or just a venue you rented that you will be leaving soon? Does it feel like an executive visitor center, your ideal game room, your best research facility, or lobby to your global headquarters? Is it unique, organized, and special? It should be.

In designing a live event, you need to craft a place for experiences, conversation, information sharing, influence, and dialog that is worth the time your audience will carve out to participate. This may sound slightly esoteric, but it just might be the “secret sauce” that makes live events such an effective and desired component of the marketing mix.

The objective is to ensure that the question “Where am I?” is answered firmly with “at ____”, not just with “at a _____ Event”, or worse “a conference”.

A Clear Purpose – A sense of purpose, not generically but with regard to serving defined audience segments, is an important criteria for attracting attendees and delivering an experience that resonates. It is critical to understand Purpose in terms of what strategic marketing initiative an event needs to support (lead generation, product awareness, perception change, revenue generation, community.)

It is equally important to design the experience with a sense of purpose tailored to each audience member, with the increased levels of personalization and participation that event audiences have come to expect.

Purpose can – and should – change over the course of the event – from initial awareness to considering a purchase; from arriving to learning to departing – so the purpose may need to change over time as well. Different messages entering and leaving, on day one to day last.


pridePride – Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising, and nothing says “You don’t need to care” more than saying “I don’t care.” The pride and passion of the host needs to shine from every corner and mountain top. How the temp staff greets the audience, how the cables are laid and how clean the venue is, how fast the social media comments are responded to. Pride is contagious, as is the lack of it, and as events are one of the most engaging live experiences the audience may have with a Brand, they need to feel the pride.


Cross Promotion – Traditional B2B marketing has evolved to a more Person-to-Person approach, a truism has emerged – inside every commercial business or technical decision maker is a consumer. Further, consumers are often fans of the products they buy, a state of engagement those who market to commercial buyers should look to achieve.

The art is in the mix of primary and secondary message, ensuring that the reasons the audience is participating are meet, and adding some unexpected, relevant cross promotions.


Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Global Events and Production Studios team.

Lessons from Kickstarter | “Person”-alized Marketing and Re-order the Order


While the technology of additive manufacturing (3d printing) is at the foundation of the 3rd industrial revolution, other social, political, economic, and technical changes are fueling this disruption in more surprising ways.

Kickstarter (@kickstarter), launched only four years ago, serves as a crowd-funding site where those looking to start a project can find those willing to fund it. Unlike micro-loans or micro-investments, where the relationship is one of financial stakeholder, the backers of Kickstarter projects receive the final product and/or some form of thank you like a postcard or tee shirt for their support.

The traditional manufacturing model is build, retail/market, sell/fund, and finally deliver. Kickstarter reorders the process to be more like a service transaction – market, fund, build, deliver. You don’t “buy” a completed album; you back the production of it with the promise to receive a copy once it is completed.

While the reorder eliminates the need to guess what demand will be since orders precede the build, the greater impact is the relationship between the backers and the “starter”. The service model lengthens and tightens the relationship, requiring strong communications, regular updates, and trust. This increased intimacy makes all involved members of a community for (at least) the duration of the project. How is your experience marketing doing when measured against these criteria?

Kickstarter is possibly the ultimate in “people to people” marketing – the backing is truly of the person(s) behind the project. This “person-alization” of the project brings a new dynamic to the buying decision. Emotions such as sympathy, pride, exclusivity, charity, and association are deepened, and deeper, than anything a faceless company might achieve even with the most effective social media campaign.

Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) raised over $1,000,000 from 25,000 backer (ranging from $1 to $10,000 each) for an album, book, and gallery tour. Her project video (each project has one) reflects the “person-alization” aspect of the project, and the number of backers with their 850+ comments shows the extent of the community formed. [Warning: there are a few words within the video and comments that some might take offense with.]

Unfortunately, Kickstarter is starting to see failed projects of significant size – either where the “starter” was fraudulent from the beginning, or not able to complete the project despite using some/all of the backing.

One example, ZionEyez, succeeded in scamming $344,000 from over 2,100 backers. Others, such as Solid Watch, run months behind, upsetting the backer community. Different emotions come to the surface at these times. [Full disclosure: I am a backer of the Solid Watch project.]


While backing projects can be risky, Kickstarter represents a unique way to market, build community, measure demand, and source funds. Imagine asking a bank for a loan to produce an album on spec, it’s unlikely they would back the project. Ask the Kickstarter community to pre order DVDs, or support the project with a few dollars in exchange for tee shirts signed with thank you messages from the band, and you not only raise the funds needed, but build a following at the same time. “Friends and Family” funding on a global scale.

Many projects are related to the arts including albums from bands, plays from actors, books from writers and animators. But some of the most funded become actual commercial successes including video games and technology. The top 10 projects have collected close to $25 million together and results in companies/product such as:

TikTok + Lunatik iPod Nano Strap From Minimal (@ScottWilsonID): TikTok and LunaTik simply transform the iPod Nano into the world’s coolest multi-touch watches.” [Full disclosure: I am a backer of this project.]



Elevation Dock from ElevationLab (@elevationLab): Simple to use, quick undocking, and it works with or without a case.” [Full disclosure: I am a backer of this project.]



E-Pebble from Pebble Technology: Pebble is the first watch built for the 21st century. It’s infinitely customizable, with beautiful downloadable watch faces and useful internet-connected apps.” [Full disclosure: I am a backer of this project.]



Is there room for a change in the development model of your marketing experience? Have, or can, you put a “face” to your marketing making it more “person-alized”? Some companies use mascots or celebrities – what do/can you use? Can you reorder the production process, or gauge interest on trial elements using lessons from this reordering of the order?


Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.


UPDATE: Thanks to @jessicakausen for contributing an article from @Forbes asking “Is The Crowdfunding Bubble about to Burst?” Talks about topics such as the backlash towards kickstarter projects on a site called KickstarterSucks, which highlights projects “deemed ridiculous” by its two founders; and other possibly misguided uses of the format.


Too Dumb, too Smart, or Just Out of Alignment?

It would be nice to think that as a species we are forever improving. Stronger, faster, smarter. But what if we aren’t? What if we have passed our evolutionary mental zenith and are now on the down side?

Matt Ridley explored this for The Wall Street Journal concluding:

’Has brain size stopped increasing?’ For a process that takes millions of years, any answer about a particular instant in time is close to meaningless. Nonetheless, the short answer is probably ‘yes.’”

“This neither worries nor surprises me. We ceased relying upon individual brain power tens of thousands of years ago. Our civilization now gets all its inventive and creative power from the linking of brains into networks. Our future depends on being clever not individually, but collectively.”

Immediately concerning is the belief that less clever people will collectively drive the inventive and creative future of our civilization. This “yes, we are losing money on each item, but we will make up for it in volume” argument is in and of itself proof of our decline.

The SunLight Foundation looked at one such collective – the United States Congress – and found that based on an analysis of the congressional records, our elected officials now speak almost a full grade level lower than just seven years ago.

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at above a grade 15 level. They were admittedly well educated compared to the average person at the time.

Today, Congress is speaking at a 10th grade level and the average American reads at between an 8th and 9th grade level. So, are our leaders getting dumber or, as a more pleasant alternate theory, is congress simply communicating more effectively?

Like communicating and listening, teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin. If the level of teaching greatly exceeds the ability or desire to learn, there is likely to be no learning at all. If it falls short of ability or desire, the same outcome occurs.

Already recognized as one of the more important aspects of any experience marketing, it is more and more important that your content align to your audiences’ needs and desires at the time they are consuming it.

How are you ensuring you are not at too high a level for the audience who wants 8th grade simplicity, or too low a level for the audience who wants advanced knowledge? As the caretaker, this audience alignment is crucial.

Knowledge and Intelligence

Education has changed greatly since the birth of the three R’s in 1825. In fact, so much so that some have proposed they be changed from Reading Writing and Arithmetic to Relating, Representing, and Reasoning. (No comment on the “trickery” of the original 3 R’s that has lead a few to believe them to be Reading, Riting, and Rithmatic.)

Yet more than reflecting a change in education, this proposed change mirrors the distinctions between Knowledge and Intelligence. The knowledge to read, write, and calculate arithmetic is not an alternative to the intelligence to relate, represent, and reason. They are complementary.

Knowledge has been defined as a familiarity with something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education.

Intelligence as “abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving”

Are your content and message the right balance of practical and theory? How are you aligning these to your attendees’ needs and desires?


Pull Learning versus Push Teaching

It is always easier to pull a string than to push it. You have more control over direction, speed, and outcome. The same is true of marketing and learning.

Social, technical, economic, and political changes are impacting education and bringing new and exciting alternatives to traditional approaches. How, when, and why people learn is changing. There is a shift away from the classroom and campus (read as keynote/breakouts and on-site) and towards Pull Learning – accessing knowledge when and how desired by the learner.

  • Using aspects of open source technology, crowd sourcing, peer-to-peer interactions, social and rich media, and online technology to reach and engage with tens of thousand, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) are to the universities of the world what hybrid and online events are to marketing.
  • Decoded offers a workshop promising to teach anyone to code computers or web sites in one-day.
  • MIT and Harvard are offering inexpensive or free content via the edX platform.
  • offers a universe of user-generated print and video content on all things computing and software from self (and community) proclaimed subject matter experts for a monthly subscription.
  • Peer to peer learning (called unconferences or open forums at events) is also growing in popularity.

Is your content strategy push teaching or pull learning? Can it be accessed when and where desired? Can you teach a new skill in one any day?

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.



Event Marketing Summit Presentation



In early May of 2012 I presented at the Event Marketing Summit 5 trends facing the Experience Marketing industry. That presentation is embedded below.



Some additional notes related to this presentation:


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No [self determined] Good Deed Goes Unpunished


During the fundraising for the New World Symphony in Miami, there was a donation for $90 million. The scale of the donation is not the most interesting aspect, the fact that the donation is from “anonymous” is. A business making a donation of this size would want the associated publicity. But why would an individual not?

As the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished”; referring to the challenge, and often failure, of seeing reward for doing something positive. It is much harder to “punish” someone named “anonymous”.

With the increased focus on equality, and the rise of transparency, what was once a good deed may no longer be. Changing times call for a change in goodness.

How could it be wrong to try to help the homeless?

BBH Labs tried to help the homeless at the SXSW event in 2012 with a program called “Homeless Hotspots”. They paid select homeless $20 a day [some say more, some less] to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots.

They received unfavorable press and questions about the morality of the program. The publicity aspect certainly took from the “pureness” of the good deed. Nonetheless, conversation was generated and awareness rose.

It was suggested that had the organizers hired college students like at a tradeshow, there would have been no controversy. However, it is likely these college students would have been paid minimum wage, provided meal breaks, and had their earning reported.

But as a charitable innovation initiative (as the organizers called it) the intent was to “support the homeless population”, not college students. This intent seems to have become well buried. The objective seems lost in the execution; the promotion of the social and economic conditions submissive to the technical one.

It is often quoted in the mobile industry that there were more mobile phones than toothbrushes in the world. Wouldn’t the best way then, to have a positive impact on the world, be to provide more toothbrushes?

Instead of being a Human Hotspot, What would a $5,000 to $10,000 3-month internship have meant to these individuals? With only 13 participants listed on the web site, the costs would have been less than the annual [possibly quarterly] salary of one creative director.

The opportunity to gain more than just a few dollars during SXSW might have supported the homeless population in a different way. The individuals benefit by being exposed to careers and opportunities in the advertising industry, and BBH gains the opportunity to add new talent, voices, and insight on a segment of [admittedly not currently very active] consumers. Who could have a problem with an internship?

It turns out, some interns do.

A staple for career development, apprenticeships and internships are found in many professions from blue to white collar. Interns and apprentices can be found on construction sites and in the White House, law firms and ad agencies, large and small companies.

In some industries, an apprenticeship or internship is a required career step; just ask Mickey Mouse and the Sorcerer. Serious, high schools to doctorate programs encourage and assist in placing interns annually.

Yet with the changes in social and economic norms, the days of  low or unpaid internships may be ending. Once a rite of passage, some internships maybe reaching beyond mutual benefit and towards unfair labor practices.

Equality, like much in life, needs to work for all parties involved – whether the homeless, interns, or large organizations. Maybe the saying should be altered to say:

No [self determined] good deed goes unpunished” 



Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

Full disclosure:

  • I make most of my personal donations under anonymous or my cats’ names;
  • I am not the donor to the New World Symphony mentioned above;
  • I had several unpaid internships while in high school and college, and paid internships in college.





The history of the event industry can be characterized as an unending search for the next big “WOW”.

Today’s corporate events and conferences are filled with the best ideas and technology from television, entertainment and social media. They are complex and expensive undertakings requiring large internal teams to develop and support the content, a large portion of the sales force to host the audience, and armies of specialized freelancers to execute the logistics.

Often corporate events cost more then a Super Bowl campaign. Which begs the question of why measuring the business impact of an event has never been an integral part of these complex undertakings.


Dynamics Driving Corporate Event Measurement

We believe that a sea change in corporate event measurement is underway, driven by two very different forces.

The first is obvious, economics. CMO’s in every industry are under increasing pressure to demonstrate a return from every line item in their budgets. For the first time, innovative companies are conducting market research to determine how the effect of events at influencing brand perception, accelerating pipeline and ensuring customer loyalty through education.

The second dynamic is that customers are now making enterprise level purchase decisions based on their own independent online research. Traditional marketing departments have lost control of the dialogue, and are no longer the only source of product information. No one knows where it goes from here.


Development of The AIR Score

What is needed is a way for event marketers to identify the issues most likely to garner online commentary from their attendees. Working with our client Scott Schenker, Vice President, SAP we developed a technique called the AIR Score, short for Audience Impact Rating.

The genesis of the AIR Score was the realization that the two most commonly used reporting conventions, “Top Box” and “Averaging” are both designed to present data in a way that all but ignores those most likely to be part of an online discussion.


The Pitfalls of Top Box Scoring

The “Top Box” system adds the percentage of responses in scoring boxes 4 and 5, and reports the total as the result of the question.

This yields sentences like “80% of the respondents found the xyz aspect of the event to be somewhat or extremely valuable.”

This approach has two shortcomings:

1/ Top Box scoring paints an unduly rosy picture of the results.

“Top Box” scoring combines the ‘5 ranking’ which indicate that the respondent is “extremely” positive; with the ‘4 ranking’ which indicate that the respondent is politely noncommittal – the “somewhat” 4s.

This example clearly demonstrates the problem. A “Top Box” Score of 80% can be derived in many ways, which in no way can be considered equal.

2/ Top Box scores provide no insight into what is going on in the other three boxes.

Yes, a veteran executive or manager with the time to read through the data should pick up these distinctions. But they are not readily apparent in the reporting that most people rely on to make decisions.


The Pitfalls Of Averaging

As the name implies, averaging focuses attention on the middle, not on what is going on at the fringes…

This example demonstrates that while “Averaging” is more responsive to the audience then the “Top Box”, by design it mutes (damps) the extremes, the respondents that we are the most interested in.

The AIR scores in this example shift 20 points, moving from Good to Poor, clearly signaling an increasing number of Detractors. The Weighted Average has a subtler downward trend, within a range  (north of 3.5) that is considered acceptable by many companies. This is an important distinction.

  What An AIR Score Does The AIR Score was developed to provide event sponsors and managers with a metric that enables them to quickly identify the issues most likely to influence the larger universe of clients and prospects post-event. The AIR Score is calculated using the data from a Likert scale response.

AIR categorizes the survey respondents into three segments.

  • The Promoters are enthusiastic about the item in question.
  • The Neutral group is neither unhappy nor enthusiastic.
  • The Detractor group is negative and unhappy.

5) Extremely Valuable


4) Somewhat Valuable


3) Neutral


2) Not Very Valuable


1) Not At All Valuable


Our hypothesis is that the Promoters and Detractors are much more likely to share their opinions then the Neutrals.

The AIR Score reports the relationship of Promoters to Detractors among all scores as a number between 0 and 100, where 100 are all Promoters.

Though they are based on the same data, neither  “Top Box” nor “Average” explicitly reveal this relationship.

In effect, this is grading on a curve that is biased so that a response of  ‘somewhat valuable’ has the same value as a polite ‘neutral’.

  Applying the Air Score

The AIR Score factors the entire range of scores (all responses) into account             (i.e. it is normalized).

We, and most of our clients deem an event to be successful when significantly more attendees go home as Promoters then Detractors. We developed the following scale to aid in interpretation of the scores.

Because the AIR Score reports the results as a single number, it is a useful tool for comparing scores from different questions, and even different events. It can be applied after the fact to any historical Likert scale data; and can be used to compare data gathered using unbalanced scales with data collected using balanced scales.

While for know marketers sponsoring virtual events seem happy to count ‘clicks’, ‘likes’ and ‘tweets’, we are already engaging in discussions about how to connect the participant experiences. The AIR Score will be an important bridge.

We are happy to share the “math”. We invite you to contact us if you have any questions, or would like to have the formula to apply in your own work.

Christopher Korody and Kevin O’Neill are the Partners at Audience Metrix, a market research firm focusing on conducting research at corporate events.

Watch your S.T.E.P.

Growing up, I was taught a memory technique of creating a word from the letters of what you wanted to remember. The first I recall was “Homes” which was the great lakes in the Midwest – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Businesses rely on these acronyms all the time, creating unique ones for department names, product offering, etc. Some became actual words such as Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), and Snafu (look it up if you need to).

One of the most common acronyms in business is SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – as a way to analyze the competitive position by looking both inside and at the external competitive environment.

During a very impactful IBM planning session, (where I was fortunate to be one of a few outsiders invited to), I was introduced to STEP – Social, Technical, Economic, Political – as a way of understanding and building context to the subject being analyzed. These are the realms in which new norms and change happen, where Janus Moments occur.

Larry Downs states in the Law of Disruption “social, political, and economic systems change incrementally, but technology changes exponentially.” This is true and recognizable in how technology causes disruption in the other realms – such as changes in law (texting and driving), work patterns (work from home), and business models (open software development).

And this disruption is true for events as well, where technology’s impact on content creation and distribution, attendee experience, and the definition of an event (i.e. “virtual events”) have all recently changed.

But Janus Moments can, and will, come from any realm and at any speed.

On September 11th, 2001, all norms related to air travel, public safely, and “suspicious behavior” changed in a moment. How many events had metal detector screening the day before? How many did the week after?

On September 17th, 2011 norms related to equality, protest, and politics changed almost as quickly as 1,000 joined the first official day of Occupy Wall Street.

On the other hand, it has taken since 1936 (the first public video telephone service) for video conferencing to become a norm due to economics and social factors.

Watch for the slight, as well as disruptive, movement in social, technical, economic, and politic realms to see Janus Moments as they happen, and to predict when they will occur.


Tools of the trade

A few “tools of the trade” for caretakers of marketing events and experiences:

SWOT | Helps to determine the competitive advantage (or disadvantage) that one faces as well as the challenges and possible opportunities to pursue.

  • Strength
  • Weakness
  • Opportunity
  • Threat


STEP | Used to build an assessment and context of the landscape in general, and competitive landscape in particular. This is the realm in which change and Janus Moments occur.

  • Social
  • Technical
  • Economic
  • Political


Marketing Mix (the P’s) | When I started business school there were four, then 6, then 7. These are the way to differentiate your product or solution.

  • Product
  • Packaging
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Placement/Physical evidence
  • People (sales)
  • Process


TRDOM | Successful marketing means a lot of things to a lot of people – brand, leads, etc. But I have found that the phrase TRDOM to be both memorable and helpful in ensure effective marketing

  • Targeted | Who are you trying to reach and with what message, call to action? What are you trying to do? This should include a targeted Audience and Objective.
  • Relevant | How are you being relevant to their needs, wants, desires. Is your Message and Medium appropriate and compelling?
  • Differentiating | How are you different from other solutions, alternatives? What makes you stand out.
  • Orchestrated | Are all the marketing, sales, and execution touch points aligned?
  • Measured | How do you know you are reaching your objective?






The End of Cash | The End of “The Hardest Part”

In the song “The Hardest Part” Blondie sings

Twenty five tons of hardened steel rolls on no ordinary wheel
Inside the armored car ride two big armed guards
In a bullet-proof vest, shatterproof glass, overdrive, we’re gonna pass
Twenty five tons of hardened steel rolls on no ordinary wheel
The hardest part of the armoured guard
Big man of steel behind the steering wheel

But like so many great movies of the past whose storylines would now make no sense due to cell phones, this song may well become an oddity that our children fail to understand.

To paraphrase Willie Sutton “Banks aren’t where the money is.”

The digitizing of everything has reached currency and will continue to impact not just the financial realm, but soon the icons of currency distribution networks – banks, armored cars, ATM, etc. Bank Tellers, currency printing, and “big men of steel behind the steering wheel” will all be a thing of the past.

Never happen – while Sweden, the first European country to introduce bank notes in 1661, is now pushing to get rid of them. Sweden has already reduced notes and coins to just 3% of their economy (vs. 9% for the EU and 7% in the US).

As a result of banks not being where the money is, bank robberies are down 85% in the past 3 years. What good is grabbing someone’s purse or wallet, if there is nothing in it that can be used?

Are you ready for the cashless society?