It was a simple question, and I had no answer:
“How can I preserve and share all the great wisdom and information from my conferences? These brilliant people come and share their incredible work, and the only people who hear it are people who can attend in person. There has to be a way to share this, but just releasing the videos isn’t working.”
I was at lunch with Evan Nisselson, the investor who started and runs the LDV Vision Summit (which is the best conference about video and digital imaging– if that’s your field, I recommend you check it out).
He was trying to solve an obvious problem, one that everyone who’s ever been to a conference knows: how do you retain all the great information you hear (without taking copious notes), and then share it accurately with other people?
At a great conference you can learn so much that it feels like your brain hurts from growing too fast; yet, a week later, you’ve forgotten it all. So you struggle to write it all down, but you can’t do that and still effectively socialize (which is also an important part of conferences). So you end up doing both half-assed. I’ve done that 100 times, and it sucks.
But what if it wasn’t like this? What if you could to go to a conference, enjoy all the social aspects, and still effectively capture all the information and knowledge and wisdom being shared? And even better, what if you could share it effectively with anyone? Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Evan had asked me to lunch to figure out a way to solve that exact problem for his conference. And of course, it was him who had the idea, not me:
“Why can’t we turn the conference into a book? I have all the sessions from 2014 recorded. Can your company turn them into a book, so people who weren’t there can learn about all the cool stuff my guests shared?”
It was so obvious, but of course, I hadn’t thought about it until Evan shoved it in front of my face.
Evan hired my company, Book In A Box, and we figured out a way (and yes he paid us for this, even though Evan’s an advisor to my company). Here’s how we did it:
We took all his recordings of the 2014 LDV Vision Summit, cut out all the pontificating and asides, and from this did an outline that organized the best stuff into a cohesive framework. Then we got all of the recordings transcribed, and put the transcriptions into the outline–which became the “rough draft” of the book. We then edited the book by “translating” each section from spoken words into book prose. We made a few edits for clarity and content, and boom, you can now learn everything important and groundbreaking that was discussed at the 2014 LDV Vision Summit Book.
We’re pretty proud of the book. It’s only 50k words, and is divided such that you can skip the parts you don’t care about and read the ones you do. In a few hours of reading, you can get 80%+ of the informational value of attending the conference, without actually attending the conference. It has all the most important knowledge and wisdom and information that was shared at last years LDV Vision Summit, but it’s short, easy to read and to the point (and has tons of cool pictures).
So how is this a marketing lesson for you? Well, look at the things that Evan and his LDV Vision Summit will get from this book:
1. Lead gen for next year: This is a yearly conference (the 2015 version is only a few days away, actually), and Evan plans to do a book version each year. Since the #3 search engine on the internet is Amazon (and the #1 search engine for professionals), then having a series of these books is a cheap and effective way to drive people interested in photos, video and other image issues to the conference as attendees.
2. Credibility: What’s the best way to show you not only know what you’re talking about, but that you’re the authority in the field? A book. And the best way to show that your conference is the best? A book about it. Nothing signals seriousness like a professional book.
3. Reach: What’s cool about a book is that it makes permanent what’s otherwise ephemeral. By having a lasting record of each conference, this makes the knowledge and wisdom shared real and substantive to everyone else on earth who was not there, and allows anyone to share in it. The next generation of photographers and videographers and hackers can now cheaply and easily get access to an incredible treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom that is directly on point in their field, and cutting edge. Access to these people, and this knowledge, would normally take years to get and be extremely expensive.
Now, just think about how this can apply to your business. Your business is probably creating a ton of very good content in one medium, but it’s stuck in that one place. Even if you aren’t directly in the conference business, you can apply the lessons Evan is using for his LDV Vision Summit:
1. When you limit your content to one medium, you limit your audience.
Your audience, no matter what kind of audience (even just an audience for your ads), often chooses content based on the medium, and if you are only in one medium, you are losing everyone not in it.
Conferences are great, but the number of people they can reach is limited. Especially one like LDV, where there’s so much awesome, dense information that people want to revisit it. How do they want to? Evan knows that his audience are hardcore science / investing / entrepreneur / computer vision junkies, and are major readers, so he wisely translated his conference to a more effective medium to reach his main audience–a book.
Some people only watch video, some will only read, etc. People want knowledge and wisdom in more than just one medium, and restricting them to one not only limits your audience, it wastes an opportunity.
2. Make sure your content fits the medium it’s in (one size does NOT fit all).
Here’s what makes Evan’s book so cool: he didn’t just slap transcribed speeches down on the page. That’s not writing a book, that’s lazy and hard to read and no one would take that seriously–just like no one reads transcriptions of radio or TV shows.
Instead, Evan hired people (ahem) who made sure to effectively translate from one medium to another, so the same content fit the requirements of the medium.
Books have to feel like books–they can’t be printed speeches, just like speeches can’t be people reading books. People absorb spoken content very differently than written content, even if the same exact point is being made with the same words.
3. Curate your content so only the best stuff goes out.
People want information, but they want it quickly and efficiently, and stripped of the pretense and nonsense. Turning a long and inefficient conference into a book can actually make it better for some people.
You know who’s done this really well? TED, of course. TED has done a great job turning a conference into a content platform that uses curation in many different mediums to reach a million times the number of people than attend the actual conference.
They did it first by having a set format to their videos–in essence, doing the curating in the structure, they force people to get to their point quickly and succinctly. Then they further curate by carefully selecting what gets to the main platform. And now of course, they have a publishing arm, and put their content out in numerous different formats–many of the most popular speeches have video, written analysis, books, guided discussions, etc., but they decide what gets advanced to different media by seeing what works first. They start with understanding that content must meet the needs of the audience, which are different in each medium.
The point I’m making is not that you have to be TED. Don’t try to do everything, or be everything to everyone.
The takeaway for you is this:
Limiting your content to one medium not only lessens its reach, but also its effectiveness, so start thinking about how to translate your content between media.
Don’t sell yourself and your wisdom short–preserve it and share it in different mediums to make it even more impactful to more people.
Note: This morning, Buzzfeed announces they’re doing something very similar. It’s always a good idea to be on the same side of a marketing decision as Buzzfeed.