Newsletter Issue 8 : October 2014


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James Mayes, Commercial Director, Mind the ProductINTERVIEW

Interview with James Mayes, Commercial Director, Mind the Product


Selling out all 150 early bird delegate tickets within 60 seconds of going live is every conference organiser’s dream. That is exactly what “Mind the Product” has achieved four years on from when it launched a series of events for its audience of Digital Product Managers.  This is no traditional commercial conference organisation, nor a membership-led association, but the establishment of the series certainly offers a great example of building a community, sourcing content, securing excellent speakers and witnessing a queue of sponsors eager to be part of the success story.  There is a lot to be learned from this community of techies to enhance our own content marketing strategies.

We spoke to James Mayes, Commercial Director of Mind the Product to get a better understanding of how the story goes so far.  James explains that there were three people who were running two separate events for Digital Product Managers in London.  ProductTank was started four years ago -  a monthly evening meeting held in a pub for about 20 people - by Martin Eriksson, a Swedish Product Manager living and working in London at the time.  This very quickly grew and now hosts 300 people in London but has also caught on in 25 countries around the world.  “These events are free to attend, pre-registration is compulsory, we vet all registrations to check they are genuine product managers, and numbers are capped at a maximum number according to the venue.  The Product Tank events are funded by our generous sponsors”.  The other event, ProductCamp, is an annual “unconference” in London established by Product Managers Janna Bastow and Simon Cast.  Also free to attend and funded by sponsors, the unconference format invites delegates to come along and either join or lead a discussion on a market-related product they are passionate about.  “There is no agenda but a board with a chart showing available breakout rooms and a blank space next to it for people to write in the discussion topics.  It is chaos but works really well” says James “and good content comes out of it”.  ProductCamp also caps its attendance at 200 delegates and fills up soon after going online.  Unlucky candidates who do not secure a delegate place are advised to ensure they are on the ball next time.  Both of these free events have formed a partnership to create a paid-for annual event called Mind the Product and around 80% of Mind the Product’s audience are attendees (or wanna-be attendees) of the other two community get togethers. Tickets for this one day event cost between £200 and £400 depending on when purchased, still substantially less than any remote competitor in the Digital Product Management market.

So what do you think the biggest reason behind your success so far?  “Good quality content from the best speakers” replies James.  This may not be rocket science as this is what most conference organisers aim for also.  “We want the war stories, including those about what went wrong and solutions found. We never put vendors or sponsors on the stage pitching, they have an exhibition stand to do that.  If we sold speaking slots we would lose respect instantly”.  The ProductTank and ProductCamp events are not cost-based, “they are funded by sponsors and perpetuate and support the community” explains James.  “However they do provide an excellent environment to find out about new good speakers we may not have heard of before, enhance our branding and generate potential sponsors for the next Mind the Product conference,  as well as creating on-going content to pass on to the product management community all year round”.  Mind the Product sources the best speakers in the industry, pays them for their time to speak, transports them from anywhere in the world and looks after them well when they are in London.  All of their speakers are equally passionate about their product and love to share it with equally as passionate counterparts. James points out “We engage with our community all year round, not just three months prior to each event”.

The company’s policy on not over-expanding and having a limit on numbers has contributed to its continuing success.  James also advises “don’t give away tickets for free - we advertise this all year round to ensure delegates buy early, and for the Product Tank events we hold a waiting list”.  The Mind the Product paid-for event is open to anyone and they have staggered ticket releases but they still sold out of this September’s conference with time to spare, enabling them to advise their speakers of the audience demographics.  This allowed the talks to be very tailormade to the audience.

How do you research and use your good content?
James explains that they record all their events and use this as content by publishing slides and video sessions over the course of the next few months. They also host a blog which they ask delegates to write a guest post on.  “This is good for their personal credibility – if they change jobs in the future - and it keeps the community alive”.  He continues “We ask our community what they want to hear at our next events – through regular Product Management lunches, Twitter and email. We feel the personal outreach is very important”.  The team look at why things get retweeted and ask the community what this means, they look at comments on their blog and Facebook.  “This shows us where the speakers are needed”.  Their audience is very tech-savvy, mainly from digital companies - the typical age range being between 25 and 45. James tells us that last year’s Mind the Product conference hosted 600 people and there were 900 devices registered at the venue, showing an average of 1.5 devices per delegate “they are not a single device audience and by tracking what they are communicating through these channels, it makes our ongoing research easier“. Many delegates write blogs so we get to listen to what is happening”. 

What format does Mind the Product take in terms of sessions and what networking opportunities do you provide?
“Our monthly ProductTank events are light and informal, focussed around three lightning talks. ProductCamp takes the form of an unconference – we have no agenda, no big exhibition stands, just a whiteboard and lots of breakout rooms for session ideas to evolve in”.  A typical annual Mind the Product Conference consists of nine talks – two 45-minutes keynotes and the rest individuals talking for 30 minutes. “We don’t do fireside chats, panels or breakouts at our Mind the Product conference and we end the day with beers and a big party in the evening.”

What tips can you offer commercial conference companies following the success of this launch?  “We pay our speakers, transport them business class from all over the world and look after them while they are in London.  Our speakers are our publicity”. James adds “think about how you can engage with your community all year round and “stop muddying the water between speakers and sponsors”.


UBM Good Q3 performance in line with expectations – on track for the full year

i2i Events Group continues its international expansion with the acquisition of and multi-year, long term partnership with Money20/20

MD of EuroForum to retire - Managing Director of EuroForum, Alfred Moellenbeck retire and will be replace by Ann-Marie Brems in Germany who will report direct to new Andrew Mullins, Informa’s new Chief Executive of Informa’s Knowledge & Networking Division

CEO of AEO to leave.  Karim Halwagi to leave post as CEO of Association of Exhibition Organisers.

UBM acquires Advanstar Communications – in a deal worth £599 million, the acquisition strengthens UBM’s portfolio in Fashion, Licensing, Life Sciences and Powersports in the USA and adds £135million to its annual events business revenue.


For more information about GCN Talent see:

Project Leader – Motorsport Competition Events – circa £35K base – London

Head of Production – Conferences - £DOE plus profit share – Pune, India

Lead Conference Producer – Global Energy Sector Events – up to £34K base £64K OTE – London

Conference Producer – Alternative Energy Sector Events – up to £30K plus profit share – London

Sponsorship Sales Director – Alternative Energy Sector Events – up to £50K plus commission – London

Sponsorship Manager – International Real Estate Sector – up to £40K plus commission – London

Marketing Manager – Telecoms Events - £32K-£35K plus bonus – London


In July, digital printing company KNP Litho moved their head office and main production site from Kent to a new fully customised site in Bury St Edmunds. This strategic move brings major service improvements and offerings embracing the best of today’s evolving digital printing technology adding data and telemarketing services to its existing printing and signage portfolio. In addition, the company has recognised its responsibility to the global environment by implementing some substantial green initiatives.  It has an impressive 400 solar panels on its south facing roof providing enough sustainable energy to power the entire Bury production site, reinforcing Suffolk County Council’s commitment to become the greenest county in the


event marketing summit

GCN ran its first Event Marketing Summit this month.  Here is a brief summary of what was covered by the speakers:

Andrew Davis reminded us that social media is not an add on and that being a social organisation is not about technology but about responding to human needs.       

David Langrish - in his thoughtful review of best practice in the industry reminded us all that “your brand is not what you think it is, but what your customers say it is”.

Case studies - Agnes, Mina and Georgie  took us through incorporating inbound marketing strategies around events, while Claire and Marilyn shared their knowledge around building long-term relationships and attracting new attendees to industry events.

Helen Coetzee - rallied us to step up and deliver real value to our businesses through utilising data.She encouraged us to “Get yourself a great marketing dashboard as most of you seem to be working with inferior solutions” and to start looking at the value of real customer insight not just click-through’s and likes

Kevin Jackson – was all about “Know your audience, know your process, know your channels, Be interesting, Engage - don’t sell, Commit to year round, Personalise the experience, Let them have some fun, Be smart and use different media.”  He left us with a clear message of “The experience is your marketing for events”.

Vickie Moss – Carefully took us back to the basics of email marketing for successful events. “Integrate with all other channels, add value to your messaging for your audience and know why you are running the event in the first place!”

Toby Hartley - Took us through his personal experience of taking a disfunctional relationship between sales and marketing departments and generating success through: Structure, Strong management, Clear vision & clear results. He told us to “trust in transparency, clear roles and ultimately taking responsibility.”

The Panel - We all know that brands have to be reactive, have an always on strategy and that conversation is the most valuable element. The panel provided some insights into what structure is required to enable this to happen, the difference between planned spontaneity and reactivity, the importance of measurement and Google analytics and they reminded us that direct mail is not yet dead.  

Daniel Gorringe - explained how social media ultimately can be monetised around specific marketing for events with innovative catalysts to encourage conversation and engagement.       

The overarching themes of the day - This industry is about the audience, knowing who they are, where they are, what they want and when they want it. Successful event marketing is about building an event around the audience and their needs.

conference summit
We have announced the agenda for our 4th annual Conference Summit. The Conference Summit is the most established and recognised annual meeting of leaders and senior executives in the commercial conferences industry, attracting 180+ attendees annually. See the latest speaker panel.

We are delighted to announce the launch of the inaugural Association Excellence Awards. These prestigious awards will recognise and celebrate the important and excellent work done by individuals and teams from professional and trade associations.

There are 18 categories, and entries will be judged by over 25 of the most accomplished senior association leaders.


Global Conference Network Salary Survey @014

The first ever Global Conference Network Salary Survey was developed to give the Global Conference Network community an annual benchmark for salaries, performance related pay and benefits packages across the industry.

All survey respondents will be entered to win the following fabulous prize draw, kindly donated by Hong Kong Tourism Board and Dubai Tourism:

Win! A luxury trip to Dubai & Hong Kong for two*

  • Return flights from all UK airports will be provided courtesy of Emirates
  • Accommodation will be at 5 star hotels - Shangri-La, Dubai for 2 nights and Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong for 2 nights for two people sharing including buffet breakfast

Complete Survey >

The winner of the prize and the survey results will be announced at the Conference Summit 2014 (5th December, London) and a report of the results will also be made available to all survey respondents in early January 2015.

A report will then be sent to all survey respondents on 5th January 2015. This survey will close on 21st November 2014.

* Please read the terms and conditions before entering the competition to win a trip for two from the UK including flights and two nights five star accommodation to Dubai and Hong Kong. Entries will include all salary survey respondents (completed by 21st November) and all Conference Summit 2014 attendees.