Clockwork Manchester – event postmortem
Live events are a big part of Agency Hackers’ business, and because we want them to be good we always their feedback.
To make people fill in the survey, we always tell them we’ll publish the findings. You get to read what other people thought, and it’s also proof that what you’ve told us has actually been read.
There’s a few other interesting reasons why we’re so keen on this.
- Competition for attendees is increasing. More businesses are running events now. There’s almost no barrier to entry in this game, so everyone is doing it. But it’s harder than it looks, and a lot of events simply aren’t very good. They’re boring. They’re patronising. They’re not useful. We want ours to be excellent, which is why we’re genuinely very keen to improve.
- Honest feedback. When you run an event, it’s tempting to feel like you know how it went because you were there.
You don’t! Any feedback you get on the day is never the whole picture. When you run a conference, it sometimes feels like everybody is coming up to you and shaking your hand, saying what a good time they are having.
That’s lovely! But people are nice. Generally, nobody will approach you and tell you what’s wrong or what they aren’t completely satisfied with. If you aren’t careful it’s easy to get a false impression of how you’re doing.
- Lots of bad advice. A lot of the “professional advice” about running a conference is just very bad.
A lot of event professionals haven’t clocked that what people SAY they want from a conference is totally different to what they ACTUALLY want when they turn up.
For this reason, it’s a bad idea to listen to people who dish out advice on running conferences – but don’t run them themselves. The only people worth listening to are the delegates who actually turn up.
So, what did people think?
On Tuesday 19th April 2023 we ran Clockwork, a live event in Manchester aimed at agency leaders and operations leaders. It was sponsored by Scoro, the end-to-end workflow management software.
We had 70 people attend. At the time of writing 20 people have give feedback. Out of those, four gave the event four stars and fifteen gave it five stars for an average score of 4.75/5.
|Star rating||Number of respondents|
Overall, the feedback was good. In fact, for the first time ever we didn’t get any particularly bad feedback.
For a while, there would always be something that was broken.
Our speakers. Our badges. Our seating. But now we’ve fixed most of those issues, we’re getting consistently strong feedback – which of course we need to maintain.
Don’t worry, there’s still a few juicy things.
Takeaway 1 – People Love Meeting Other People With The Same Job
Generally, people liked being in the same room as other people who do their job at a different business.
- “It was an event FOR OPS PEOPLE LIKE ME! How often do you see that?”
- “Liked the variety of the day (talks, presentations, discussions, problem-solving, networking). Much better than many other events I’ve been to, where you mainly get presented to. Thank you for a great afternoon 🙂
- Loved the overall vibe – sometimes these things can just be loads of people pitch-slapping each other. But in this case it was a load of similar people with similar problems at least trying to help each other solve them. Met some great people who I hope to meet up with again in the near future!“
I’m pleased with this, because it supports our decision to do more niched events for different role types 👍
Takeaway 2 – People Like Our Tone
“Ian’s a great host, he makes the event focus on the people in the room rather than on himself, which I felt made for a very engaging afternoon.”
Alright, yes – cringe.
But I’m including this because it’s interesting that people appreciate our tone and vibe. We hope it seems accidental, but in fact we do think about it quite carefully.
With an event or conference you have to set the right tone from the start.
A lot of conferences you go to and it just feels serious. Like you’ve stumbled into the staffroom at school and now you are with the adults.
We want the atmosphere to be friendly so people have a good time, and feel comfortable sticking their hand up and chipping in to the conversation So, we try to think of ways to keep the mood light and use humour – sometimes bordering on flippancy – making quick jokes that keep the conversation moving.
More than anything we try to keep the spotlight on the attendees throughout the whole day.
But! At the same time we also don’t want to OVERDOSE on the warm and fuzzy vibes. It’s annoying when an event feels psychopathically #kind or “ooh aren’t we lovely”. It’s a bit drippy and off-putting, and doesn’t seem genuine.
The best way to do this is by gently taking the piss out of the attendees, ourselves, the industry, or ideally all three. You want some vinegar in the salad.
Overall, several people commented that our events are inclusive – which I like. It’s easy to forget that inclusion isn’t just being invited to the ball – it’s being asked to dance. The best way to do that is to be interested in people and have a friendly vibe where everyone feels welcome to speak up.
Sometimes people feel that being “inclusive” means you have to be a wet blanket or water your content down, which is daft. The other week I watched Peter Kay’s show at the O2, and he has somebody doing sign language throughout. But he includes the interpreter in all kinds of funny ways and makes them part of the joke. That’s what inclusivity is to me!
Takeaway 3 – How we can we “mix” people more?
The other noteworthy feedback was around how we facilitate people speaking to each other, and making friends.
At our events we sit people together at tables. It’s a bit more expensive doing it this way (you can’t fit as many people in the room) but it’s a much better experience because you can speak to each other.
A few people said we could improve how people are seated:
- “Either change where people sit a couple of times and plan how it’ll happen or don’t bother!“
- “It would be great to maybe evenly distribute the tables of sizes of agency e.g. having a small, medium and large agency on each table to compare notes? More table swapping would have been interesting.”
- “It’s not a dislike, but a suggestion. I spoke to lots of interesting people but didn’t always note their names down. It would be great to get an attendee list (unless I missed it?). The event attendee list on LinkedIn is usually incomplete, as not everyone uses it.”
- “I liked that we had the opportunity to switch tables but I felt this could have been implemented more throughout the event. Maybe some sort of speed dating system where we meet as many people as possible. Or split into groups depending on which part of ops we’re struggling with.”
There’s still work to do to make sure people mix properly at our events and come away with a new friend. At the moment this happens by chance, which is fine up to a point but I’m sure we can improve this.
Other miscellaneous stuff
There were a few other interesting comments.
A few people couldn’t make it and were upset it wasn’t streamed. At the moment we don’t stream our events for two reasons:
- The audio is too hard. Most of the content comes from the attendees and little remarks that would get missed if we were streaming it.
- It shuts people down. If an event is being recorded and broadcast people might not speak openly about their challenges.
Never say never, though.
We also had somebody who turned up late due to traffic and – noticing the event had begun – turned around and left! They felt too worried to open the door and come in.
Me and the team felt terrible about this. While most people would just come in, I can see why somebody would turn around and leave – so in future we’ll make it clearer that if the door is closed it’s only because of the wind on the roof and you should 100% feel free to come in!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this. If you’d like to check out some of our upcoming events and give us feedback yourself, check them out here and come along!