Tech Fame: The Price of Entry

As founder of a firm that savors its work helping smart entrepreneurs gain positive awareness for their fledgling start-ups, I’m often asked to secure speaking opportunities at one of the myriad trade shows or digital showcase events.

Recently, we secured an audience for  a highly differentiated mobile tech client with the programmers for a prominent three-day New York confab. The event folks were literally blown away by my client’s technology, and more or less intimated we’d be anointed as one of the “chosen” firms. As such, my client would have a speaking slot in the program in a couple of months’ time.

Soon thereafter, however, we started receiving emailed overtures to purchase a $15,000 sponsorship, which would guarantee us that speaking role, as well as some “valuable” on-site and in-brochure signage. Was this a quid pro quo? If we didn’t fork over the fee, could my client’s technology alone prevail in gaining that coveted showcase? We rolled the dice and declined the offer.

The “winners” were soon announced and my client inexplicably or, as I now know, explicably, was not among them. What a crock, I thought.

As mentioned earlier, the number of such showcase events has grown by leaps and bounds. It seems that every tech-touching magazine, blog and trade/event organization is now in the conference game. What I sense has changed is the price of entry. I suppose with ad revenues at magazines no longer providing financial sustenance for survival, it makes good business sense for them to leverage their brand equity in the conference space.

One fashion-oriented publication recently approached me to help surface participants in its twice-yearly digital marketing conference. Sounded great, especially after seeing the list of movers, shakers and marketing decisionmakers who attended the previous year. Then, reality set it: $30,000 for a chance to take the stage!

The price of entry varies from event to event.  Here’s a smattering of some of the more prominent media/tech/marketing showcase events:

In his letter from the UK, Wired reporter David Rowan writes on the “Epicenter” blog about “the world’s best tech conferences”:

“Over the past few years, an all-year-long circuit of tech events has evolved to provide networking opportunities as well as inspirational speakers for the people who run the digital economy. Typically for two to four days, a few hundred business founders, investors and “thought leaders” take over hotels and conference centres in Monaco or Munich or Hampshire, and anyone who can afford the entry fee — or can wangle a coveted invitation — is welcomed into a temporary community whose GDP competes with sub-Saharan Africa’s.”

Of course, the event business is booming, so it’s impossible to capture in a single definitive guide the many events for which your client might qualify to speak, let alone the countless vertical industry events worth exploring from an ROI perspective. Here are a couple of event-aggregators that could be useful as you set out to elevate your client’s public profile:

As for me, I my getting my act together to head to Austin this weekend. Of course, my #2 son kindly sent me this sardonic post (and video) from TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis titled “I’m Already Sick of SXSW.” I’m not there yet. (Ask me again mid-week next week.) I did RSVP to a number of parties and do plan to attend a handful of panels, the essence of which may end up on these pages.  Here’s my Plancast of activities if you happen to be going.